The RWA conference got off to a great start this morning with a panel of NYTimes bestsellers: Steve Berry, Diana Gabaldon, and Tess Gerritsen. I’ve been a big fan of Berry’s thrillers from the beginning, starting with The Amber Room. Right now my copy of The Emperor’s Tomb is waiting for me, bookmarked around page 150, and next to it The Jefferson Key. So I was looking forward to his appearance, and I found Gabaldon and Gerritsen just as entertaining. All three answered questions about how they sold their first novels, their writing habits, and told any number of hilarious stories. Berry wrote for twelve years and eight manuscripts before he sold The Amber Room. Gabaldon wrote Outlander as a “practice novel,” and to this day can’t explain it in an elevator pitch. Gerritsen wrote romantic suspense novels for years before she decided to write a medical thriller; until then she had never mentioned to her agent that she was a physician.
The crowd nearly filled the enormous Broadway Ballroom, and president Dorien Kelly announced that the conference has over 2100 registered attendees, from all fifty states and more than twenty other countries. No question that the hotel is teeming with women (and a few men) sporting RWA badges adorned with a variety of pins and ribbons, carrying two thousand matching tote bags.
We returned to the Broadway Ballroom for an excellent lunch, expertly served to a packed room in the unbelievable din of the crowd. Fortunately the microphones and giant TV screens allowed everyone to hear Madeline Hunter’s keynote address.
Jo Anne and I spent the afternoon at the PRO retreat, a set of workshops for members who have completed and submitted at least one manuscript. The session focused on industry matters and featured a marketing executive from HarperCollins along with agents and authors. An impressive list of PRO members also graduated from PRO to PAN (Published Author Network) status.
By the end of the day I had added another five free books to my stack (they appear on the chairs in the ballroom, courtesy of the speakers’ publishers), visited the Goody Room filled with promotional items, and made a pass through the Book Fair, which offers books by the dozens of speakers and assorted craft books (and I resisted temptation there!).
After some time in our room to rest our feet and check our email, we decided it was time to get out of the hotel for a while. We went all the way across the street to Junior’s where we feasted on corned beef and pastrami reubens, onion rings the size of lawnmower tires, dill pickles and pickled beets. (We brought back a third of the sandwiches and a slice of cheesecake.) As we ate out on the sidewalk patio, in balmy weather, we watched a mounted police officer issue a ticket to a parked UPS truck, while taxi cabs and delivery trucks whizzed by at amazing speeds and pedestrians of every description wandered past. A second police horse arrived and the two horses and their officers doubled as ambassadors for the city as passersby, adults as well as children, stopped to admire and pet them (the horses, although the cops were quite attractive, too).
Many of the special interest RWA chapters had events tonight, but Jo Anne and I sat and visited with friends. Visited the bar a couple of times, too.
Tomorrow: workshops, an appointment with an agent, luncheon featuring the annual RWA servicce awards, and a reception for the Golden Heart and Rita contest finalists.