So there’s this huge conference next week, gang: Romance Writers of America National Conference in Atlanta. I think there will be about 2000 people there, most of them writers. Lots of industry pros, too—agents and publishers and booksellers and librarians. There will be dozens and dozens of workshops. Signings, meetings, parties…and speeches. I’m giving one. The Awards Luncheon Speech. I’m terrified.
Oh, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Of course, it’s a HUGE honor, being asked to speak in front of your peers. The thing is, I’m really not that experienced. I haven’t been at this business for terribly long. I think I’m pretty well liked in the community (I certainly try to be nice!), and I gave a couple of funny acceptance speeches in the past few years, so I think that’s why I was asked.
When Sylvia Day, the president of RWA, called to ask me to speak, I did try to talk her out of it. “Shouldn’t you be giving the speech, Sylvia?” (She had just hit #1 on the New York Times list). “Don’t you have someone more experienced you could ask?” I gave her some names.
She laughed. “We all want you, Kristan,” she said kindly. “It was unanimous.”
“Okay, then. Sure! I’d love to!”
And I will love to. I mean, I love the idea. And I’ll love it when it’s over. But I’ll be shaking like a leaf the whole time. I briefly considered asking my doctor for some calming medication, but heck. Time to put on the big-girl panties and all that.
My first concern: what to wear. Obviously, it has to be killer, right? And the shoes…eesh. Clearly, not one pair of those jammed into my closet would do (the ugly face of addiction). Spanx, of course. Sigh.
At my first conference six years ago, I was horribly underdressed. Jeans and stuff. I had no clue, no published author friends. I remember the authors who were nice to me, a brand-spanking newbie. Sandra Hill and Rita Herron sat on either side of me at the big signing and heartily recommended my books to their many fans (I had one person come up on purpose…and I was glad for her, let me tell you!).
At breakfast, because I knew no one, I plunked my plate down next to someone and asked if I could sit there. Turned out she was Kim Castillo and ran Author’s Best Friend; she was the PR assistant to Eloisa James, and Eloisa had just recommended my book to her. I nearly passed out with the thrill. Eventually, I hired Kim, and we still call each other “breakfast buddy.” She’ll be sitting at my table when I give my speech. I love her dearly.
I saw Susan Elizabeth Phillips and could barely look her in the eye. I wanted to say what a fan I was, but I didn’t want to bug her. Now, SEP and I are sort of pals. We had dinner with two other authors last year, and she’s lovely and normal and funny. Mostly, we talked about our kids.
This career of mine…it’s surreal. When I started writing, all I wanted was to write a book that people would love. That’s still all I want. Giving speeches and stuff…it’s such a thrill. Such an honor! But in the end, despite the fun of shoes and writer friends and publisher parties, it’s always about writing a book for you, dear readers. You are always in my thoughts.