At the RWA Conference

The Conference registration desk wasn’t terribly busy when I arrived on Tuesday afternoon.  Along with the envelope containing my personal badge, ribbons, and tickets, I was handed a tote bag full of books.  Last year’s bag was a rather sedate black, but this year’s is red and white and the size of a small duffle bag.

I took an hour or so in my room to eat a couple of granola bars (somehow I’d missed lunch, and my stomach was still on Central Daylight Time), look through the Conference program, and text a message home (I love my new phone, and I’m overcoming the urge to write in complete words and sentences when texting).

The Firebirds had been planning for weeks to meet for dinner on Tuesday evening, since most of us planned to arrive by then.  When I went out to look for company, the first Firebird I ran into was Kathleen Bittner Roth, who had just arrived all the way from Budapest (her home for the last few years).  We accumulated a few more Firebirds as we set off for P.F. Chang’s, located in the Anaheim Gardenwalk, about a mile from the hotel.

Walking a mile at five o’clock in the afternoon in July in Houston would be an act of madness, but in southern California it was perfectly comfortable, the temperature perhaps in the lower 70s.  When we arrived at the restaurant we found the earlier arrivals colonizing a long stretch of outdoor tables.  People came and went during the evening–although the Conference didn’t officially begin until Thursday morning, there were already dinners and parties going on–but I would guess at least forty Firebirds made it to the gathering.  It was so much fun meeting so many of the women I had been chatting with on line since the Golden Heart finalists were announced last March.

When six or eight of us headed back to the hotel about eight o’clock, the temperature had dropped a few degrees to gloriously cool, almost sweater weather.  We stopped along the way at an ABC Market for odds and ends (it says something about my world view that I’ll cheerfully reserve a $200 a night hotel room without even looking for a roommate, but I won’t put $2.25 into a vending machine for a can of coke when I can buy a six-pack for $4.25).

Back at the hotel I retreated to my pleasantly solitary room by the pool, drank one of those ABC Market cokes, wrote in my journal (you didn’t think I’d remember all the details without my journal, did you?), and realized that it had been a long day (two hours longer than the clock said, and 1200 miles farther west).

Home From the Conference

I’ve been home from the RWA Conference since Sunday night, but I’m still catching up with everything.  Last year the conference in New York City ended on Saturday, July 1, so we traveled home on July 2 and had Sunday and the Fourth of July to recuperate.  This year I was back at work, only a hour later than usual, on Monday morning.

Tonight I finally did a load of laundry–two more to go.  Last night I caught up my bookkeeping.  I had carefully recorded all my expenses, but I still spent fifteen minutes searching for a folder of receipts, which finally turned up tucked neatly into my conference program.  I’ve pretty much caught up to my regular schedule at work, but catching up on sleep is another matter, particularly since I’ve committed to getting back on a regular (meaning every day) writing schedule.

But all the catching up is worth it.  I had a ball in Anaheim.

Travel is nowhere near the top of my favorites list, but I love Southwest Airlines.  I found nonstop Southwest flights from Hobby Airport (twenty minutes from my home) to Los Angeles and back, and their civilized baggage policy (two suitcases and a carry-on) made packing relatively easy, especially as I was carrying West Houston RWA’s contribution to the Literacy Book Signing Raffle, some twenty books by West Houston authors plus a Kindle Fire and an Amazon gift card.

Given the two-hour time difference, I arrived in Los Angeles early in the afternoon.  I had never been to California before, but the city looked remarkably familiar.  Of course it does: how many television shows and movies are filmed there?  Truthfully, Los Angeles looked rather brown and dry from the air, lacking Houston’s rich blanket of green, leafy trees.  Palm trees everywhere remind me of my years in south Florida.  Freeways everywhere, much like Houston.  Mountains in the distance, looking like hazy blue clouds on the horizon, totally foreign to anywhere I’ve ever lived.

Friends had warned me that traffic is an enormous hassle in L.A., and that the Anaheim airport is much closer to the Conference site.  True, but not my problem.  The SuperShuttle driver was paid to navigate from LAX to Disneyland, and he did a fine job.  I sat in the cheerfully crowded van and chatted with several other women headed for the Conference.

I checked into the Anaheim Marriott mid-afternoon (nice room on the ground floor near the pool) and made my way to the Conference registration area to collect my badge and a red and white duffle bag full of books.  More on books (yes, I’m a hopeless junkie) later, but here’s a photo of my badge, dolled up with assorted pins (you don’t want to know how many shots I took to get this one).

You can’t imagine how proud I am of those two Golden Heart Finalist pins, and how amazed I am to have them.  That’s the Firebirds pin on your left, and the Starcatchers’ heart-on-a-star on the lower right corner, with the Golden Network heart above it.

It’s getting late and I still have to do some writing tonight.  More on the Conference next time.