Monday, August 5, 2013

RWA 13 Atlanta—RITA day!

The final day of the conference began with another quick trip to the gym and the Corner Bakery before the Kensington book signing. Kensington had provided a huge stack of Surprising Lord Jack for me to sign and give away, and I’d bought—at a deep discount—most of the books I had left over from the big book signing on Wednesday. I was able to give a book to everyone who stopped by—and I still had one left.

After the signing, I met one of my French editors...

RWA with French ed

...and then grabbed lunch with a couple of friends. I had to dash from lunch to the RITA rehearsals and then on to “Giving to Get: Creating Free Digital Content to Promote Your Print Book,” the workshop panel I was on with Kensington editors Alicia Condon and Audrey LaFehr as well as fellow authors Victoria Alexander and Donna Kauffman. My roomie snapped this shot:

RWA K panel

I’m not sure how much I added to the discussion, but I certainly learned a lot. I was taking notes throughout the workshop.

After the panel, I scurried off to get dressed for the RITAs and then go to dinner with my agent and editors. (I just got a new editor; I met her for the first time at RWA.) I enjoyed the dinner, but I was a little on edge—at the RITA practice, they’d stressed being on time. One of my other “must haves” at conferences is my watch. I don’t wear it much at home, but I rely on it when I’m traveling to get me where I need to be when I need to be there. However, my watch is more utilitarian than elegant. It didn't go with my fancy dress, so I left it in my room. Fortunately my agent came through and made sure I wasn’t late. We even had time to take some pictures before things got underway. Here I am with my agent and editor.

RWA RITAs with Jessica and Audrey

I was afraid I might be nervous during the awards—my category wasn’t until close to the end—but I wasn’t. I even managed to get a picture of my “moment” in the sun when they announced the Duchess.

RWA screen shot RITAs

I didn’t bring home a RITA, but I had a fabulous time anyway. I was just so delighted to have the opportunity to go through the process again since I’d been so overwhelmed by everything when I’d been a Golden Heart finalist back in 2004. This was my chance to travel roughly the same path, but with some sense of the greater picture—and knowing so many more people!

I won’t lie to you. It would have been really, really cool to have won. Of course, then I would have had to give my lame acceptance speech. And, well, I've been around the block enough now to know that winning a RITA doesn’t mean you’ve reached the pinnacle of your career. Writing careers don’t seem to have pinnacles—they are more like amusement park rides, going up and down and sideways.

Years ago I happened to walk out of a RITA awards ceremony next to a woman who’d been a double finalist but who hadn’t won either category. She’d remarked to her companion that she felt like such a loser—and I had stick my nose into their conversation to point out that she was not a loser at all. I promised myself right then that if I was ever up for a RITA, I would not feel like I’d lost if I didn’t win. And I didn't. Especially when the lights came up and I looked at all the other finalists who weren't holding RITAs, I truly felt honored to be among such wonderful, amazing authors. And of course I love Eloisa James, who did win my category!

And I brought the RITA finalist flag home! It’s very cool, too. I put it up on the shelf in my office to remind me of all the fun I had in Atlanta.

Friday, August 2, 2013

RWA13 Atlanta—second day

After the gym, I met my pal Vanessa Kelly for breakfast. She’d found a new-to-her place about a block from the hotel: a Corner Bakery. We have Corner Bakeries in my neighborhood; Mr. M and I had breakfasted there while we were staying in a hotel, waiting for our wood floors to be done. I was so happy to have food I recognized, lol!

My agent took me out to lunch—sadly, I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was next door to the Corner Bakery—and one of the highlights of my conference occurred. Well, yes, I enjoy talking to my agent. and the food was excellent, but that wasn’t it. What made my day was the reaction the woman seating us had to my ensemble.

