I’m off to the Romance Writers of America National Convention today. That definitely gets a happy face. You may hear a lot about RWA this week…here’s my little story.
The first time I went to National, FOOLS RUSH IN had come out six months before. No one had heard of me, and I didn’t know a soul. Well, I knew my agent. Maybe…three other people? Out of 2200. I was in the great state of Texas for the first time, Dallas to be precise, and as my bellboy showed me my room’s amenities, he pointed out my view: the Book Depository and grassy knoll. A little creepy, to be honest! It was my first time away from kids, then ages 10 and 7, for more than one night, and I was already homesick
But…I was there for a reason. To start to meet readers and fellow writers. To see my editor. To attend my first signing as an author, where Rachel Herron and Sandra Hill were so nice to me, recommending my little book as if they’d ever heard of it, or me. I pretended to be confident and not terrified; not sure if I pulled that off. I went to a lot of workshops. I hid in my room a little bit. Called home a lot.
But romance writers are friendly people, by and large. I met Elizabeth Bevarly, who had given me a blurb. I sat down next to a woman and introduced myself. She said, “Hi, I’m Linda Miller,” to which I said, “Linda Lael Miller?” and proceeded to embarrass myself in a gushing, babbling, fan-girl moment. She kindly endured it, then admired my Clark Gable pocketbook. I saw Nora Roberts from afar. Eloisa James, too. I had breakfast with a woman who just seemed nice; she would later become my assistant. I made friends with a new writer who now works for Romantic Times magazine.
Most of the writers there were unpublished, and there was much talk about how to get an agent, get published, launch that career. So much energy with those folks, so much excitement at the chance to rub shoulders with SEP and Jennifer Crusie, Loretta Chase and Stephanie Laurens. I felt exactly the same way.
I went to the RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony, not sure exactly what they were. I wore jeans, unaware that this was a dressy occasion. When the winners’ name were called, I inevitably got a little weepy; I love seeing people win things. The next year, I would win one, but for this night, I was simply a happy spectator.
Now, six years later, I’m working on my 10th and 11th books. I’ve signed with La Nora; we chatted about our kids. Eloisa James has been like a fairy godmother to my career. I sent Linda Lael Miller a Clark Gable pocketbook, and she sent me a set of mugs in return. My assistant is my great friend. I’ve won two RITAs and got to hand one to Rachel Gibson, who has since become my friend. Last year when Jill Shalvis won, I cried like a baby.
Now when I go to National, I’ll see dozens and dozens of friends, and hundreds of acquaintances. My schedule is so packed with meetings and lunches and workshops and dinners and interviews that I literally have to schedule time to sit down and rest my feet in their slutty shoes.
But I’ll never forget the magic of my first National, when an unknown writer was welcomed with open arms into the lovely, laughing, lyrical group of women—readers and writers and industry professionals—who make up the heart of the romance writing community.
Thank you for that. I simply don’t have the words to tell you how much that has meant, and still means today.