Tuesday, July 30, 2013

RWA13 Atlanta—traveling

I live in the D.C. area, so I have a choice of at least three airports whenever I travel by plane. Each one—BWI, National, and Dulles—have their pros and cons, but my favorite is Dulles. This is mostly because Mr. M works in that neck of the woods, so he’s usually willing to drop me at that airport on his way to the office. (Though he did very kindly take me to National when I was flying to Kansas City for RT…he’s a keeper!) And since he's on his way to work, I usually take a morning flight, a safer bet in this area in the summer anyway. We are prone to afternoon thunderstorms.

The RWA conference doesn’t really begin until the Literacy Signing Wednesday evening, but I always come in the day before, partly to avoid a mad scramble to get to the signing on time, but mostly to attend the beau monde mini-conference which begins bright and early Wednesday morning. I like coming in before the crowds. I like collecting my registration materials and getting the lay of the land before things get crazy. But I don’t much like eating by myself, so I asked around before I left home to see if anyone I knew was also coming in on Tuesday. I assembled a lovely group: my roomie Teresa Bodwell, Nancy Herkness, Elizabeth Hoyt, and Wendy La Capra. I didn’t manage to get a shot of all of us, but here I am with Terry on my left and Nancy on my right.

RWA terry and nancy

I emailed people to find out when they were arriving, and Elizabeth said her plane got in about a half hour after mine, so I said I’d wait for her…except when I got to Atlanta, I didn’t see her flight number on the arrival board. I asked some friendly airport volunteers, and they couldn’t find her flight either. So I called her—and she answered! Yes, she was in the airport—her home airport. She’d given me her departure, not her arrival time. Needless to say, I decided not to wait for her.

Elizabeth had suggested we share a cab, but now that I was on my own, I went with what would have been my first choice: MARTA, the Atlanta subway system. I’ve ridden MARTA a few times and I like it, but I’ve noticed that there is usually someone on the train looking for handouts. I was thinking about why this might be, since I don’t see that behavior on D.C.’s Metro. At first I thought it must be because Metro is so much more expensive, but then I remembered Boston’s "T" has the same low fare as MARTA. In fact, I’ve ridden subways in lots of large US cities—Boston, Chicago, D.C., L.A., New York, and San Francisco—as well as the London tube, and I don’t remember seeing folks panhandling on any of those trains. I also noticed when I ventured out of the hotel in Atlanta, I had people—some quite well-spoken—come up to me and ask for money--again, something I'm not used to. I’m not sure what to make of all that—someone said the hotel was quite near a homeless shelter, so perhaps that was part of it—but I was surprised by it. 

My room was on the 37th floor. Here’s the view from the window:

RWA view from room

The hotel had glass elevators. I’m a huge fan of glass elevators, though I know not everyone is. Mr. M is not. And I imagine one poor woman I met in the elevator wasn’t. She was going up with a bellman and one of those big rolling things that you can hang clothes on. She’d almost climbed into the rolling thing and was hiding her head with a folder or pad of paper. I hope she discovered there was one non-glass elevator. I was always disappointed when I had to take that one, but I can see why it might be a good option for some folks. Here’s a view of the elevator from the Pulse Loft, the restaurants where the RITA and Golden Heart reception was held later in the week.

RWA hotel

I think it looks a bit like a spine and ribcage. When I posted it on Facebook, a few friends said it reminded them of the movie Alien.

Monday, July 29, 2013

RWA13 Atlanta—planning

I’m still recovering from the annual Romance Writers of America conference, and I didn’t even stay up that late while I was in Atlanta. I think all the excitement and the stimulation of being around so many people drained my energy reserves. I loved the conference and had a fabulous time, but I am at heart an introvert.

Being a RITA finalist this year made me think of my very first conference, the 2004 RWA conference in Dallas, when I was a finalist in the Golden Heart contest, RWA’s big contest for unpublished writers. I had just sold The Naked Duke via the contest to Kensington Publishing. To say I was overwhelmed is like saying the Atlantic Ocean is a trifle damp. I knew almost no one. I’d written the book in isolation before I joined RWA. I hadn’t even connected with my local chapter. In contrast, this year I could barely take two steps without running into a friend.

