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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. 

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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?