Sunday, July 10, 2011

Romance Writers of America National Conference...A First Timer's View

I enjoy the frantic calm of the city and keep pace with the crowd to the Marriott Marquee a few doors down with the registration confirmation in hand. My biggest fear is David Cook's personal serenade at the Paramount Hotel would eclipse the week. Seriously, he stood twenty feet away and I didn't notice anyone else in the qualifies as personal to me. After a quick ride up the glass elevator and a hello to the concierge, I find the sixth floor mobbed with women at the far end. I hurry forward.

Writing is a solitary vocation.The Romance Writers of America is a formidable group dedicated to helping its members produce quality romantic fiction and lend support along the way. Over 12,000 members rely on volunteers in all facets of the organization in order to accomplish this monumental task. The organized chaos of women lining up beneath alphabetic cards were rattling off more aliases than mob bosses. The registration volunteers sorted through each person and explained the pertinent information with a smile.

I receive my badge with a first timer ribbon, a goody bag of books and conference agenda and did the unthinkable..I ask if they need help. They let me loose after a superspeedy orientation and it all works out. Oh yeah, the registration attendees immediately noticed the first timer ribbon hanging above my new blue volunteer ribbon. I do travel extensively, but I've never heard so many, "bless your hearts" in so short a span. Between checking in registrants, unloading skids of boxes and replenishing goody bags to shelves, three hours flew past in a snap and with the "Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing only a few hours away, it was time to prepare for the evening.

Sporting the badge I find my way up to the sixth floor all dressed and polished to meet so many writers I've admired for years. A funny thing happens in the elevator; a mascaraed eyelash pokes me and my eye begins watering. All attempts to dislodge it only makes matters worse. I ask for help. A very nice woman offers to look and see how she can assist me, but the dim elevator bulbs doesn't provide enough light to see the problem. The doors opens, we exit to where the lighting improves and she spots the culprit. A quick remedy and we are on our way.

Believe it or not I'm a shy person, but walking down the corrider in silence when she just aided me felt awkward, so I make small talk. She asks what I write and I ask what she writes, she hands me her card and I ask to submit. We walked to the front of the line together, past the guard and into a room with hundreds of authors and fans lined up awaiting autographed books. A smile to writers everywhere knowing our fans love us no matter what name we use.

I can't say it was an elevator pitch, but I'll never forget the lesson learned: You never know who's in the elevator with you and to stay on your "A" game. A huge thank you to Amy Pierpont, an Executive Editor at Grand Central Publishing, for coming to my aid. You'll see my pages soon!

I learned a lot more about the conference by getting answers for other people while volunteering, than if I'd stumbled along on my own. So if you get a chance, volunteer somewhere at a conference and help out the people who are helping you. Volunteering also helps with information about pitch sessions, but that's another story you won't want to miss.

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