I knew things were going to be crazy this year as I saw my conference schedule begin to take shape. I had RITA events, as well as publisher and agency parties, and various other meetings to attend. The RWA site had a conference builder function, but I’m more a paper and pen kind of gal. And I had the perfect tool to keep me organized! The lovely lady who translated the Japanese version of Bedding Lord Ned had sent me a very cool, very lovely present:

RWA planner 2

The book on the left is filled with blank, lined sheets that I’d hoped to use as a diary…well, that sort of got away from me. But in a pocket in the back of the book was the little pamphlet on the right--perfect for keeping track of my schedule. There were exactly enough pages for each day of the conference. I wrote everything down before I left home, and then crossed each event off after it happened. And the best thing? It fit in my neck badge, so it was always at hand.It was totally brilliant. I’m planning to visit a stationery store to see if I can find something similar for future conferences.

And what is a neck badge, you ask? Well, if you’ve been to any conference, you’re probably not asking, but over the years, I’ve become a bit of a connoisseur…or maybe I’ve just become finicky. Here’s a picture of two badge holders:

RWA badge holder

The bluish badge on the right was this year’s RWA offering. It was very nice, but it didn’t have my favorite features. The badge on the left is the one I brought from home. It has a zippered compartment under the front flap (the bit above the name tag window) where I can keep money, if I think I need it, as well as an unzippered compartment (also under the flap) where I stored the pamphlet with my schedule. And then the back has a slot for cards—I usually put some bookmarks there to hand out to anyone willing to take one—as well as two slots for pens. I also loaded the badge holder with my favorite pins before I left home, including the silver RITA finalist pin. I didn’t want to forget that one!

The ribbons at the bottom I got at the conference, but I had to use a pin to keep them on—the sticky stuff doesn’t stick too well. The top green one was for being a RITA finalist, the pink one was for being a speaker—I was on a PAN panel--and the bottom green one was for “The Duchess of Love” being a finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards. Since my badge is my entry to all the conference events, I’m always careful to put my conference name tag in the new badge holder.

I also got a new smart phone before I left for Atlanta. My old phone was a couple years old. I’d been having problems with it, and when I was at the RT Bookreviews conference earlier this year, I saw how easily other people could take pictures and post them to Facebook or Twitter. But the phone did work…sort of. So it was with some hesitation that I decided to upgrade to an iPhone 5 before I headed to Atlanta. I’m SO glad I did. Not only was it so much easier to get and respond to email, but posting pictures to social media sites was a snap. If you’re on Facebook, you may have seen my posts on my page: https://www.facebook.com/sallymackenziebooks It was great fun…though I haven’t seen that phone bill yet!

Saturday, July 6, 2013


As promised--though probably a little late--here's the deal on my website. As I feared, the computer I used to update the site died. I was hoping to load the software on the new computer--and hoped the software would run on the new computer--but when the computer was set up, I couldn't find the software. I will admit my life could stand to be more organized, but this time there were extenuating circumstances. After I turned in Ash's book, we had the carpets on the bedroom level torn up and hardwood floors put in. This meant that EVERYTHING on that level needed to be moved and squirreled away somewhere. We've lived in the house 24 years and raised four boys here. And I have--ahem--slight hoarding tendencies. I'm pretty sure I saw the software when I was moving stuff. I mean, I certainly wouldn't have thrown it away. But... Your guess is as good as mine as to where it is, though I'm sure it will surface eventually.

Meanwhile, my hosting situation was going to change. It's too complicated--and boring--to go into, but suffice it to say, I had to find a new host for the site. And while I still like my website, I've had it for almost ten years. I felt it was time for a change. So I found a new web designer who will also be my host--DreamForge Media. I'm excited--only they can't get to me until October. So I'm going to try to use this blog to keep you all up-to-date until then. I can get my designer to do some updates, but I'm trying to avoid that. The program I used tends to send real web designers into fits.

Things are in a bit of lull here anyway. As I say, I turned in Ash's book--yay! It will be out in March--I'll share the cover shortly. Now I'm in my writerly cave, trying to come up with a new proposal. At the moment I'm thinking of setting some stories in the Lake District, since I fell in love with that area last September. I'm also getting ready to head off to Atlanta and the RWA conference. I'm hoping to be better about posting to Facebook and tweeting while I'm there, and if I can, I'll post something here. But if you're on Facebook, do stop by my Page. I've been posting a picture daily, Monday through Friday, from our local travels. We took off once the floor guys arrived. They said we could stay the first few days, but the hammering and the fact that stuff was crammed in every available crevasse (we don't have a large house) persuaded me (and I persuaded Mr. M) it was best to flee. Here's the link to my page--all you have to do is "like" it: https://www.facebook.com/sallymackenziebooks