RWA Hotel My first trip to the RWA conference felt like complete sensory overload, but in a good way. We kept the live coverage going over at AAR last week, but today I’m finally having a chance to catch my breath, and think about it all. When I got there, I finally got to meet and spend time with Sandy Coleman, whom I’ve worked with here at AAR since 2003, but had never actually met in person. After the literacy signing, I also got to meet Senior Reviewer Jane Granville and some of our message board regulars, which was very fun. Putting names to faces was nice, but I especially enjoyed the chance to spend time with some warm, friendly people who enjoy talking romance novels as much as I do.

One thing that really struck me about RWA was the energy of the conference. Even though the schedule packed many, many things into only 4 days, I felt recharged as I attended workshops, met with authors and publishers, went to supercrowded book signings and just generally walked around the hotel talking to people. I had some planned meetings, but I also found myself just stopping to chat with people, many of whom had great ideas about romance. I met lots of aspiring authors, many of whom are writing paranormals, and I found it refreshing that this new generation of writers by and large seems to want to take things a step beyond the vampire/werewolf series that have dominated in recent years. “Postapocalyptic” and “steampunk” were words I heard a lot, though it’s worth noting that no two people seem to agree on a steampunk definition. I’m curious to see how that will shake out.

While at RWA, Sandy and I got to meet with representatives from some of the publishers. I found the meetings informative and very helpful in terms of relationship building, and also coming up with ideas to get the names of good books and authors out there for more people to see. I have to give these folks credit for being very interested in what readers think and want and even though they had schedules that were obviously quite busy, the various publishers were more than willing to make time to speak with readers. I truly appreciated that.

From the publishers, I can tell you several things:
– Young adult books are BIG. Harlequin is launching a new YA line next month, which looks very promising. I spoke to Mary-Theresa Hussey from Harlequin and from what she told me, the line looks heavy on paranormal, but there are some contemporaries in there, too. Other publishers are looking to acquire YA authors as well, and Sourcebooks is starting a new young adult line, which is as yet unnamed.

– Historicals are selling, which is great news to me. I read across most subgenres of romance, but historicals remain my first love. Not surprisingly, readers will still have no trouble finding Regency historicals and there are some fantastic authors writing them, but to my great delight, I heard news of other settings as well. Sandra Hill has Viking historicals coming out from Avon, Sourcebooks mentioned the acquisition of an American historical(possibly a series?), I spoke to several authors with Victorian novels in the works and the Golden Heart winner for Historical Romance, Jeannie Lin, announced that her China-set historical has been sold to Harlequin.

-Paranormals are selling, too, and in addition to the much-awaited releases from current authors, it seems as though just about every publisher has new paranormal authors they’re excited to introduce. I’m personally looking forward to the Harlequin YA offerings, several of Dorchester’s paranormals/urban fantasies, and Joss Ware’s new series for Avon in 2010. At lunch on Thursday and breakfast Friday, I also met some aspiring authors who have really unique ideas. I hope they get published!

– Even though publishing news in general has been grim, romance is reportedly doing well. I went to several publisher spotlights and the general theme seemed to be that they are all acquiring and they are all seeking manuscripts in a variety of subgenres. I like to read lots of books, so this is great news to me!

Aside from the publisher spotlights, I also got to hear some great authors speak. Even though I stayed up late socializing most evenings, I still hauled myself out of bed at a moderately uncivilized morning hour so that I could hear Jo Beverley speak. And it was worth it. In person, she is very warm, engaging and wise. Then there were the lunch speakers. Linda Howard had me laughing so hard I could barely eat my lunch. Her tales of her family role as the “keeper of the nuts” were absolutely hysterical. On Friday, Eloisa James spoke of bringing emotion to one’s writing, using examples from her own life, including moving stories of how concerns over her children and husband found their way into her books.

And then there were the RITAs. I got to go to a gracious and very fun pre-ceremony party, and then the event itself was very fun to watch. Anne Stuart made a very irreverent and funny emcee, and I enjoyed the glamor of it. The dessert reception afterwards was held in a foyer ill-suited to the mad crush of people, so I had sugar cookies and coffee in my hotel room instead. A sweet end to a very exciting week.

-Lynn Spencer