When I thought about how to best describe the amazing whirlwind that was the Romance Writers of America’s National conference of 2012, it was really difficult for me to wrap my head around the event. After all, I just got home yesterday, and it usually takes me about a week or two – sometimes longer – to process the really important things. And let me be clear: RWA12 was really important for me.
I went into the 4-day affair with somewhat of a plan, and for those of you who know me well, this means that I had a set of goals. I won’t bore you with my checklist (you know I had one of those, too!), so I’ll just summarize: to meet as many amazing people as I possibly could, including my editor (and her boss!) from Random House, and the other Loveswept and Ballantine authors, to bolster my understanding of the business aspect of romance writing, and to introduce myself to the community.
I was fortunate enough to have been invited to several Random House events, so I was able to meet some incredible people that way, but equally amazing were the chance meetings I had with others in the industry…the unpublished writer who wanted someone to help her perfect her pitch (Ruthie Knox, Jessica Scott and I were happy to oblige)…the kind agent who two years ago wasn’t the right fit for me, but still gave me loads of encouragement…the Twitter friend with the amazing sense of humor who was just as warm in real life as she is online. These were the kinds of connections I was hoping to make, and that I think will carry me through the rest of the year.
Now that I’ve set the scene, I’m going to show you some photos as I talk you through my week in Anaheim.
My editor, Sue Grimshaw had provided some print ARCs of my debut novel, Deep Autumn Heat, for the event, which looked GORGEOUS, as well as some Romance at Random sticky notepads, flyers, and bonus Hershey’s kisses. I wasn’t sure what to expect, given that it was my first day at my first conference, so I came armed with some 8 ½ x 11 color photos of the cover of Deep Autumn Heat, some business cards with the cover of Blaze of Winter on the front and my website address and QR code on the back (I called these my “tiny Theos”), and a piece of paper in case folks wanted to sign up for my newsletter. What can I say? I was optimistic!
Okay, what I really was was overwhelmed. 500 romance authors in a room and it was loud! Plus, I couldn’t believe I was about to give my first autograph to someone who’d read and loved my book! All I could think was: “Is this really happening?”
I look a bit manic in this photo, mainly because I was kind of in shock that I was meeting one of my idols. Sadly, this wasn’t the last time I squeed all over someone (more to come on that).
That evening, I got to have dinner with my Roguers – an amazing group of writers from Silicon Valley who I’ve loved getting to know over the past couple of years. It was a relaxing end to the day.
Day 2 – Meetings!
It was such a thrill to sit in the Random House spotlight event and hear about all the incredible authors the house puts out. I must admit to feeling a bit overwhelmed when my editor said my name and described my writing.
Later that evening, I attended the Random House cocktail party where I met so many amazing women. Here I am with Stefanie Sloane (who couldn’t have been nicer), and Karen Leabo (aka Kara Lennox – one of my favorite authors whose books are being re-released by Loveswept).
I also had one heck of a fangirl moment with Heather Graham.
Me: I’m Elisabeth Barrett. Pleasure to meet you.
Her: Nice to meet you, too. I’m Heather Graham.
Me: The Heather Graham?
Her: A Heather Graham.
My editor: Yes, she’s the Heather Graham.
Me: Oh, my God.
Then I proceeded to truly embarrass myself, but Ms. Graham was kind enough to ignore it. All I have to say to her is, “Thank you. You are amazing.”
Day 3 – Dinner, Whisky (Neat), and Bird Calls
In the morning, I attended a super workshop with the screenwriter Michael Hague. I usually don’t do so well with writing classes and workshops. I’m definitely one who learns by doing, not by listening, but Mr. Hague’s presentation was so engrossing and applicable, that I actually got a ton out of it.
The awards luncheon with speaker Robyn Carr was definitely a highlight of the week for me. So many things she said resonated, including one bit about how for young women writers who were juggling jobs and writing and family and children, it was never going to be harder than it is right now. I started crying. Yes, I admit it, okay? I cried! Twice, if you really must know.
And that night, the Random House Loveswept team took us out to dinner, and I haven’t had that much fun in a long while. I got to use my piercingly loud whistle to hail a cab (like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s), ate some delicious desserts, and, in a slightly more mellow state, showed off my birdcall prowess later that night in the bar.
Day 4 – Random House Book Signing and RITAs
Another huge highlight was the Random House book signing. I gave away all my copies – what a thrill! And everyone got a tiny Theo to take home with them. I mean, he’s adorable. Why wouldn’t you want a tiny Theo?
I spent the afternoon lounging around with Ruthie and Jessica and my awesome roommate, Suzanne, drinking tea and hiding from the sun. By evening, I was ready for some fun, so I joined all the Random House folks at their table for the RITAs. I have no pictures of that event to show you, since I was showing much more cleavage than is decent. Instead, I will give you a photograph of the Three Musketeers, the first three Loveswept Debuts - me, Ruthie Knox, and Jessica Scott.
Also, before she left, I fangirled Jayne Ann Krentz. Her books were what made me want to write. She was extremely gracious!
I could go on for another thousand words, but it’s getting late (again!), so I’d better wrap this up. As you can probably guess, I had an amazing time. There were so many other incredible things I did, so many other lovely people I met, and so much information I learned, but to write that all would take a week. (If you’d like to see my other photos, please stop by Facebook for the full album!)
I told my editor and agent I felt like Cinderella at the ball, and I really did. Everyone was so generous with their time, and the positive energy was overwhelming.
See you all next year in Atlanta!