Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Chain mail, no. Chocolate, oh yeah!

Folks often ask me what goes on at a romance writers’ conference. I’m afraid it’s a lot less exciting than people envision. There are no cover models wearing chain mail over bare skin (ouch!), no fancy dress balls, no feather boas (well, maybe a few for fun); just a bunch of writers talking about…writing. Although we do have workshops on things like “Building sexual tension” which can be pretty interesting. The reason I was thinking about this is that I just returned from the New Jersey Romance Writers’ conference so I thought I’d share my own (admittedly slacker-ish) schedule.

I always volunteer to do registration. This year, the Powers-That-Be assigned me to speaker check-in where I was able to indulge my inner celebrity-hound by chatting with Christine Feehan (and her lovely daughter), Lisa Kleypas, Eloisa James, Madeline Hunter and …well, you get the picture…all the writers we love to read. I handed out the speaker thank-you gifts which included homemade chocolate fudge AND brownies.

Next was the Published Authors’ Retreat where we spent three hours in informal discussion groups talking about everything from best-seller lists to burn-out. Coincidentally, one session was about blogging and, thanks to “2 B Read”, I could even contribute to that one. During these discussions, we consumed quantities of wine, Diet Coke, and chocolate.

The evening brought the Golden Leaf Awards for published fiction (I even got to present one; it was very cool to say, “And the winner is…”). Then we adjourned to a magnificent dessert buffet for more chocolate and more gabbing.

Saturday morning it was well worth getting up for breakfast because Mary Jo Putney gave a truly inspiring speech, reminding us all of why we love writing romance. Workshops and agent/editor appointments followed. Lunch brought another terrific and highly entertaining address, this one by Lisa Kleypas (who, being a former beauty queen, looked absolutely dynamite, despite claiming that she “had never found an occasion she couldn’t overdress for”). Dessert was, of course, chocolate.

More workshops filled the afternoon. The two terrific talks I attended were Teresa Bodwell’s “Legal Issues for Writers” (did you know you can say “Rollerblades” but you can’t say “rollerblading” without getting into trademark trouble?) and Liz Maverick’s “Book of your Smarts” (great lessons in thinking outside the box when approaching editors and agents).

The Literacy Book Fair found me in the giant ballroom where over seventy of us authors signed our books and chatted happily with our readers. A portion of the proceeds was donated to the Literacy Volunteers of America, a very worthy cause. (Can you imagine not having the pleasure of reading?)

Sunday was the inaugural NJRW Booksellers’ Luncheon, our way of saying “thank you” to all those wonderful fans of romance who hand sell our books. There were tables displaying marketing ideas and goodie bags crammed to bursting with books, bookmarks, and other useful selling tools. With all those book lovers in one room, the atmosphere was downright electric. And we had chocolate for dessert.

Lots of people go to different kinds of conferences for work and for fun. How different are your conference experiences from mine?


Candice Gilmer said...

As a hairdresser by trade, I've been to tons of hair shows, including one in Vegas sponsored by Redken. (now the inspiration for a book I'm working on.. ;) ) And last spring, I went to my first writer's convention in Dallas, TX, called Dreamin' in Dallas. (I WILL be going back this next year).

I found, for the most part, great similiarities in the two kinds of conventions.

Both were jam-packed with women, and usually fairly well dressed women, (either hairdressers dressed in traditional black, or writers trying to network, or unpublished authors doing the same). Also, there's an electricity in both.

The excitement of meeting and learning new things in both is a wonderful place to be. I also found that both hairdressers and writers are warm and exciting and ready to share their thoughts about anything and everything.

All in all, both were a blast.

Nancy Herkness said...

Candice, you're definitely right about the warmth of people at a romance writers' conference. Glad to hear hairdressers are the same. I bet you come home with some fabulous samples from THOSE conventions!

Candice Gilmer said...

:) Only if I can get into the VIP presentations. They leave amazing samples... New full product bottles of whatever new line, accessories like business card holders, and at one I won a Kenneth Cole leather shoulder bag (big enough for my laptop!)

Nancy Herkness said...

A Kenneth Cole leather bag!!! I want to go to YOUR conferences, Candice!

Bronwyn Jameson said...

Me too, Nancy. Wow, Candice!

Nancy, yes, my conference experiences even on the other side of the world are very similar to yours. Much chocolate and wine, much talking and networking, fabulous speakers and fabulous company. I love romance writers' conferences!

Candice Gilmer said...

Thanks... The funniest part is I didn't anything about Kenneth Cole when I won... I just thought it was a great bag. It wasn't until later that I realized I'd won quite a prize!