Stays in the Las Vegas Suite, of course.
But below, in no particular order, are the highlights of my trip.
1) The Woodley Park Zoo metro stop. The escalator coming out of the metro stop is the longest and steepest escalator I’ve ever seen. Going up for the first time, I had the distinct sensation that the man some ten, twelve steps higher up was hanging on for dear life directly above me. It was dizzying, but in the best way.
2) The digital publishing experts. I think I’d met both Angela James of Samhain Publishing and Kassia Krozser of Book Square and Quartet Press before–Kassia owns a very cool Barbara Cartland romance board game, if I remember correctly from RWA 2008 in San Francisco–but I didn’t really have a chance to speak with either. This time I did. And it was informative and eye-opening and most reassuring, to know that the wild, wild frontier of digital publishing is manned by cool, calm, in-charge women who know exactly what they are doing.
3) My editor. We’ve worked successfully together on three books–and when I say successful, I mean she says jump and I ask how high :-)–but I’d never met her in person before. The red metro line in D.C. was undergoing work in the wake of the recent terrible accident. I didn’t experience any delays, but on the evening we were to meet, Caitlin did, coming from the other side of D.C. So as I waited in the restaurant, examining all the women coming inside, some of them looking rather alarming, I was getting a bit anxious. But Caitlin in person was ADORABLE, so crazy-cute and charming. We had a delightful meal and I promised her I would think seriously about a trilogy.
4) My workshop. I’d begun to worry about my workshop long before. And while I was working on it, I dug up an old guest blogging entry I wrote for The Plot Monkeys, on physical desirability, called “Beyond Boobs and Buttocks!” In the post I’d written:
For the longest time, the topic I had in mind was Chemistry. It is one of the most important ingredients in a successful romance, and one that is seldom addressed. And then I realized, of course, why it doesn’t come up very often in craft topics, because trying to teach romantic chemistry is like trying to teach someone how to live a rich, fulfilling life: the topic is so vast and cmplex that I either have to devote my entire life to it or I’m reduced to meaningless slogans like “Beyond Boobs and Buttocks!”
Guess who forgot her own advice and proposed a workshop on Chemistry at Nationals? Yes, me. So there I was, struggling with this vast and complex topic on which I really knew a lot less than I supposed. But fortunately, I turned to my critique partner Janine and my co-blogger Meredith, who are both better analytical thinkers than I am and who generously shared their knowledge and insight. Still I worried and worried and gave up crashing the Harlequin bash Friday night for fine-tuning the workshop in the bowels of the hotel.
And if I may say so, I think the workshop was a hit. Up until we were interrupted by fire alarms, that is. I kid you not, about half way into the workshop, the lights on the firealarms started flashing and then someone came on the intercom and asked everyone to please evacuate the building. (According to Meredith, it was a bomb threat!) We were outside for about ten minutes before we were allowed back inside. I rushed through the rest of the presentation–I’d roped Meredith in to read my example excerpts for me and I was bummed that she didn’t get to read her own from Bound by Your Touch–in little bit of time we had left.
The silver lining–and you know there is one: The quality of my slideshow really went down after bullet point number 2 on how to improve your romantic chemistry, because the hotel had no wifi and I could not access the internet, I ran out of images to use to illustrate my points. Guess at which point we were interrupted? Bullet point number 2!
Needless to say, I didn’t bother to reconnect my laptop to the audiovisual setup after we came back from the bomb threat.
Oh, and let me not forget to say that I wore the red halter top that I would have wore to the Harlequin bash to my workshop. I was determined to inflict my dancing clothes on my listeners since it was for their sake that I’d missed the party. 🙂
5) The Fashionista Me.
I am no fashionista. In fact, most of the time I wear the same three outfits over and over again. But RWA is the one week in the year when I haul out of every little party dress in my closet and give them a workout. It’s also just about the only time in the year when I dig through my drawers to find my make-up and put it on.
Normally I go to RWA with just the wardrobe I have, not the wardrobe I wish I had. But this year I discovered the fabulous retailer known as White House Black Market. If you don’t know the place, it’s a medium-priced store selling well-made pieces the vast majority of which are either black, white, or both. I fell in love with it immediately, and that is saying something as I rarely buy black clothes–don’t know why but black as a clothing color just does not excite me.
So, ahem, I went a little crazy in WHBM–lots of things were on sale that day. I ended up purchasing four cocktail dresses, including a gorgeous little black number for the RITAs. (Long time ago, on a 60 minutes segment on Rudolf Nureyev, someone said of going to see him dance, “Even if you aren’t into baseball, when Babe Ruth plays, you go.” And that little black dress was Babe Ruth. It was Nureyev.)
And it was fun, fun, fun trotting about in pretty new frocks every day. It was delicious. It was addictive.
Oh look, a brochure from them in the mail. And a coupon!
6) The Vibrating Mascara Wand
I always room with a bunch of my chaptermates from Austin. Austin RWA is a wonderful, vibrant group. It’s a treat every year to room with these fantastic women, stay in bed, and talk till late into the night. In the last couple of years, my RWA schedule has been jam-packed, so I’ve had less time to spend with my homeys. But the half hour before the RITAs reminded me just how much I love them.
My roommates gave me a artful-messy French twist to go with my Nureyev LBD. They primered the heck out of my almost non-existent eyelashes, put glitter eyeliner on me, and used a vibrating mascara wand for the finishing touch. (Vibrating mascara wand!) And all throughout, they oohed and aahed at me, my roommie Shelley, who is the prettiest and most put together woman you can imagine–her notebooks are color-tabbed!–said that she felt like a mother whose daughter is about to get married.
And I felt…just embraced and buoyed and exhilarated by so much love and support. I am privileged to know these ladies and privileged to be a girl, so that I could know the joy of such sisterhood. Thank you, Shelley, Tracy, and Courtney!
7) The Three Musketeers
I finally met my dear friend and critique partner Janine for the first time. Janine and I have known each other a long time–since May of 2003 when she first emailed me to tell me she enjoyed the Desert Isle Keeper review I’d written for Judith Ivory’s BEAST at All About Romance.
We corresponded for a year–novella length emails–before we became critique partners. I’m very picky about whom I’d show my work to and was hesitant to take our friendship to the next level. But it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.
And Janine made Meredith’s and my instant friendship possible. She is such a wonderful person that I immediately trust those whom she trusts.
So it was wonderful meeting her at last and we talked exactly like we’ve been IM’ing all these years. And of course fabulous to hang out with her and Meredith together, we the three musketeer. We didn’t do nearly enough of it. I must make sure next year that I don’t have a workshop to prepare at the last minute.
8) The conference itself
Writers, bloggers, agents, editors, publishers–we are all readers first and foremost. RWA National is my yearly immersion in the energy and warm fuzzy of the genre. I had so much fun seeing old friends and meeting new people and talking about what we all love. And next year, watch out, I will boogie at the Harlequin bash and I will rule the dance floor!
(Run for your lives, in other words.) 😉
(And would you believe it, I started this post right after I came home from Nationals. Deadlines, what can I say? And I’m still not done yet. But I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel.)