Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July Column

From the July issue of the San Francisco Romance Writers of America chapter newsletter, Heart of the Bay.
From The President

As I write this, the RWA National Conference is less than a month away, and I’m starting to prepare for real, which entails buying new mascara (does anyone honestly throw it out after three months? I’d still be using my Maybelline Great Lash from senior year if it hadn’t dried up) - stealing all my earrings back from my daughter, and retrieving the Spanx from cold storage, since I spend fifty-one weeks per year in sweats.

As much as I dread the planning and the packing, I love the excitement of all those writers and readers condensing so much living into a few short days. Is there anything better than talking about our beloved craft from the first rays of daylight until the wee hours of the morning? How about meeting our heroes in person? The fresh-minted smell of a first edition in the bookseller room? Making small talk with the person sitting next to you in the audience while you wait for a workshop to begin – and discovering a soul mate?

My first RWA conference was in 1997, in Orlando. I had two little children and I was so excited by the prospect of a few nights alone in a hotel room that I almost didn’t mind that I didn’t know a soul. I pitched a truly terrible book to a well-known agent. (She was kind.) I forced myself to talk to strangers. I went home with a suitcase full of newly discovered authors. (Well, not the authors themselves – they would have exceeded that pesky fifty-pound limit…but dozens of their books.)

One of the best bits of advice I’ve received in the last few years was to treasure the firsts. You only get one first finished novel, for instance - so sisters, when you type THE END for the very first time, I hope you celebrate. Dance around the kitchen, hug the dog, call your mom – but make it special.

Same thing for your first conference. This is the only time in your life that you’ll walk into the throng and realize that all these women gathered in one place share your love of writing. It’ll take your breath away. Enjoy the panels, the spotlights, the publisher signings; queue up for Nora and Susan Elizabeth and Jennifer; meet a new BFF or three at the luncheons.

And for a few short days, forget the to-do list, the carmudgeonly boss, the demands of the kids. Refuse to consider limitations. Allow yourself to be inspired. Develop brash, lovely scenarios of your own future success – and give yourself the gift of believing in them.

If this isn’t your year, if you’re staying home instead of heading to DC, invest a day or an afternoon or even a single hour in nurturing your inner author. Remind yourself that you really can write your words today; that words turn into paragraphs, which turn into pages and chapters. Think about starting a fund for next year. It’s going to be in Nashville, baby – how can we not have a blast there?

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