Notes from the RWA Conference at Anaheim:

A Golden State of Mind

For four days the Anaheim Hilton was invaded by almost 2,000 romance writers, published, pre-published and want to be published. There may have been more who wanted to attend but got lost in the maze of construction detours that now rings the area surrounding Disneyland. Arriving at the Hilton was a wonderful relief, their staff was unfailingly courteous and helpful. I did however, over the course of the conference, run into a number of attendees who were replicating their driving experiences, wandering through the immense hotel, looking for the scarce elevators, and trying to figure out where the meeting rooms were.

Wednesday, July 29::
Conference registration went smoothly and much to my surprise I received an individual editor appointment. What a pleasant surprise. Now I had to get serious about this conference!

Our first stop after registration was the aptly named goody room, full of all sorts of treats: books (including advanced reader’s copies) book marks, temporary tatoos (from Jill Marie Landis), tissues (from Nora Roberts!), and a great Back off! Goddess Inside! bumper sticker from Ann Stuart. With our arms full, my roommate, Susan Tatley, and I headed up to our room to review the conference program (about two and a half inches thick) and get ready for the big “Readers for Life” Literacy Book Signing to be held that evening.

A highlight of the signing was the raffle for gorgeous baskets donated by the chapters. The crowd was huge and densely packed into every available corner of the room. Fortunately, authors like Julie Garwood and Nora Roberts had tables off to the side so their lengthy lines did not impact the other authors. It was a lot of fun buying books right from one’s favorite authors, though it would have been nice if some of the books scheduled to be released in the next few weeks had been available.

After the signing, The Beau Monde Chapter (Regency Writers) held their annual Gambling Hell party, with period dancing and card games. Many of the writers had fantastic period costumes (which were also visible during the book signing), and a good time was had by all.

Thursday, July 30::
The workshops started in earnest with two sessions in the morning. I found myself lucky to discover the Harlequin Hospitality Suite and loaded up on yet more books. Next door was the official conference book sale room, with books available on the craft of writing, background research information, and books by RWA member authors, as well as toys and such to bring home for the little ones.

I began my day at Lynn Coddington’s A Roundtable Discussion on Books That Make Me a Romance Writer. This very interesting free wheeling conversation ranged from our earliest reading through to the books that encouraged us to try our hand at writing romance. Titles ranging from the historicals of Anya Seton and Margaret Barnes through the Candlelight Ecstasies, early Barbara Cartland, as well as Georgette Heyer and the early big romances like The Flame & the Flower were mentioned. High spirits predominated as we shared our favorites and rediscovered that we were part of a community.

The second hour I focused on Ready, Set, Go For a Great Agent/Editor Interview, presented by author Stephanie Bond. This excellent workshop was a necessity, since I did have that editor appointment looming on my schedule. Useful tips on how to structure your interview were presented and both individual and group appointments were discussed. Regional meetings were followed by the Opening Luncheon, with Keynote Speaker Julie Garwood. One of the popular complaints from the Orlando conference was answered as soon as we entered the dining room. Each place setting was highlighted with a yummy looking dessert, bread pudding. Julie’s speech was very inspiring. Did you know she writes her books on a typewriter?

After the Annual General Meeting , we gathered for an outdoor Welcoming Reception held on two large patios. Those of us from the Southwest had fun explaining the Mexican food buffet to attendees who were not familiar with empanadas, tacquitos, and fajitas. The celebratory evening continued as various groups, such as the Mystery and Suspense Chapter and the Orange County Chapter had open houses in their hospitality suites. A dedicated party goer could have had a long, happy night. My biggest problem was not having a clone. I briefly visited the e-publishing suite, which was bustling with shoppers and writers interested in getting publisher’s tip sheets.

Friday, July 31::
The day started early, with a 7 a.m. Continental breakfast. A crowded room full of sleepy writers was waiting for RITA award winners, Alicia Rasley and Lynn Kerstan to show us Ten Foolproof Ways to Polish Your Manuscript. It was definitely worth crawling out of bed to hear!

I spent the next hour getting ready for our interview, and then had my meeting with Karen Kosztolnyik from Silhouette Books, Afterward I spent some time recovering my equilibrium. Meeting Karen was actually not as terrifying as I feared. She was very gentle and encouraging. I think I actually did breathe and I know I managed to enter and exit without falling flat on my face,

Tess Farraday presented a two hour workshop on using both halves of your brain to enhance performance. I was fortunate to have some time to listen to Muse On The Run. Her ideas for stimulating creativity are sure to be very useful.

Friday’s Lunch was highlighted by the presentation of RWA Awards and another scrumptious desert. The award winners are listed in Tami Cowden’s report, but interested readers can find more detail, as well as photographs of the festivities, at the RWA web site. You don’t have to be a member, so please come and visit:

And those of you who want to buy audio or VCR tapes can call Bill Stephen Productions, Inc at 1-800-322-4422. Or write to them at 320 Stewart Street, Dept RW3-C, Reno Nevada 89502 and ask for a catalog. They also have tapes of the Beau Monde Regency Conference that preceded the RWA and some tapes from both conferences held last year in Orlando.

More workshops followed that the afternoon, and yes, by now I was flagging. Jodi Thomas helped me wake up by talking about Working in Dreams, Living Reality. It was great to learn some new ideas for balancing the realities of life with the dream of writing. There was no way I was going to miss Jo Beverley’s discussion on Character and Period. She explained how we can create historically accurate characters and situations and not bruise 90’s sensibilities. Jo is always worth listening to even if you’re more interested in contemporaries than historicals. And ending the afternoon with Georgina Gentry and Heroes, Hardcases, and Hellions: American Minorities and Women of the Nineteenth Century was a delight. Georgina is a dedicated researcher and generously shared a myriad of references with us.

Friday evening was dedicated to more partying. Publishers and editors entertained. The RWA-Link members bar hopped. And “Friday Night at the Movies” was presented for anyone with enough energy to not crawl into the Jacuzzi or their bed.

Saturday, August 1::
More workshops, including two by David Freeman and another incredible Awards luncheon. Anne Stuart was the featured speaker. Feather boas, and elbow length gloves, tiaras and rose petals heralded the arrival of the Goddess. By the end of her wonderful speech we had all met our own goddess within and were ready to give her full sway over our creativity.

By the end of the afternoon, pizza and a hot bath seemed like the best idea before we ventured forth to watch the fashion parade of attendees at the RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony and Celebration. Hollywood held sway as we were entertained by dancers, Amanda Franco and Rachel Reames, and readings from the works of the four nominees for the Life Time Achievement Award: Rosalyn Alsobrook, Sandra Brown, Meg Chittenden, and Maggie Osborne. Actor/author Gregg Marx (As the World Turns and Days of Our Lives) and Barbara Crampton (The Bold & the Beautiful and The Young & the Restless) were also there hamming it up. After all the awards were presented, we moved on to the Celebration. Bright lights, eager fans, and gorgeous leading men including pirates and sheiks, awaited us. Everyone got their very own RITA (yummy chocolate) and the chocolate buffet was a dream. Champagne flowed . It was a night to remember.

Sunday, August 2::
Crawling out of bed, trying to find room for all our new books (author Kayla Perrin admits to having acquired more than 70 freebies), breakfast and check out were the order of the day.

All in all it was a wonderful, sucessful conference. We raised over $26,000 for adult literacy programs! Now if I can only go to Chicago with a contract in hand…

Vicki Badik

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