Thirteen Things That Are Awesome About National

Last night when I sat down to tell Hubby about the RWA Conference, I had to look at my calendar to remember where I was and at what time, because it was all one big exhausting blur. A big, exhausting, happy blur.

But there are a few things that are popping right in the front of my brain, and since I stinketh at writing comprehensive summaries of things, I want to note a few things.

Jill Shalvis said in the comments to the post I wrote about Jennifer Greene’s acceptance speech (which still makes me cry if I think about it) that “Moments like that are what make the Ritas for me.”

Agreed. And it’s larger than that. There is a lot of effort, exhaustion, and sometimes a small amount of drama surrounding RWA National, but moments like that one speak volumes about how extraordinary RWA as a community and an organization is. There are a lot of folks who have problems with it as a whole, and there are surely some things I would love to change or see addressed, but consider the amazing combination of elements that makes up the RWA National convention:

1. It’s a business conference
2. About writing
3. And demystifying the publishing process
4. And examining and educating writers and aspiring authors on writing techniques,
5. and business techniques
6. and marketing techniques
7. and how to schmooze successfully in the bar. (Very Important)
8. It’s a one-stop experience for a lot of aspiring folks, because there’s craft, sales, pitching, research, and marketing advice.
9. It’s a business conference dedicated to the business of writing.
10. Specifically, dedicated to the business of writing romance.
11. And it is—pay attention – this is the really crucial part.
12. Created, run, administrated, directed, supported, and attended by an audience of mostly
13. Women.

Seriously. It shouldn’t be so amazing, but it truly is. Women in the thousands steer a business made of millions of dollars, and the conference is created and supported by women.

For the past five days, I’ve been surrounded by amazing ladies from ages ahead of and behind my own, at various stages of their careers, all of which are based on writing romance and reading it. Not one of those winners said, “I don’t read romance, but thanks for this award.” I’m in a rather strange position when I attend because I’m not a fiction writer (ergo not a competitor) and I’m not a publishing professional, and I’m not really press, but I am a long time member and volunteer for RWA. I’m sort of a random person who doesn’t quite fit, but does. To say I don’t like large crowds is a massive understatement, but I’d voluntarily walk into the hotel bar at an RWA Conference without hesitation. 

Barbara Caridad Ferrer (three names = very important) calls it “hanging out with our tribe.” Carrie Lofty said she felt like she was being welcomed home. And that’s true – where else are you going to find erudite, dedicated women who pay a monsterload of time and effort, plus some money, to go hang out with a few thousand romance readers, writers, and publishers? And in my always so very humble opinion, every woman that attends adds to the event, because that which is RWA National is truly, marvelously, and ass-kickingly extraordinary for so many, many reasons.

Big ups and mad props to the RWA staff and volunteers who put on such a great conference. See y’all next year.

Comments are Closed

  1. Alice says:

    I was completely blown away by this convention and although I also don’t feel as if I belong in any of the categories as a writer/aspiring/press, but I agree with Carrie Lofty (she’s so nice).  It felt like going home… I didn’t want to leave. You were wonderful. Heart you and see everyone next year for sure! *hugs*

  2. Jessa Slade says:

    The focus & energy of an RWA conference is like combining the best of Anthony Robbins with, you know, the real world. 

    I think equally vital to the art, craft & business of writing is the inspiraton.  Writing is so often a lone wolf activity that getting together with the pack to howl at the moon (sometimes literally) means lots to me.

  3. Silver James says:

    I hate crowds. I hate walking into situations that I have no experience in. RWA is both. I can’t wait to go next year! (Besides, meeting La Nora is on my 100 Things to Do Before I Die list. I’ll just have to keep going until that happens. Come to think of it, so is attending RWA National…*blink* *grin*)

  4. karmelrio says:

    there are surely some things I would love to change or see addressed

    I just attended National for the first time.  And even though my ears are still ringing (I heard the lobby described as “an aviary” which really hit the target for me) and I plan on attending again,  I have a question related to Sarah’s quote above. 

    This is the first/only conference I’ve ever been to where there wasn’t a form handed out with your registration materials soliciting feedback on the speaker(s) and the conference overall to assist with planning future conferences.  How DOES one offer feedback?

  5. Esri Rose says:

    My only regret is that the conference isn’t longer. There’s not enough time to pack everything in! I guess that’s why people go to multiple conferences during the year! Hmmm…which one to add next?

