I mentioned in last week’s blog that I had gone to two conferences in three weeks, and the conferences were different as night and day. The Romance Writers of America annual conference was held in San Antonio, Texas in July, and the Readers/Writers conference called Authors After Dark was in Charlotte, North Carolina. I won the registration for AAD so, though I hadn’t planned on attending, I was thrilled and made plans to go the instant I’d found out I won!
What I Learned
A Readers’ conference is a completely different beast than a writers’ conference. Yes, both take place in hotels in big cities, and both involve writers and panels. But people go to conference to learn about craft, promo, and publishing, plus to have the opportunity to network at Writers’ conferences. True, most writers are also avid readers, but this AAD conference was specifically for readers (not necessarily wannabe writers – though some clearly were) to give them the opportunity to meet and chat with some of their favorite authors, or to discover someone new. Authors pay to participate in these conferences, and by the huge turnout, most must feel it’s worth the cost.
During the course of the AAD conference I realized there were many “readers” in attendance who came every year, and as such felt privileged to make their opinions known. Some seemed downright overbearing, but they’d paid the fee, right?
I was officially signed in as a reader (that’s what my name badge said), and the venue was meant to be a 3:1 ratio of reader to writer. I don’t believe they achieved this goal, but I don’t have any official statistics to prove otherwise. They knew I also happened to be published by Harlequin, so I got to take part in the book signing on Saturday afternoon—where I was clearly outranked by the most amazing table set ups, ceiling high banners, and gizmos of every size and shape provided by every single other author. Wow, just wow. I hadn’t even thought to bring a proper name banner!
The striking difference between a writer versus a reader conference is the extent of appreciation and bending over backwards by authors to give things to the readers. It was astounding. And as the title of this blog suggests, I, being treated as a reader in the drawings, won a dream date with three AMAZING authors!
My Dream Date
Who were these amazing authors, you ask? Prepare to hold onto your seat and put your eyes back into their sockets.
- Lorelei James, the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of contemporary erotic western romances set in the modern day Wild West, and also contemporary erotic romances, plus award winning mysteries under the name Amy Armstrong. http://www.loreleijames.com/home.php
- Jayne Rylon, also a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author, plus an award winner for indie erotic romance. http://jaynerylon.com/about-jayne/
- 3. Julie Kenner aka J. Kenner, New York Times and International Bestselling author of romance, young adult, urban fantasy, and paranormal mommy lit as Julie Kenner, and emotionally charged erotic romance as J. Kenner. Add RITA winner to J. Kenner’s list of achievements this past July in San Antonio, Texas at the RWA Conference. http://juliekenner.com/meet-j-k/
Yup – little ol’ straight-laced me, who only writes sensual romance, got to spend an evening having drinks with these three incredible ladies. Each of them were warm and friendly and very easy to talk to. Jayne struck me as a sincerely kind person, and one who loves her job writing every combination of erotic romance you can imagine. Lorelie was a hoot – her downhome South Dakotan roots shining through her mischievous personality. I loved the subtle rainbow under-weave in her beautiful blond hair. Sometimes the colors seemed strikingly blue, and others pink and pastel-ish under the bar lighting. I guess you could say I was fascinated with her hair. And Julie Kenner was the down-to-earth megastar of international fame. During drinks and chatting, I discovered she had been a lawyer for fourteen years before she became a full time author. I knew she’d just won the RITA, but humble to the core, she never brought it up.
In the course of our time together, I also learned that one of Lorelie James’ daughters had just become a Registered Nurse, and as a retired RN, I was thrilled to know young women were stepping into that ever-important role. Lorelie was surprised and intrigued that a Medical Romance genre even existed. Go Meds!
Julie Kenner’s twelve year old daughter was up in the hotel room, being at the conference as her mother’s assistant, and I got to meet her (What a cutie) when she brought down the book I’d also won when my name was called for this amazing prize. Jayne and Lorelie also signed an anthology for me in which they’d both recently participated.
Was I lucky or what?
One of my favorite takeaways from this lucky reader prize was when Lorelie put a jar of moonshine cherries on the bar table. It had been presented to her by a loyal reader just moments before. She suggested we open that sucker and each try one. It took a while to break open that jar, but once we did, in what seemed like a rite of passage, I had my first taste of moonshine via a soaked cherry, and it was…well, strong, and interesting, and I think my cheeks blossomed soon thereafter. Of course I’d just also downed a basil mojito (why not, the drinks were on them, right?) before trying the moonshine soaked cherry. Jayne declined a sample as I learned shortly thereafter that she was allergic to alcohol, and evidently she’d discovered that the hard way, via a medical emergency. Ah, such great fodder for future Medical Romances, no?
My takeaway from this fun and amazing “date” with three successful authors was how easy it was to talk to them, how they remembered me when they saw me after that bar scene during the rest of the conference, and how humbled by their success each of them clearly were.
Chalk me up as a fan.
Have you ever won something and declined? Or have you jumped at that opportunity and were you glad you did? Let me know!