Vacation? What’s a Vacation?

The topic Favorite Vacation makes me realize how long it’s been since I actually went on one that didn’t involve something other than traveling for pleasure.

WW June 16

It’s not that I’m a workaholic. I only show up at my day job three days a week (although sometimes the Houston traffic makes it feel like more). It’s just that travel for me has always been about business. The last few years I’ve called my trip to RWA Nationals my vacation (and I’m going again this year), and that’s let me visit several cities I’d never seen.

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For many years my late husband and I traveled for research, historical and archeological, and that was great fun. We wandered all over the Southeastern states, as far north as the Ozarks, Cincinnati, and Washington, D.C. We went to Santa Fe one summer—alas, my suitcase went on to Los Angeles without me, but it did find its way back before we had to come home. We even made it to Mexico City, where the museums and restaurants were a lot more interesting than the oil industry conference we were writing off our taxes.

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When I was a teen, my dad was part-owner of a small ad agency in Miami, too small to have people wandering off on long vacations every summer. But he also had quite a few clients in travel and entertainment, and I remember trips to a motel in the Florida Keys, a visit to an amusement park somewhere on the Florida Coast, and a touristy trip to Charleston, South Carolina (I have no idea what prompted that one—I was about twelve—but we did get to see Fort Sumter).

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My family had moved to south Florida when I was ten, and the next summer I was allowed to fly back to Milwaukee, by myself, to spend the summer with my cousins. Much of that season was spent at The Cottage, a summer house my family had (and my cousins still own) on a lake in central Wisconsin. I haven’t been there in more than fifty years, but from the pictures my cousin Bob posts now and then on his Facebook page, it hasn’t changed much, although I suspect the shores of Round Lake have seen a lot of development.

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The Cottage on Round Lake, with its sleeping porch and uncomfortable beds, brings back more vacation memories than any place I’ve visited since. We went there every summer, our fathers joining us on weekends. When I was very young, we had no plumbing, until my Uncle Norman, who was in the plumbing supply business, took care of that. The summer my brother was born, when I was almost six, my dad and I went up to the Cottage without my mother. That was the year I walked up behind my dad while he was working the pump. I had a chipped front tooth from that little incident until I had the tooth capped decades later. (I’ll bet Dad’s explanation to Mom when we got home was memorable, but I don’t think I heard it.)

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Here I am on the lake shore below The Cottage, my mother in the background. I was probably about three. It makes me happy to know that my cousins’ grandchildren still play there.

Kay at cottage

This month my fellow Wednesday Writers are Tamra Baumann, Carol PostTL Sumner, Jean Willett, and Sharon Wray. I’ll bet they all have prettier pictures than mine!

RWA 2014

I spent last week on the San Antonio Riverwalk at the annual Romance Writers of America Conference, and I’m still recovering. Too much fun, too little sleep. I had no special reason to go this year, but my friend Jo Anne Banker and I signed up as soon as registration opened. In fact we’d been planning to go to this one since we went to New York in 2011. San Antonio! Road trip!

RWA 2014 toteThis year I had a completely stress-free conference. I wasn’t involved in the Golden Heart contest, and I didn’t make any editor or agent appointments. I went to have fun, hang out with my long-distance friends, and learn something about independent publishing, and that’s exactly what I did.

I went to a lot of workshops on independent publishing, picking up ideas and inspiration. I have yet to decide whether I want to follow that path, but I think I’m leaning that way. Humorous paranormal stories don’t seem to be in high demand in New York these days—one respected agent I spoke to said that she sold no paranormals at all in 2013—but there are readers out there who enjoy them.

I heard inspiring—and often very funny—talks from wonderful writers. Cathy Maxwell stepped in at the last minute to give the keynote address at the Golden Network Retreat. Susan Elizabeth Phillips gave a great workshop on character development (the characters in our manuscripts, that is), and she and Jayne Anne Krentz, long-time friends, told us about their adventures as writers.

One workshop I attended focused on the challenges and benefits of being a “mature” writer. I think all of the women at that presentation were over fifty, some published, some not yet. One attendee was 83. I went to numerous talks by and for independently published authors (definitely a new alternative for us mature writers), until they all ran together in my overworked brain. In fact, by Friday afternoon everything was running together. Fortunately, most of the sessions were audiotaped, and I am awaiting my copy so I can listen to sessions I attended and sessions I had to miss.

RWA 2014 booksThere were books everywhere, and I brought home even more than I usually do, one advantage of driving rather than meeting the packing requirements of airline travel. (The FedEx store at the hotel was constantly busy, shipping boxes of books home for those who were limited to their suitcases.) The tote bags we received at registration (imagine two thousand women wandering around with the same tote bag!) were filled with books, and there were more on the chairs at the general sessions.

The Readers for Life Literacy Autographing was the only Conference event open to the public, and people began lining up at 2 PM for the 5:30 opening. The hall was filled with five hundred or so authors signing books donated by their publishers, and countless enthusiastic book buyers, filling the shopping bags handed out at the door. The book sales raised over $58,000 for literacy programs. I went in intending to say hello to women I only see once a year, but I ended up buying a few books, too. I also went to several of the publishers’ free book signings during the conference and collected more books (including some for the neighbor who looks after my cat when I travel and refers to the conference as “Kay’s Book Thing”).

On the social side, I visited with many friends I’ve made through the Golden Heart at the Golden Network retreat, shared dinner one night with the Firebirds (at Tony Roma’s) and another night with the Lucky 13s (at the revolving Chart House atop the Tower of the Americas, with a panoramic view of San Antonio), as well as smaller dinners with friends. Houston writers filled at least three tables at the awards ceremony so we could cheer together for our finalists.

Next year the RWA conference returns to New York City. I may need a Really Good Reason to make it to that one. But that’s what I said in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and the reasons turned up, so who knows? The RWA Conference is the kind of vacation that leaves you needing rest when you get home, but it’s worth every minute.

Fall Must Be Coming

When I left for the weekend Friday morning, I looked in vain for any sign of the hurricane lilies that pop up near the front of my yard every year.  Not a hint.  I was afraid that another very dry summer had shut them down.  But this noon when I returned from a weekend on Galveston Island, there they were, three or four full blooms, and quite a few more stalks at various stages.  According to a Q&A piece in this morning’s Houston Chronicle, mine are probably Lycoris radiata, also known as naked ladies because the foliage only appears after the blooms fade.  They’re late this year; they usually bloom in early to mid September, at the peak of the Texas Gulf Coast hurricane season.  According to our local weather reporters, our section of the Gulf Coast has been struck by post-September hurricanes only three times in the last hundred and fifty years.  The last one was a smallish storm called Jerry, which passed directly over my house in October 1985, the only time I’ve ever walked out my front door into the eye of a hurricane.

First Lilies

I spent the weekend on Galveston Island with friends from the Houston Bay Area chapter of RWA, talking about writing.  There was some actual writing involved, and quite a bit of wine.  Also some football games on the big TV in the living room, but the two or three dedicated fans were kind enough to leave the sound off.  Well, the TV sound was off, but there was quite a lot of yelling, too.   Colleen Thompson took this picture of me, and Cheryl Bolen and Leslie Marshman did the organizing.  Leslie won our eternal gratitude when she talked Sean at Mario’s Ristorante in Galveston into delivering pizzas, even though we were a bit outside their usual delivery limit.

Windsong

 

 

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