    And you might not write fiction, Sarah, but you’re definitely a member of the press and you have a book deal, doncha? So you totally belong.

  6. Eliza Evans says:

    God, I had such a blast.  I called my husband on Thursday and told him that we needed to get ready for me to go to DC next year, because I’m so going.

    karmelrio, I bet we’ll get a chance to do a survey online.

  7. AgTigress says:

    Picking up your point about WOMEN (and I have attended, and thoroughly enjoyed, one RWA conference, the 2003 one in New York – even though I did play hooky a couple of times to go to the Metropolitan Museum for the umpteenth time and the umpteenth plus one).

    Being a rather elderly Brit, I attended a single-sex secondary (high) school, something that I believe is now pretty rare in the USA.  It is no longer very common even here.  Co-educational schools are seen as more democratic.  I was therefore perfectly accustomed, from the ages of 12 to 18, to being part of a highly effective educational institution which was run entirely by formidable females – the only male on the site was the handyman who replaced the light-bulbs and suchlike, and he was a long way down the power hierarchy. 

    I don’t want to sound reactionary (oh, the hell with it, if a lifelong hard-left socialist can’t be reactionary sometimes, who can?), but this is one of several rather good reasons for single-sex education in adolescence – female role models.  Other reasons include the fact that adolescent males and females mature at different rates, and that the constant presence of the opposite sex during adolescence forms a huge distraction from learning.  For women of any age, seeing a well-run and effective organisation which is wholly or mainly manned (!) by women is valuable;  for young girls it can be life-altering, because nobody, repeat, NOBODY, can ever tell them afterwards that any skills necessary in the world of work are commanded only by men.  They know better.

    A serious feminist point – make of it what you will.


  8. Leanna Renee says:


    Well said!

    As for the conference, wish I had the funds to attend this year.  But I’m saving up for next year; can’t wait ‘til DC!

  9. Carrie Lofty says:

    I made the “welcome home” comment because last year was so stressful for me. I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t online, and I was pitching. Nausea. General anxiety. But this year was much more fun, getting deeper into a community I respect. Hope to see everyone in DC.

  10. ev says:

    I am really looking forward to next year.

    So for a stupid newby question- is there a website that has all the national info on it? :hangs her head in shame: I am such a loser.

  11. Barb Ferrer says:

    Ev, no such thing as a stupid question.  However, what kind of info are you talking about?  The official-type info that comes from RWA proper, which would be at or are you looking for more casual stuff?

    As far as my comment, yes, it’s totally a case of being with your tribe.  It’s amazing to be able to launch into in-depth discussions about any and everything to do with writing, both craft and industry-wise, and almost even better, to be able to discuss the books we all love so much, without so much as a single “whut you talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?” expression flashing across a single face.

    Writing is such a singular, solitary activity, whether you do it full time or work it in around a regular job/career—all of us have our own processes and ways that we go about it and to try to describe it to someone who’s not a writer (or doesn’t live with one *g*) can be a terrible exercise in frustration.

    This was easily one of the best Nationals I’ve been to—I’m exhausted and my brain is the consistency of tapioca today, but I’m also excited and energized and ready to get back at it.

  12. ev says:

    That was basically the link I was looking for. I have been reading romance for years but it has only been in the last 2 or so that I have hit the blogs and websites. Why? Didn’t think of it.

    My Con experience has always been limited to Comic Con’s, Star Trek Con’s and this year Albacon (here in Albany, which they have every year and I didn’t even know about). Again, the loser comment about myself. I guess I tend to stay in my own little shell and don’t get out much. Too busy reading probably.

    However, I get to meet Ann McCaffrey this year, which just has me squeeing.

  13. ev says:

    Oh, and while checking out the website, I found out that as a bookseller I can become an affiliate member!! Yeah!!

  14. Gennita Low says:

    It was wonderful seeing you again, SBSarah, and hey, this time, I got to share a toast with you and DA Jane ;-)!  The SF conference was fun-filled and definitely a great place for conference and sight-seeing!  Kudos to RWA and the excellent staff at the SF Marriott for doing a great job.

  15. SB Sarah says:

    Being a rather elderly Brit, I attended a single-sex secondary (high) school, something that I believe is now pretty rare in the USA.