Some personal history here. I grew up with two older brothers—no sisters—and I was a bit of a tomboy. I attended Catholic schools, so I wore uniforms for twelve years, and then I went to basically an all male college—the University of Notre Dame the year it went coed. And then I was home with four sons and a husband who often wears clothing the Salvation Army wouldn’t accept. (He’s loyal though. He has a jeans jacket that he’s owned longer than he’s known me—and we met in 1976.) Now I work at home in my comfy clothes which I think (I hope) are presentable for a trip to the grocery store. So  my fashion sense is a bit stunted. My mother was very stylish, but I’m afraid I didn’t inherit her panache. (One of my daughters-in-law just explained to me that it’s acceptable not to wear stockings in the summer. This is so liberating on so many levels!)

So I was feeling a little out of my comfort zone with what I was wearing to lunch. I’d seen a nifty, knit, long black skirt—longer in back than in the front—when I was doing my mad pre-conference shopping. (My pre-con shopping was especially bad this year because of the RITA dress hunt.)  I somewhat hesitantly bought it and paired it with a sleeveless black knit tank that I already had as well as a white, glittery sweater thing (yes, I should be a fashion writer). And while I was buying the skirt, I saw a cool necklace on sale—well, it was so inexpensive, I had to buy it, even though it was bigger and flashier than I usually wear. (Who am I kidding? I don’t usually wear jewelry.)

So when the woman seating us said what an awesome dress I was wearing (okay, those weren’t her exact words, but that was definitely her meaning) and, somewhat sheepishly told  my agent (who is far more stylish than I ) that her dress was nice, too, I just about floated to the table. And, no, sadly—or perhaps just as well—I did not think to get a picture.

Later that afternoon, at the RITA/Golden Heart reception, I got my finalist certificate.

RWA RITA finalist certif

Best of all, I got to hang out with friends, drink champagne, and nibble on cute little pastries. Here are RITA finalists Jade Lee (on left) and Angie Fox (right). The lovely lady in the middle is Terry McLaughlin, long time pal and RWA President-Elect.

RWA RITA reception

Shortly after this gathering, I headed off to the National Readers Choice Awards—the Duchess of Love was a finalist in that contest as well. The novella didn’t win, but I enjoyed more champagne (I had to pace myself as I didn’t want another headache) and ice cream sundaes. Yum! I don’t think I ever had dinner, but having foreseen that possibility when I looked at my schedule in the morning, I ate enough at lunch to keep body and soul together. See? Eating is definitely tricky at these conferences.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

RWA13 Atlanta—the first full day

A week or two before the conference, I was chatting with some friends on Facebook. I’d brought my workout gear to the RT convention, but I’d decided to leave the gym shoes at home for RWA. I knew my RWA schedule would start around 8:30 every morning and go all day, so working in a workout would mean giving up precious minutes of sleep. But my friends persuaded me to squeeze the gear into my suitcase, and they said they’d meet me at the gym. (Ahem. I saw only one of them once in the fitness room…but one was injured and perhaps the others were there at different times.)

I’m glad I brought my gear. I managed to get in three workouts and though they were only 30 to 40 minutes long, I felt much better for having sweated a bit. I’m going to add working out to my list of conference survival practices. What else is on the list? Drinking plenty of water. I bring my own water bottle and carry it with me, not only to the gym but to all the conference events. I also try to bring comfortable shoes, but this time I brought heels, too. They weren’t high heels—they were probably only about two inches—but my legs aren’t used to anything but flats, so I discovered some new muscles. And I always bring slides or flip flops to wear around my room.

I also try to watch what I eat when I’m travelling. That was a bit tricky on this trip. Unfortunately, I missed both of the conference luncheons, so I can’t comment on that food. And I’m sure starting out with a migraine didn’t help. But as to the various restaurant food I sampled…as I suspected, I’m not a huge fan of Southern cooking. I don’t generally eat fried foods, and I don’t each much meat. But I eventually found options at the hotel and off site. The other problem with conference eating, at least at RWA, is sometimes it’s difficult to find time in the schedule to grab something. I solve that problem by packing a plastic bottle of almonds, so I always have something healthy at hand.

One of the highlights of the day was the Kensington party. It was so much fun seeing everyone. And they had a fabulous photographer. Here’s one shot, courtesy of  Edward Zelster Photography.

Next to me is Alexandra Nicolajsen, whom I think of as the Kensington digital guru, and next to her is historical fiction writer and pal, Christine Trent.