Ruminating on the RWA Experience

Okay, I believe I’m fully recovered from the craziness that was the Romance Writer’s of America Conference. Or at least enough that I can speak intelligently about what I learned from the whole experience.

In my pre-conference blog post, I talked about two goals I wanted to accomplish at the convention: networking and learning. Check and check.

As an RWA conference virgin, I wore a bright orange ribbon on the bottom of my badge that all but screamed “first timer”. Starting a conversation was easy with that, even at the book signings, with the most frequently asked question being whether or not I felt overwhelmed by the experience. Had it been my first national conference, I probably would have said yes, but I was at the 2011 RT Book Lover’s Convention. This was fairly tame compared to that madness.

Despite the fact that there were 2,000 attendees in Atlanta, I made so many connections with new and old friends. My online classmate Colleen Hampton and I bumped into each other at the conclusion of the orientation and spent a great majority of the weekend at the same seminars. So amazing to find a kindred spirit. (You can check out her blog here.)

Spirits were also the topic of conversation when I bumped into Cynthia Eden again. We were on a ghost tour together in St. Augustine during Old City, New Blood and we did some reminiscing about the blue orb that showed up on my camera. I also found Dianne Love – another fellow ghosthunter – at one of the publisher signings.

 Yes, I took advantage of as many of the publisher signings as I could without jeopardizing my learning experience and came away with over 60 books! Those signings also provided one-on-one time with my favorite authors. I spoke with Roni Loren about my crush on Jace and Andre from Melt Into You and discussed the merits of Cade and Garrick with Cora Carmack. I even briefly talked to the queen of romance herself – Nora Roberts – when she autographed a book for a co-worker.

Despite what you may think after hearing the collection of books I walked away with, I did attend as many workshops as I could and I appreciated that such a wide range of topics were covered – from craft to business to writer’s life. Among my favorite tips:

- Write each character’s backstory and use bits and pieces throughout the novel. (Susan Elizabeth Phillips).

-The stronger the antagonist. The stronger the protagonist. (Colleen Thompson)

-Make a soundtrack for your WIP and listen to it throughout your day to keep your book top of mind. (Ava Malone)

-Start chapter one, write the end then write the three turning points to keep momentum. (Erin Quinn)

-It’s the character who tells the story not the author. (Robin Perini)

-No one can lay on your computer and tell you to stop – except your cat. (Kathy Higgins)

 Of course, one thought that echoed throughout the weekend by authors and panelists alike was to write what you want to read. I think that is the most valuable advice I can took from the experience. 

Keep watch here in the coming weeks for my post on the New Adult discussion at RWA. 

Heading Off to RWA…

My muse has been hibernating of late even after a jolt of creativity during the one-day SCBWI young adult writing seminar in June. I blame the summer heat and four weekends worth of Star Wars brainwashing courtesy of Disney.

I also spent a month doing beta work on the upcoming new adult werewolf novel by Adrianne James called The Tempering.

This week, though, no excuses. I’m putting my muse on notice because we’re going to the 2013 RWA Convention in Atlanta.

In 2011, I attended the RT Convention in Los Angeles, but I understand that the RWA event is more about the business of writing and less about electing the next romance cover model.  With that in mind, and thanks to Angela Quarles blog post here, I have set forth some expectations:

1. Networking

I am going to Atlanta armed with the same business cards that have served me well since Old City New Blood back in February. I want to return home with only half the box remaining. Rather than sequester myself in the hotel room, I’m going to spend any downtime in the lobby. I want to meet some of these people whose writing I’ve admired (because I have been inhaling books lately to the chagrin of the characters in my own head). These are the same people who have inspired me – Roni Loren, Cora Carmack, Katie McGarry. There are also an online classmate and a few Twitter friends I want to meet. Who knows, I might bump into some old friends from RT, too.

2. Learning by Osmosis

Remember that old elementary school experiment with the celery and the blue water? That vegetable stalk is me over the three-days of the conference. About a month ago, I went through the panel schedule and trimmed it according to my interests. Now my top priorities are highlighted, including the New Adult and Young Adult panels, and I even have my second and third choices because you never know if a room will be overcapacity. I want to take it all in – or at least as much as possible.

Of course, another perk is the signing events and the goody room. I will be finding time for those pursuits and maybe I’ll even find a moment or two to work on the hockey novel or start plotting the tennis one. Who needs sleep? I can wait until I arrive back home for that. 

What are some of your convention hints?

Keane on Musical Inspiration

Authors are often asked what motivates them to write a specific story. For some, it’s a dream. For others, music is the muse of choice, so much so that they are quick to offer the playlists they used as background music either as an appendix or on a website.

I admit to falling into the latter category myself but often, though, I think it’s difficult to realize the effect that our own relationship to the music has on our muse.

Last weekend, I finally had the pleasure of seeing my favorite band – Keane. I can hear a few you stateside asking, “Who?” Unfortunately, the quartet hasn’t enjoyed the notoriety here in the U.S. like it has in other parts of the world where they play to arenas and stadiums. The fans who do follow the band are cult-like in our devotion. In Atlanta, one woman came from Chile specifically to see the band and almost the entire front row, myself included, was from Florida.

This show was at the Tabernacle, a converted Baptist Church – talk about a religious experience! Midway through the group’s set of 21 songs, lead singer Tom Chaplin sat at the keyboard across the stage from his longtime bandmate Tim Rice-Oxley, who was at another keyboard. Tom spoke about one of Keane’s darkest moments – his own downward spiral into drug addiction and subsequent rehab then they began “Hamburg Song.”

Keane has profoundly influenced my own writing and my story playlists feature the band prominently. The music covers of myriad of character emotions. If a song is more upbeat, the lyrics still contain enough angst to fuel half dozen brooding Bella Swans, whiny Luke Skywalkers or, in the case of my current novel, Genevieve Matthews. The slower songs are haunting in their composition and “Hamburg Song” falls into this latter category.

For me, it’s all about friendship and the helplessness a person feels when you watch a friend destroy himself. The melody begins with the echo of an organ before Tom’s crisp voice enters (lyrics at Keane’s site here.)

To see this song performed live brought me to tears by the second verse. I realized then that I wanted to bring that type of tangible emotion to my characters and their relationships. I wanted to pick up a pen and start writing.

Love that kind of inspiration!

Stepping up to the Platform

The writing platform that is.

It is tough to express what it is you want to accomplish with your writing, especially when you only have 250 words to accomplish the feat. I was able to complete the task and post it earlier today to the class I’m taking online for the next four weeks.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing further research on the Genevieve character I am trying to flesh out for my new novel as well. She certainly has a mind of her own already. Now I have to figure out this male protagonist.

 

Je M’appelle…

Playing around with French Huguenot names for the female protagonist in my new story. I want to weave some of my own lesser-known heritage into this particular story because it is of some interest. A society of persecuted people that emigrated in search of a better life.

I have not yet decided on some of the other names for the characters – perhaps Cameron for the male protagonist – or the true basis of the television show that brings them together. A rough sketch is coming together and I can’t wait to start writing. 

A tentative first step

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

I was in my teens when I first saw this phrase on a bookmark. It continues to stay with me to this day. I took the statement literally when I started running a few years ago. In February, I’ll be (hopefully) completing my 10th half marathon.

So I embark on this new journey with the same goal in mind. I want to start taking my writing craft seriously and this is the way to keep myself honest.

I invite you to come along for the ride.