I’m in conference withdrawal. Last weekend I went to the Romance Writers of America national conference in New York City. I had as good of a time as I did at summer camp as a kid.
And I’ve squashed the scary stigma of “networking” with its real meaning: making friends with people in your professional field. I met some really great women that work and write in the name of selling romance novels. And it was So. Much. Fun. I had more fun “networking” than I did doing anything else at the conference. So much fun that it’s hard to pick other things that I enjoyed as much. But here goes:
1. Hanging at the Bar
Okay, so this is where I had some of that fun, the social hub of the “networking”, the hotel bar. It was the Marriot in Manhattan so it was too crowded, too expensive, and slow, but there was much bonding going on. Awkward first meetings turned to friendly banter which became laughing gossip about our common interests: loving to write and read romance.
2. Famous Sightings
Almost every author I admire in the romance genre was there. Many gave workshops imparting invaluable wisdom to less experienced writers. Many more were at the book signings. I fangirl-ed it multiple times, but I tried hard to remember that they’re just people like me with hopes and anxieties about their writing careers
3. Free Reads
All the major romance imprints from the big five houses and indie publishers had signings. Translation: Dozens of authors, both debut and New York Times Bestselling, in a room signing their newest books and giving them away–for free. It’s very probable I comped my entire conference fee with the suitcase full of books I took home. And not just fluff books. Books from my favorite authors whose hands I shook and whose signatures are personalized inside the front covers of each read.
4. Enlightening RWA Workshops
There were too many workshops to choose from, but I went to as many as I could, while spending as much time as I could enjoying myself “networking”. There were craft sessions and info dumps on the business of publishing, but also inspiring discussions on tough topics. There were panels on diversity in publishing, the social stigma of romance, academic research in the romance genre, the balance of power and consent in dark romance, and many more.
5. Crucial Friends
Since going to all the workshops was impossible, I learned a lot about the ones I couldn’t attend from my new friends. We shared notes. I got recommendations from them about which workshops to go to. I followed less than half of my pre-planned schedule.
The camaraderie of those who write the same genre as me was infectious. I didn’t need nearly as much solo down time as I thought I would. I wanted to spend every minute with my new friends and the online friends I met in person for the first time, including a meetup with our DIYMFA team leaders, Gabriela Periera and Bess Cozby.
By the end of day four, I was exhausted and yet sad to go home. I haven’t been this sad for something to be over since leaving summer camp as a kid. I miss it already, but it’s made Twitter a lot more fun with so many new people to follow. I think I’ll start saving up for next year. RWA San Diego 2016, here I come.
Robin Lovett, also known as S.A. Lovett, writes contemporary romance, and her debut novel, Racing To You, will be released July of 2016. She is represented by Rachel Brooks of the L. Perkins Agency and has a forthcoming series releasing with SMP Swerve in the summer of 2017.
She writes romance to avoid the more unsavory things in life, like day jobs and housework. To feed her coffee and chocolate addictions, she loves overdosing on mochas. When not writing with her cat, you can find her somewhere in the outdoors with a laptop in her bag. Feel free to chat with her on Twitter.