Sunday, July 19, 2009

Reflections on my first RWA National Conference





































































































As I write this post, it's 0652 on Saturday morning. I haven't seen the Sourcebooks Spotlight, nor have I been to the Rita Awards or the Sourcebooks booksigning, but I have certainly done plenty of other things.
First off, I made it here, on a plane, all by myself. This in itself was a first for me. I've never done much traveling alone, and rarely on a plane. But I did it.

I've only been to one conference that came anywhere near the magnitude of this one. But I did it.

I really hate going to events where I know very few of the people in attendance. But I did it.

A lot of people will tell you, "Oh, I could NEVER write a book!" But I did it. And so did many of the other conference attendees. I think that says a lot. Here are hundreds of women who didn't baulk at the challenge, and I am one of them.

Listening to the speeches given by Janet Evanovich, Linda Howard, and Eloisa James were very inspiring. Their stories were not unlike my own--they've just been at it long enough to succeed. Even though I have four books in print, I'm still a newbie, relatively speaking. I was asked by an interviewer if I felt that I had "arrived" as an author. The truth is, I don't. I'm not intimidated by these other writers, but I know that they have one thing I don't have: years of experience behind them.

In my nursing career, I have loads of experience. I have now been a critical care nurse for thirty-two years. Many of these ladies have been professional writers for that long. There is no way I, at the age of fifty-three, will ever match them in experience, unless I live to be ninety and write continuously up until my death. The fact that they are willing to share their knowledge with those of us who are lacking is quite remarkable. Not everyone is willing to coach a competitor.

Which brings me to the next interesting point: We aren't truly competitors. Each of us has our own niche in the world of romance writing. We just have to carve it out for ourselves and then live in it. Readers will find us. Some will love what we write and others will hate it, but the one thing that will always hold true is that my books will not be like your books, and vice versa. We are all individuals writing unique works of fiction. We are not competing with one another so much as we are collaborating with our sister writers.

It's a pretty nice feeling.

10 comments:

  1. Ahh, Cheryl, I'm so glad you had such a wonderful time at your first big conference! I remember going to mine in Dallas and being absolutely overwhelmed and in awe. I wasn't published at the time, which definitely puts a different perspective on the situation. But I had a renewed desire and faith that I would be! :) Glad you had fun!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cheryl,
    You all inspire us to find that hidden talent too. I'm so glad you had so much fun. You met some of the best ladies. and shared it with all of us. So exciting for us too. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  3. You are so right, Terry! I'm so glad I had some books to prove I could write! I would have felt even more out of place if I hadn't!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm glad I've inspired you, Donna! Being able to share the experience has made it that much more fun!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm glad you had such a good time, Cheryl. And you're right. One of the nicest things about the romance community is that in spite of the fact that we tend to be ambitious and achievement oriented, by and large, we don't get hung up in competition.
    There's plenty to go around and if we just keep writing good books, there will be more.

    ReplyDelete
  6. That's pretty fabulous, Cheryl! So glad it was a wonderful time!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am beyond exhausted and still having a very hard time assimilating all that I learned during my 4 days at Nationals. All I can really say at this point is that is was wonderfully inspiring.

    I sat next to Stephanie Laurens, unaware of the caliber of writer that she was for a good half hour. Nothing about how she spoke to me gave away the success she has. She was kind, gracious, talkative, supportive, and, well, normal! I learned more in those moments from her manner and approach than I did from her actual words.

    You are so right, Cheryl, in the support. It is a great deal like nursing in that we are all a team, in a sense. We help each other, no matter our years of experience, to bring something good to the world. In nursing it is the cured patient. In romance writing it is a beautiful, positive novel that spreads joy. I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of two special professions.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm glad you had fun, Cheryl! The first conference is always special.

    See you next year!

    Linda

    ReplyDelete
  9. Well, I finally made it home. Those previous comments of mine were posted from the DC airport from my cell phone. Very tedious!

    I took a short detour to have dinner in Bloomington and see the new Harry Potter movie. Great movie, but, man, am I exhausted! It'll be nice to sleep in my own bed tonight.

    ReplyDelete
  10. It was great to hang out with the casa babes at the conference! We had some really spectacular moments together, didn't we??

    The best part of my conference was connecting in person for the first time with readers. I had some really amazing moments with people who were touched by my books. That's a feeling unlike any other!

    ReplyDelete