New York, New York

I’m at the Romance Writers of America® National Conference in New York City this week, feeling more than a little overwhelmed.  My friend Jo Anne Banker and I had no problems on our flight from Houston yesterday.  The flight was packed, but the security and customer service folks at both ends were helpful and polite, and the driver who brought us into Manhattan was friendly and funny and got us safely to the immense and gorgeous Marriott Marquis.

New York is all up and down, and the streets are two or three lanes wide, depending on how agressive the surrounding drivers are feeling.  What a contrast to the wide open spaces of Houston, where I drive sixty miles a day, forty on the freeway system.  Ravi, our driver, said he couldn’t drive sixty miles in Manhattan if he worked at it all day (as he apparently does).  You could not pay me enough to drive a block in Manhattan.

The RWA Conference proper does not open until tomorrow morning, but registration was available yesterday, so after we checked into the hotel Jo Anne and I collected our badges and tote bags (filled with goodies and free books) and went to supper with a friend, the wonderful Sharon Sala, who will be receiving RWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her impressive body of work on Friday evening.

Jo Anne and I spent today with the Golden Network, the online RWA chapter open to Golden Heart® finalists.  We’ve been participating in a Yahoo loop with the rest of the 2011 finalists since late March, and today we got to meet many of them in person.  The day included two agent/editor Q&A sessions with a stellar array of industry professionals.  And late in the afternoon more than twenty members of the chapter who sold their first books since last year’s meeting were “booted” to alumna status.

This evening I made a quick pass through the annual Readers for Life booksigning.  Publishers provide the books for more than five hundred authors, who sign them for fans from both the ranks of the RWA and the general public, and the proceeds go to RWA’s longtime support of literacy programs.   I’m told people were lined up from the first floor of the hotel by midafternoon–the signing was on the sixth floor and opened at 5:30.  By the time I stopped in around 7, people could enter on the sixth floor, but the ballroom (capacity 2800 people!) was packed with authors (in alphabetical order at row after row of tables stretching nearly the width of the room) and readers (many carrying cartons of books).  I stopped to talk with two friends, but we truly could not hear one another.

I’m already hoarse from talking (and doing it in packed rooms full of other women talking just as enthusiastically), and the conference has three days to run.  By the time we fly home on Saturday, I’ll probably be whispering.  Or writing notes on a little pad of paper.

I wasn’t planning to go to New York

for the Romance Writers of America National Conference in June, until the morning of March 25th.  I’ve belonged to RWA for fifteen years, and I’ve never been to Nationals.  Never felt I had a good reason to go, and until recently I seldom had the money.

But on March 25th Lorraine Heath called me.  Actually, she emailed me, because I was at work and she had my home phone number, and her email asking for another number landed in my spam folder.  Since I know Lorraine only by name and her email was headed “Request from RWA” and it was March 25, I had to pick myself up off the floor before I could send her my work number.

Then I raced to tell my best friend, RWA sister, and employer, Jo Anne Banker, about the email.   Before I finished the story, the phone rang.  Lorraine was calling to tell me that Paper Hearts was a finalist in the historical category of the romance world’s biggest manuscript contest, the Golden Heart®.

Jo Anne had gotten her own call a couple of hours earlier, so I had walked into the office that morning to the news that her manuscript Lost and Found was a finalist in the contemporary series category.  I was happy for her, I really was.  And I moped for two hours.

For the last three years, Jo Anne and I had sent off our Golden Heart® entries together, laughingly promising that if we made the finals we’d go to the big conference.  If we’d really thought about it, we’d have known that the odds of both of us finaling would baffle even Mr. Spock, and for two years we shook off the disappointment and declared that at least we wouldn’t have to have our pictures taken.

But this year it really happened, and we’re going to New York!  We have our conference reservations and our hotel room.  We had our pictures taken after all, and sent them to the RWA office.  We joined the 2011 finalists loop, and the Golden Network, the RWA chapter for GH finalists past and present.  I took a class on WordPress and set up this blog.  Yesterday we signed up for editor and agent appointments at the conference.

On March 25th, the conference in late June seemed far away.  Now it seems closer every day, and I have shopping to do.  Our three-person office takes “business casual” pretty literally; most of the time we wear jeans, sneakers, and shirts, not always with buttons.  So I’ve bought some slacks that (a) are not jeans, and (b) are long enough to wear with shoes that are not sneakers (I’m tall).  I haven’t been on a plane in twenty years or so, so I’ve bought some luggage that is not the good quality, very heavy, hard-sided, wheel-less American Tourister lurking in my attic.  I need a decent summer jacket and a small purse, and who knows what else.

And, heaven help me, something very fancy for the awards ceremony.  I’m going to New York!

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