    Single gender high schools are usually parochial in the USA, but I, though not an elderly Brit unfortunately but a cranky ass American, attended a single gender college for my B.A. Not only that, but it was a single gender women’s college in the South. For at least 2 years, possibly three, I was the only Yankee. And the enrollment was McTeeny compared to where my friends went to college (Penn State, Northwestern, Syracuse, etc).

    I’m a big fan of chick schools, though I recognize they aren’t for everyone. They were excellent for me, however, and I credit the fact that I have balls to the fact that I went to a women’s college. I don’t think the admissions department will be using that on the literature any time soon, though.

  16. Randi says:

    I attended an all female college on the West Coast for two years, which was also teeny tiny.  I didn’t really mind it but couldn’t afford it. The only real thing that bugged me about the whole all-women deal was the ostrasization (sp?) if one wasn’t a lesbian. It annoyed me to no end.

    AGTigress: While I hear you about the benefits of being in an all-female environment during adolescence, I have to say that I didn’t much like girls when I was younger. They can be really really cruel and if I hadn’t gone to co-ed schools, I would’ve been hard pressed for friends. I like guys as friends and in adolescence, they were much easier to be around than girls were.

  17. Sara Reinke says:

    Hey, Sarah,

    Sorry I missed the chance to meet you at San Francisco this year, but have enjoyed catching up on your posts and am glad you had a ball. This was my first year to attend the national conference, and it was exhausting and exhiliarating all at the same time. (I missed the hell out of my kids—how about you?)

    I have nothing but praise for both RWA and the conference organizers for putting together such a comprehensive and enjoyable event. I can’t even begin to imagine the scope of such a project, never mind the preparations involve. Somebody somewhere has earned a raise, LOL, that’s for sure.

    RWA is an organization that is as unique and extraordinary as its members. From the very first meeting I ever attended here in Kentucky (Louisville Romance Writers), I felt welcome and involved. I’ve learned more about the craft of writing and the publishing process in these past few years as an RWA member than in a lifetime of struggling on my own. I think the camaraderie, companionship and educational opportunities abound, both locally and nationally—as exemplified at the national conference.

    Margaritas next year, then? 🙂


  18. Mary Blayney says:

    The city of San Francisco added a lot to the conference for me. Plus, the hotel was in a great location, everyone was friendly, the staff almost always helpful and the elevators handled the crowd very well.

    Even more than the city, it’s the fellow attendees who are the key and I met and had fun with lots of new as well as familiar faces. I don’t go to many workshops, making my name tag one expensive item, but worth every penny when you consider the people who made this one such a good time.

  19. RfP says:

    this is one of several rather good reasons for single-sex education in adolescence – female role models.

    I’ve spent time in both single- and mixed-sex schools, and felt that difference in role models (both the teachers and the other girls).  I’m not sure whether it’s universally so successful, but from my experience I’m a believer.  (Though neither school situation had a problem with mean girls—I don’t know what sets that off.)

    It does sound like some people (I hope many) feel a rush at RWA rather like arriving at the all-girls school and realizing, HEY!  There are LOTS of people like ME here!  Having experienced that, it’s an appealing analogy.

  20. AgTigress says:

    I am interested in the responses to my comment on single-sex schools, in particular the fact that some seem to be more about single-sex tertiary education, rather than secondary.  Now that really is rare in the UK!  I also think it is much less significant in forming attitudes:  by the time a person is in college, she is a young adult, inexperienced, but not an adolescent:  she has already made some sort of personal commitment to learning (after all, she doesn’t have to be at university at all), and is likely to have formed many of her basic ideas and opinions about life.

    The key age-group that benefits from sexual segregation in the learning environment is 12-16 or so.  I understand that boys of this age also often do better (academically) when taught in an all-male environment.  Other elements that help are things that will seem quaintly old-fashioned to most of you, like school uniform and strict ‘no jewellery, no make-up’ rules.  I am talking here about day schools, not boarding schools, so rules of this kind are no more repressive than dress codes in many workplaces.

    But this is all rather off-topic.  Good female role models are valuable at all stages of life, and the occasional temporary immersion in an all-female (or mainly female) environment can be very refreshing to the spirit.

  21. Trix says:

    Erm, nitpick:

    Created, run, administrated, directed, supported, and attended by an audience of mostly

    Please please please please can we use the correct verb, which is administer? Administrators administer things. I am so tired of techies getting it wrong, but I kind of expect the more literary types to get it right.

