Wednesday was Special Interest Day at RWA. On-line chapters often have their annual meeting at the national conference, their one opportunity to gather a substantial portion of their membership. This year the Golden Network, Beau Monde (Regency), Women’s Fiction, Scriptscene, Young Adult, Faith, Hope & Love, and RWA Online Chapters held their meetings on Wednesday.
I went to the retreat put on by the Golden Network, the on-line chapter for RWA members who have been Golden Heart finalists, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable, and often eye-opening, event. The theme was The Future’s So Golden, You Gotta Wear Shades, and that was a fitting preamble to the entire conference. Last year in New York City, the atmosphere was just a little edgy and uncertain over the future of the publishing industry. This year speaker after speaker vouched for the benefits to writers of the changing landscape.
After breakfast and the annual business meeting, Cherry Adair, long known as a generous mentor to unpublished writers, delighted us with her own tale of pre-publication disasters, including her hilarious attempts to mail (back in the day of paper and stamps) the manuscript that turned into her first sale.
After a break for socializing, a big part of this annual get-together, a panel of agents and multi-published authors evaluated first pages submitted in advance by members. My admiration for the brave souls who put their work out there for the benefit of the group knows no bounds. I was not one of them.
After lunch (a pleasant salad-and-sandwich buffet), three TGN members put on a panel discussion on pitching and promotion, followed by another group of agents and editors discussing current (and future) conditions in the publishing industry.
The rest of the afternoon included the Boot-Up Ceremony, honoring those members who have sold their first book since the last annual meeting, and the Hall of Gold announcements, honoring those who have attained three Golden Heart Finals. (I think the record may be eight, and I know at least two people who have seven little gold heart pins).
Wednesday evening brought another annual event, the Readers for Life Literacy Book Signing, open to the public as well as to conference attendees, and presenting more than 400 authors signing their books and visiting with their fans. Last year in New York the room was crowded and the noise deafening (I stayed just long enough to say hello to two friends at the beginning of the alphabet and esscaped for fear my ears would start to bleed). This year the event was held in a very large room at the adjoining Anaheim Convention Center, a short walk from the hotel. In another change, this year the authors were not seated in the usual alphabetical order, but in what RWA referred to as “trade show fashion.” I have no idea what that means, but it worked much better than many people expected. Everyone who walked in was handed a chart with the layout, and no one seemed to have much trouble finding their favorites.
I spent at least an hour and a half wandering through the hall, visiting with my friends from West Houston and other chapters who were signing their books, and stopping to meet others (like RWA Board Member Lori Handeland, who patiently listened to me babble incoherently for five minutes last spring when she called to tell me that Bathtub Jinn was a Golden Heart finalist). Book lovers bought tons of books (I limited myself to four, but it wasn’t easy), and signing authors made new friends as they sat at tables not populated by the same last intial. Lori Wilde told me she enjoyed being in the middle of the room for a change.
When the conference was booked into the Anaheim Marriott a few years back, I’ll bet no one knew that the space between the hotel and the convention center would be the site of a massive construction project this summer! Nevertheless, the signing drew a good crowd, raising over $50,000 for local literacy projects.
Back at the hotel, I ran into two of my Starcatcher sisters, Arlene Hittle and Amy Raby, and we walked over to the GardenWalk area for dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. A two-mile round trip walk makes up for a lot of calories, but I still valiantly passed on the cheesecake. I knew if I ate a piece (and the Dutch apple looked SO good!), I would regret it at three AM. (But the Chicken Bellagio was delicious!)