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A Newbie’s look at the RWA Conference

I had watched my friends attend the national conference year after year living vicariously through their texts  and twitter. When the conference chose to come to Nashville I signed up. We all know what happened then. The famous flood. Sigh.

So I made a deal with myself. Finish one book. Really revise the heck out of it and have it ready for the conference in Atlanta.  I signed up unsure what to expect from a group of over 2000 women, but I was in for a pleasant surprise.

What would normally feel overwhelming to this introvert was instead invigorating. Armed with my first timer ribbon I was now among people who got me. Didn’t matter if they were big time or a newbie like me. We shared a common bond. We were all writers. That statement seemed to be a continuing theme the whole week

What stands out among the zillion things that went on that week? The moment that Nora walked into the bar. That one needs no explanation. The wonder of the literacy signing. Meeting the lovely Leigh Evans and having a fan girl moment as she signed posters for her two books.  Discovering new people to read like Rita Finalist Pamela Hearon. Or Tessa Adams and her fabulous new series about witches, my favorite kind of paranormal.  I also got to meet Amanda Flowers who hosted the online Cupcakes, Cocktails and Critique put on by the Seymour agency. And finally got to meet Amy Atwell from the GIAM loop.

The two inspiring luncheon speakers made me laugh and cry.  Nobody warned me to bring tissues. Adding that  to the list for next year. So many wonderful authors  graciously asked if I was having a good time and made me feel welcome. Wish I could recycle the first timer ribbon for next year.

One of the goals I had for the conference was to meet new people. That goal has been checked off.  Indie author Elena Dillion and I hit it off from the moment we met in the elevator. I also had the pleasure of meeting fellow Pro member Olivia Kelly in the bar. My second goal was to conquer my nerves about pitching my book. That was partially accomplished with the help of the gracious Christyne Butler who helped me fine-tune my pitch.

I am happy to say that I made it through both appointments without embarrassing myself and enjoyed getting to meet the editors and agents who were very kind.

The absolute best part of the whole conference was of course all the books. I haven’t counted my stash yet but I had one full box and shared half of another with my roomie. Add in the ebooks on the conference flash drive and I will have plenty to keep me occupied.

Way to quickly we were on our way to the Saturday night awards. I rooted for my chapter mates, Kim Law and Lea Ann Schafer. And checked out the variety of terrific dresses worn by the attendees. Too soon it was over.

The whole week was a lot to take it. I’m still processing and catching up on my sleep. It was a great opportunity to learn from others in this wonderful  business. Now I know what to expect for next year and how to prepare better. I am looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones at RWA 2014.

Writing and the Unicycle                         

This year I recommitted myself to working harder on my writing. It has been an uphill struggle every day. But I am determined not to give up.

Determination is what most writers that go on to sell say got them there. I’ve seen it happen with my chapter members. I’ve listened to this same advice from multi-published authors.

But in the last month I have seen it with my own eyes, in my son’s unshakable faith that he could master learning to ride a unicycle. Son is not an athlete. His idea of exercise is seeing how fast he can type. Which is pretty impressive at 150 WPM. I’ve tried to get him to walk with me, jog with friends, or take any kind of lessons to no avail.

Imagine my surprise when he showed me a video of a guy on a unicycle, then said he wanted to do that.  I was both thrilled that he was finally going to be active. But also hesitant to point out the pitfalls ahead. So I smiled and we started the hunt for one in our small town. In a strange coincidence his friend’s father still had his old one and gave it to him.

We brought it home and he started practicing 2 to 3 hours a day. The first week was all about trying to stay on for one wheel turn. In a week he broke the 30-year-old cycle.  I asked him if he was sure he wanted to continue. He just handed me his Christmas money and in two days he had a brand new one.

Everyday he was outside as soon as he finished his studies. I watched, heart aching every time he fell off, cheering when he stayed on. Every milestone was recorded. The first time he made it around the carport, fingertips out for balance. First time down the driveway, arms flaying like a drunken helicopter pilot.

In three weeks, he had gone from I want to do this to accomplishing his goal. Now we just throw it in the car and off to the park. While I walk, he unicycles around all the small kids who think he is very cool. I couldn’t be prouder of him.

I am still determined, even more so now. Just as I cheered my son on, he’ll do the same for me. He comes inside eyes shining in excitement, sweat on his brow, asking me, “Mom have you written today?” Sometimes all a writer needs is to learn to unicycle.

IMG_0375—Previously printed in the Music City Romance Writers Newsletter—

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