    As for AgTigress’s remarks, I totally agree with the positive influence being in a same-sex school can have during one’s teenage years (they’re still going reasonably strong in the antipodes). I went to a mixed school at first, and then changed to a girls’ school, and the difference was profound. Strong female role models FTW!

  22. ev says:

    But this is all rather off-topic.

    That’s what makes some of these threads so fun actually.

    We have a private all-girl school here along with one of the few remaining women’s college’s, Russell Sage, of which I am an alum. I actually attended both Sage Colleges here- the women’s and the mixed. They both had their positives and negatives. For the younger women, yes the not being a lesbian thing could be a problem. For me, married and old enough to be their mom, not so much.

    Emma Willard, who founded both the private school and Russell, was a well-known local who believed in education for women, long before it was popular.

    I enjoyed the mixed school far more, but again, my age had a lot to do with that. Not so many old ladies went to the other one.

    And SBSarah- GO SU!! It’s the only reason I would move back to Syracuse- the chance to go there.

  23. Nora Roberts says:

    Great conference, good to see the SBs, Jane, etc, etc. Fun, professional stuff, good food, lotsa drink, shopping, money for literacy, book love and fellowship all in one place in one week.

    Pretty good deal.

  24. Cat Grant says:

    First timer here, and I’m already planning to make DC next year. I arrived knowing absolutely no one except the three or four other people from my local chapter, but it wasn’t hard striking up conversations with people in line at Starbucks or sitting next to me at the workshops. Unfortunately, I didn’t get invited to any of the cool parties, but next year that’ll be different, I hope!

    The highlight of the con for me? Getting a hug and a signed book from Suzanne Brockmann after I thanked her for bringing m/m romance into the mainstream. For four wonderful days, she and every other incredibly successful writer there treated me like a peer.

  25. Kalen Hughes says:

    Cat, honey, you ARE a peer.

    And I went to a Southern Women’s College too (Hollins in Roanoke VA).

  26. Cat Grant says:

    Thanks, Kalen. I got a signed book from you too! 😉

    Didn’t go to an all-women’s college, but does four years of Catholic high school count? I still have nightmares about bobby socks and plaid skirts…

  27. ev says:

    I still have nightmares about bobby socks and plaid skirts…

    Could someone please explain why, in the dead of a NY winter, the girls still have to wear socks with skirts and not pants? It has to be some torture thought up by a guy.

  28. Cat Grant says:

    Could someone please explain why, in the dead of a NY winter, the girls still have to wear socks with skirts and not pants?

    It wasn’t too much fun in California in the wintertime either. My legs were always frozen, and one year I had a cold off and on from November until March.

    On my last day of school in my senior year, I came home and jumped in our swimming pool with my uniform on. Happiest effing day of my life!

    Now when I see plaid wool skirts, I instinctlvely give ‘em the evil eye.

  29. stopmoshun says:

    Can I also add networking with librarians? Librarians’ Day was awesome. Meeting authors or potential authors and others in the pub world allows us to make relationships so we can work together for future collaborations. Also it helps educate us about books, genres, authors all of which in turn help us do our jobs better.

  30. Barb Ferrer says:

    Librarian’s Day ROCKED.  I absolutely LOVED speaking on a panel to the librarians and only wish we could’ve spoken to them more.

  31. katiebabs says:

    A week I will never forget.  I am so proud to be a romance reader and surrounded by some of the brightest people in the publishing world.

  32. Strategerie says:

    Esri Rose wrote:
    >Hmmm…which one to add next?

    Esri Rose, we’d love to see you at the Emerald City Writers Conference in October! For more information, please go to

    I had a ball at the conference, too. Yeah, I was the one that let out the bloodcurdling scream of happiness when my friend Kristan won the single title RITA… 😉

  33. Eliza Evans says:

    Strategerie, was Kristan the one in the gorgeous blue dress?  I rode the elevator down with her—she looked amazing!

  34. Leanna Renee says:

    Sarah,  I saw you on the MSNBC video and you’re awesome.  I would’ve expected nothing less.  Their title of “” however, leaves something to be lengthened.

  35. Tracy Grant says:

    Sarah, it was great getting to meet you and Candy at the conference—you are both just as fun and witty in real life as you on the blog :-). It was a fabulous conference in general—there’s nothing more energizing than sharing writing thoughts and research tidbits with fellow writers and other industry professionals.

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