Blythe's Daily RWA Journal
July 17th, 2002

Once again I am reporting late at night, giddy and a little wired after a full day. We began early with workshops at 9:00. Since I'd never been to an RWA conference, I went to a session for first timers which offered advice on networking and meeting with agents and editors. My favorite piece of advice: "Don't get desperate and throw your completed manuscript under the bathroom stall at an unsuspecting editor." Apparently this has actually happened. As Gene Kelly would say, "Dignity. Always dignity."

The next workshop I attended was geared toward prospective writers hoping to sell to the Silhouette Desire line. AAR readers may complain about the proliferation of baby and cowboy books, but Joan Marlow Golan, Senior Editor for the Desire line, said that best sellers involve Texas, pregnant women, babies, rich guys, and sperm banks. And apparently the appetite for sheikh books has not diminished in the post 9/11 world. It also came up in the course of her segment that as of this year, Desire writers are allowed to use the word "erection." Seasoned series authors Jennifer Greene and Leanne Banks also spoke, offering advice they wished they had known when they were first starting out. Greene stressed the importance of a "falling in love scene." Banks spoke about the importance of romances as wish fulfillment stories, and mentioned that it's easy to feel insecure about your talent at any point in an author's career. New Desire author Laura Wright also spoke; she's sold five books to Desire in the last year, with her first (Cinderella and the Playboy) out this month. Her advice to those who want to publish with Desire is to study up on past books to see what made them work, and to treat Desire as "the big time" rather than a stepping stone to writing single title contemporaries.

Next up was the luncheon, with a keynote address by Teresa Medeiros. She delivered a speech that compared the writer's life to The Wizard of Oz, complete with ruby slippers, wicked witches, and flying monkeys. She spoke of the pitfalls that can discourage any writer hoping to achieve her next goal - whether it is being published in the first place or breaking on to the USA Today best seller list. Among the downers mentioned were online review sites, and Medeiros advised authors to steer clear of them so readers could have their own world. Too many hours spent analyzing reviews and message board comments could leave you thinking that your heroine really is TSTL. Medeiros ended with inspiring stories about readers who read romance to escape from terminal illnesses or difficult family situations.

I am not a member of RWA, so I wasn't allowed in the general meeting, however, I heard it was apparently one of the most heavily attended in years due to a series of controversies that have been brewing for months. One centers around the Board's removal of a regional representative earlier this year. Another deals with the possible recall of the current RWA president, and I believe both are related. The news quickly spread that he lost a "no confidence" vote by a substantial margin, and was then immediately asked to resign. He subsequently refused (LLB has verified this information with an active RWA member). As a result, a recall effort is in progress. For the genesis to this excitement, click here.

My favorite part of the day was meeting and catching up with different writers. Silhouette author Virginia Kantra told me her secret for getting decent covers; she provides the art department with lots of choices and suggestions, and has only been disappointed once. As a member of AAR's Coverballot Committee, I am always on the lookout for covers to nominate, and I noticed several good series covers while I was at Harlequin receptions.

I had a wonderful conversation with Julia Justiss, who amazed me with her ability to quote passages from her favorite romances. It's always fun to hear what other authors an author enjoys, and Julia convinced me that I need to go find Loretta Chase's old traditional Regencies immediately. Fortunately several of them are going to be reprinted, and Chase will have a new book out in 2004. We also rhapsodized over mutual favorites Carla Kelly and Anne Gracie.

In other author news, Linda Francis Lee, who has been writing American historicals, will be switching to contemporaries. So far she is enjoying the change of pace, which included a trip to NYC's garment district to buy a tiara. She's planning to give it away in a contest, but she may just keep it. After all, Patricia/Meg Cabot (of Princess Diaries fame) was wearing a tiara at the literacy book signing. Tina St. John, who has received DIK status three times at AAR, has a new four book series in the works. Like her past books, these will all be medievals, but they will have paranormal elements. Jen Schendel and I talked to both these ladies (and Victoria Malvey, whose sense of humor has inspired Jen to seek out her backlist) at a gathering for Ballantine authors.

It has been fun to meet the faces behind the names, and the conference continues to be both exhilarating and exhausting. Stay tuned for tomorrow's report; highlights include publisher sponsored signings and more workshops.

-- Blythe Barnhill

Return to RWA Daily Journal Index