RWA 20151Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” The 2015 Romance Writers of America conference is brimming with women–and a few men–who do just that. Rarely have I been surrounded by so many people who speak openly, joyously, and determinedly about making their dreams reality.

I have spent the conference with authors. I’ve interviewed some of the greatest names in the field–Eloisa James, Julie Anne Long, Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas, Sophie Jordan, Sarah MacLean and others. (I’ll be sharing those interviews with you beginning on Monday.) I’ve listened to Virginia Kantra, Laura Florand, Jessica Scott, and Carolyn Crane talk–over wine and dessert–about how they publish and what they’ve learned. I’ve talked to writers waiting for cabs, publicists and editors at parties, and aspiring authors in the absurdly long lines for the bathrooms at the conference hotel. I’ve been to a doughnut party and listened to Joanna Bourne discuss the impact of Twitter on the writers of tomorrow. It’s been author, authors, authors, and it’s been the best thing ever.

Again and again, I’ve been struck, awestruck, by the willingness of these women to pursue their dreams. Last night, at dinner, I sat across from a lovely woman who struggles with physical conditions that leave her routinely terribly depressed. When she feels crazy, she said, she puts on the music from the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice and listens to it repeatedly until she finds a saner place. She’s at RWA this year, for the first time, because, on top of having a day job, going to real estate school, being a mother of three and a wife, she writes YA romance and she’s determined to be published. She is here, in New York, pursuing her dream.

I ask authors when they began writing and most say, “I’ve always written.” For them, the dream hasn’t been writing–that is something so innate it’s rather like breathing. No, the dream has been to publish–whether traditionally or not–so they may share their stories with others. Following this dream has meant living on four hours of sleep a night for years, receiving rejection after rejection, and repeatedly learning new skills–Scrivener, self-publishing, digital rights… the list is endless. They do whatever they have to do to make their dreams come true.

It’s awesome.

It’s intimidating.

It’s flipping amazing.

Yoda was wrong. To do is to have tried and succeeded. This week I’ve seen joy on the face of writer after writer who tried, succeeded, and are trying still. Today is the last day of the conference and tonight is the RITAs, the awards ceremony where RWA recognizes the best books of the year. But no matter who wins the statues, everyone I’ve talked with this week wins my respect. It’s a group of kickass dreamers. If Mrs. Roosevelt is right, the future is in fabulous hands.

Dabney Grinnan