Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Washington or bust

By Sharon Lathan

I'm a planner. Drives my husband insane, as he is the spontaneous type. You know, one of those get up one day, throw stuff in the car, and go type of guys. That is well and fine, as long as I know we are planning to do it several days in advance! This character trait is one reason why I am already rifling through the information for the RWA National conference in Washington DC that is 2 months from now.

Frankly it is driving me insane that it is still a whole two months away. That is AGES from now! I suppose that means that the other reason I am already studying the scheduled workshops and speakers is because I am impatient. But I can’t help it! I am giddy with excitement. You see, this is my first conference - ever. I always wanted to go to one of the numerous nursing conferences that are held all over the place. I have thought of it for years, but for some reason I never took the plunge. Part of that may be that no matter how much I adore my chosen field, attending 3 or 4 days of 8 hour lectures on neonatal disease processes and new treatment modalities never sounded as exciting as High Octane Heroes and Sex Scene Viagra!

Yep, those are just two of the hundred workshop topics. Oh, some are rather ho-hum, like The 15-minute Synopsis or Love Your Voice. I’m not saying these blah titled workshops may not be riveting and replete with vital information – I know I will be attending a number of them - but how can that compare with How Not to Suck and Smart Women, Short Skirts. But whatever the catchy title, or not, I am blown away by the diversity of topics. What to do, what to do!! So many of them are happening at the same time! Thank the maker for DVD recordings, amen?

Anyone else perused the lengthy list offered at the RWA website? There are even PDF outlines for most of the workshops. My personal must-go-tos are: How to Live in Another Century, Why We Love Mr. Darcy (I am not making this up), The Setting as Character, Sex Throughout History, Prioritizing Life (boy do I need this one), High Octane Heroes (studies popular movies as examples), and the one this self-confessed geek is SO looking forward to – Lessons of Firefly: Learning from the Works of Joss Whedon. No, I have no idea what it has to do with what I write – probably nada – but I LOVED that show so will not be missing this one! Maybe Nathan Fillion will pop in to share his thoughts.... with his shirt off – Hey, a girl can dream, right?

What is really cool is the balance of subjects that deal with the craft of writing, living the writer’s life, understanding the career aspects of the publishing business, researching related, and others that are just for fun. I have nothing to compare it to, but I am fairly impressed with how it is arranged. There is something for everyone, no matter where you are in your career or what type of romance you write.

So I am plotting and figuring out how to work the lectures in with visiting my Casa Sisters, editor and publisher, and meeting new friends. I am looking forward to the luncheons, the librarian networking event, the Sourcebooks spotlight, and “Readers for Life” literary autographing. And, my first real booksigning!!! Oh joy! I will be sitting with my fellow authors and hopefully people will want a signed copy of my novel. I just can’t wait.

But, I must. The plane ticket is bought, the hotel reservation is set, and my conference registration is secure. I already have ideas on how to get my hair done and money is set aside for some new clothes. I am raring to go!

Now I know some of you are veterans of the RWA conference scene. I want to hear your thoughts on past conferences. Tell me which workshops pique your interest this year and what you learned most before. Share insights, words of wisdom, humorous anecdotes, etc. with the admittedly naïve newbie who wishes the plane were taking off tomorrow.


  1. It will be my first conference, too, Sharon. I already have my plane tickets, hotel reservations, conference registration, and the new clothes have been hanging in my closet since February. However, my hair will just have to stay the way it is. Looking forward to meeting everyone!

  2. As a former professional Conference and Meeting Planner, my first advice is don't over-extend yourself. The workshops are great, but so is the atmosphere. Hanging out in the lobby and chatting with other authors can be just as beneficial as workshops. The DVDs are a great investment and enable you to appreciate the experience of the conference without going on information overload.

    Wear comfy shoes and enjoy it. There's so much going on, so be flexible. And one of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten: don't sit with people you know at the lunches/breakfasts. It's always fun to meet new people.

  3. I have to get through the work conference before i can even dream about RWA...

    Last year I spent so much time hanging out with friends that I only attended one workshop--the chat with Nora Roberts, which I loved.

    You'll have a great time, Sharon, no matter what you end up doing at the conference.

  4. My first National conference, I went to every workshop, visited with writer friends, and wore myself out. The last smaller conference I went to, I actually gave a workshop, attended two workshops and let myself relax lots more. I really had a great time. So mainly, have fun! You'll remember the great times forever no matter what you do! :)

  5. This will be my first RWA natl conference, I'm excited too!

  6. Hi everyone! Thanks for the advice. I had already figured that I wasn't going to overdo it. Not only because there are some session hours where nothing sounds appealing, but because I do have a lazy streak about three-miles wide! Just getting up at the crack of dawn is going to kill this 20+ year veteran of the night shift! LOL.

    I am so happy you will be there Cheryl! Glad you got the new clothes. I am waiting a bit. Hoping to shed a few pounds. Gee, does that sound familiar!

    I appreciate the knowledgeable advice, Judi. I do tend to be a "see it all" kind of person, so have to restrain myself. Will you be there?

    Oh, I will have a great time Marie, no doubt! Looking forward to seeing you again. I do want to be sure I learn a few things too, tho. Not socialize and have fun to the exclusion of gleaning some useful info. It is all about balance.

    Will you be coming Terry? I so want to meet you!

    December, glad to know I am not the only one giddy with excitement. See you there!

  7. DC will be my RWA National Conference "cherry", too. Like you, Sharon, I perused the list of workshops and highlighted the ones I wanted to attend -- 45 of them. LOL! I know there is no way. Between now and then, I'll refine them down to a manageable few as the social aspects are just as important.

    I hope to at least wave at everyone there. I'll be the one standing in the corner with my mouth hanging open hyperventilating!

  8. Yep, I'll be there, Sharon. I joined RWA and my local chapter in April 2004 and Hubs said when I came back from that first meeting - you're going to the conference. If you're going to do this, then you're going to do it. I've gone every year since, even through the lay-offs. We called an investment in my career. And it was at National (the year Robin won the Golden Heart) that I met Deb. :)

  9. Sharon,
    I GUARANTEE you will have a BLAST! This will be my 4th National conference. My first was in Reno in 2005 and I didn't belong to a local chapter and knew about 3 people, but it was a great experience.

    Marie mentioned the Chat with Nora Roberts and I HIGHLY recommend attending at least one of the chats with a "big name." It is such a fantastic experience to hear them talking about their writing and realizing they are NOT that much different from us 'mere mortal' writers!


  10. Conference, classes, Firefly, Nathan Fillion maybe. Sounds great. Have fun.

    Me, I'm the disorganized one with a husband who's a planner.

  11. I'll look out for you, Silver. I should be able to remember that name! Widdling down the list of workshops is tough, but like you I do not want to overdo it. There is always next year.

    So glad you are coming Judi. Maybe this time we can actually chat face-to-face.

    Thanks for recommending the big-name chat, Cindy. I wasn't sure if I wanted to do that because - hold the tomatoes ladies - I am not that familiar with romance writers outside Casablanca! But then, how could anyone be better than us? :)

  12. Don't forget about your publicist's workshop on Friday at 11am :)

    I know you got a peek at it last year, so you should be set to get ready! It's a great place to network, find critique partners, and meet your favorite romance authors!!