A Newbie’s Guide to Surviving RWA 2014

Posted Jul 17 2014, 8:59 pm in

I’m headed to the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Annual conference in San Antonio next week—as a first-time attendee. If conferences for romance writers were personified, the RWA annual conference would be the Alpha Male among them.

I’ve taken a pitch class to prepare me for the business of selling my novel; I’ve considered and reconsidered the outfits I’m going to stuff in my suitcase; I’ve worked out my schedule, using the handy RWA conference app; and I’ve compiled a set of notes on the people I’d like to meet in person.

But there’s a problem. I’m terrified. Of what? I’m not sure. But this queasy feeling in my belly refuses to go away, so I’m going to arm myself with a few tricks to get me through it. These tricks aren’t tested, so if you choose to adopt them, be warned: they might not work. I’m going to give them a shot, though. After the conference, I’ll let you know how I fared.

Step 1: Imagine everyone in front of a computer.

We’ve all been told to picture a person in his or her underwear when we’re nervous. Yeah. No. I’m not doing that. Instead, when I meet a writer I’m going to picture her in front of her computer as she pulls at her hair and screams at the screen, because I’m sure we’ve all done that. Whether published or unpublished, every writer has experienced that moment. I think this mental exercise will help me relax and will reinforce the reality that no matter where we are in our writing journeys, we’re human—and most of us know how to cuss in at least two languages. I haven’t figured out what to do about agents and publishers, however. Any ideas?

Step 2: Imagine your favorite author is painfully shy.

Big names in the publishing industry attend the annual conference. As an attendee, I might see an author at the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list, or an author whose novel resides on my Kindle. As I watch these titans of the industry chat with their friends and other conference attendees, I’m going to imagine that, for them, the exercise of speaking with other people is mentally and physically painful. Yes, I realize this probably isn’t the case, but this is my coping mechanism, so it doesn’t have to be true. Get it?

Step 3: Bear in mind everyone there was a first time attendee once.

Apparently, I get a ribbon of some sort, which announces to all that I’m a first-timer. In my view, this is a good thing. I figure if I pass out just before a pitch session, passersby will give me a hand, or maybe they’ll look at the ribbon and say, “Yet another one bites the dust. Ah, well. Those shoes are nice, though. Think we can pry them off her?” Seriously, I realize more experienced writers aren’t ogres, and most of them likely will take pity on me and help me through the maze that awaits me. They’ve been there. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about romance writers in the past year, it’s this: they’re good people. I can’t wait to join them.


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