I’m back from the RWA Annual Conference, and I want to thank Monica Corwin again for filling in for me last week with her two fantastic posts about how authors can make the most of Instagram. If you missed them, check out part one with her insights into what content will help create our brand on Instagram and part two with her advice on how to grow our brand with Instagram.
After a delayed flight, I didn’t get home from conference until 2 a.m. this past weekend, and I haven’t yet had a good night’s sleep to recover from a week’s worth of sleep deficit. So rather than a big, in-depth post today, I’m sharing a jumble of thoughts and memories from conference. *smile*
(Note to Newsletter Readers: Click through to the post to see pictures!)
Finding Comfort in an Uncomfortable Situation
As usual, I met a ton of fantastic people last week. Even though my panic-attack-level introverted nature makes conferences difficult, a writing conference is an unbeatable situation for “finding our tribe.”
I also discovered—on this, my fifth Annual Conference—that some things really do get easier with experience. This time around, I didn’t long to crawl into a deep hole for the entire hour of the Librarian/Bookseller/Blogger Mixer (only for a few minutes here and there *smile*), and I found it much easier to interact with potential readers and talk about my books at the Indie Book Signing.
Finding New Readers
BookFunnel’s new print code feature that I helped beta test a few weeks ago worked fantastically for sharing copies of Treasured Claim and Stone-Cold Heart at both the Indie Book Signing and the Librarian Mixer.
As I mentioned in that earlier post, the postcards I designed looked great, and they were big enough to sign for readers. Even better, by the end of conference, all 100 cards I’d made found homes with new readers. Woo hoo!
Finding Advice Worth Learning
As a professional conference, RWA often features phenomenal workshops, and this year was no exception. The highlights for me were sessions about the psychology of fiction and how stress interrupts our creativity.
I’ll be writing follow-up posts—and inviting several RWA presenters to guest post here—in the future to share some of the great information I learned. (I took about 19 pages of notes in the psychology session alone!)
Finding Progress in Unexpected Places
During several of the big workshops, a live-caption transcriptionist typed every word of the presenter to display on a screen to one side of the podium. Although I’m a hearing person, I appreciated this service for deaf or hard-of-hearing attendees.
My auditory processing is sometimes slow, and when I struggled (or just zoned out for a bit as I thought about how to apply some tidbit of advice *grin*), I was able to refer to the screen and catch up on the last sentence or two of information. In addition, the captioner provided one of the many laugh-out-loud moments of the conference during a presentation by Amazon.
One of the Amazon presenters started his speech and stopped to watch the caption screen, commenting that maybe he could just read his whole presentation from the notes. The captioner “replied” on the screen with:
CAPTIONER: I don’t know what you know.
That got a laugh, and the guy from Amazon and the captioner continued for several minutes, riffing off each other, complete with the Amazon guy speaking as fast as he could to see if the captioner could keep up. Answer: Yes. *smile* We were all impressed and entertained.
Finding Joy in Others’ Success
The romance author community is amazing for being supportive of one another. When we discovered Kait Nolan, who was up for a prestigious RITA award, was also a first-timer to the conference and didn’t know many people, my roommates (Angela Quarles and Buffy Armstrong—with me in the photo at the top of this post) and I volunteered to be her cheering section.
We ended up the lucky ones when we got to be there as she won the RITA for her short contemporary romance story, Second Chance Summer! This is now the second time in a row that the RITA finalist I was sitting next to at the ceremony won the award, but I can’t take credit for being a good luck charm, as both Kait and Angela Quarles (with her RITA win in 2016) fully deserve the recognition. *smile*
Finding Success in Our Tribe
In other phenomenal news, my writing bestie and conference roomie, Angela Quarles, won the PRISM for Fantasy Romance from the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal chapter of RWA for Must Love More Kilts!
(If you’d like to see the video of Angela and I receiving our honors from the PRISM contest (where I was also a finalist for Stone-Cold Heart), our Fantasy category is up first in the stream video, where we kind of hilariously credit the other for the quality of our stories. *grin*)
Finding Bravery in Our Truths
Another big moment was Suzanne Brockman’s speech when she accepted this year’s Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. RWA is still working on sharing the video from her speech, but in the meantime, we can read the transcript.
(Update! Here’s the recording of the RITA Ceremony! It starts with her son’s introduction at the 46 minute mark, and the speech itself is at the 56 minute mark.)
The vast majority of the audience was cheering and supportive, but with a speech about the importance of diversity so fiery, it’s no surprise that some found points of disagreement with her views. However, many of the complaints I’ve seen are off the mark.
Some complained about her use of the F-word, accusing her of being too uneducated, unrefined, or lacking in taste to deserve a special invitation to RWA’s conference. By that measure, even the one-and-only mega-author Nora Roberts wouldn’t qualify for the Lifetime Achievement Award named after her, as La Nora dropped several F-bombs in the speech she gave at the very first RWA conference I attended in 2010.
Others complained about the focus on diversity, believing the topic itself is political (as though someone’s mere existence should be seen as a political statement) or that progress happens without people actively pushing—even though the long story of human history proves that false. (One post making the rounds with that complaint is by an author who writes Nazi heroines, so… *cough* yeah.)
Finding Hope in Our Progress
Like the rest of the world, the publishing industry is filled with inherent biases that have historically caused the silencing of some voices. Fixing that issue won’t happen without a conscious effort to change.
It’s only been the last couple of years that LGBTQ+ stories were accepted in RWA contests. These issues aren’t ancient history, and without awareness, we could too easily backslide into erasing some stories.
Heck, I recently had to block someone on Facebook because he kept commenting on my posts that “female orgasm” is a myth. So the entire genre of romance—with stories about heroines going after what they want and believing they’re deserving of respect and pleasure—is radical to some.
We all have biases, and if we don’t push ourselves to be more aware of them—if we’re not conscious of the need to push, to question—we’ll never reach our potential as authors, able to use empathy to delve into our characters, much less make progress in other aspects of humanity. And that’s what Suzanne’s (and Kristan Higgins’ and others’) speeches at RWA were all about:
Pay attention to our biases so we can do better.
That’s not an offensive statement unless we think we’re perfect and don’t need to change in any way. I, for one, know that I’m not perfect and that I can always improve.
Encouraging people to listen and hear those who have been marginalized hurts exactly no one. In contrast, the opposite approach can, in fact, hurt those who are too often hurt already. Especially when we consider that a genre about love should want a happy ending for everyone.
So even if we disagree with some aspects of the speech, I hope we can all do a little self-examination and question our biases and see how we might do better. *smile*
Did you go to RWA18? Did you follow any of the stories on social media? What strikes you as some of the highlights? If you went, was there a particular lesson or insight that resonated with you? What’s your reaction to the complaints about Suzanne’s speech?Pin It