Recap of RWA12, plus other news!

Man what a week that was! Last month (Wait. What??) was the Romance Writer’s of America’s national conference in Anaheim, California. Being an introvert, it took me awhile to recover when I returned home, hence the lateness of this post. Plus, I’ve also been busy polishing MUST LOVE BREECHES to send out and also subject to another round of queries (more on that at the end of the post).

I thought I’d do a quick recap, but focus on only how the conference experience was for me, instead of giving a highlights recap as many have already done much better than I could. You know, I actually thought I would live blog the conference? Hahahahaha, giggle, sniff. Yeah. I barely tweeted.

One of the main validations I received was the payoff in all the hard work I’ve put into my writing career in the last year, especially cultivating my social media profile. As conference roomie Jami Gold explained so well in her post, Social Media: An Introvert’s Secret Weapon, those of us who have cultivated our online presence saw the benefits when we arrived at the conference. I hopped on the airport shuttle to the hotel, and two other attendees were on board. Like a good newbie, I handed out my card, and one of them recognized my name! (Remember, I’m unpublished) — she’d ‘seen’ me on one of the RWA loops and we figured out which one and had a great convo on the drive.

I checked in early (I arrived in CA around 9:30 a.m.) and then took the Amtrack into Los Angeles to meet my cousin for a late lunch. Like many in LA, she’s a struggling actress. She took me to Cole’s in downtown LA, which just oozed 1930s glam. We caught up on our happenings and had a cute bartender who was kind of a geek about mixology, which was a lot of fun. He mixed me a very tasty Old Fashioned, which I only found out after my second one that he made it with 100 proof bourbon, yikes!

The bar at Cole’s

Back at the hotel, I texted Jami and I finally got to meet her at the Literacy signing! We’ve been Beta reading buddies, and it was so great to finally meet in person, someone whom I’d been communicating and forming a friendship with first via Twitter, then email and then even phone (I hate talking on the phone).  She was with Buffy Armstrong, who I’d interacted with on Twitter and we had a great time going around the tables. The room was filled with writers signing books, and the first person I had to locate and say “Hi” to was Tessa Dare.

Sidenote: I have a little confession to make. My first fiction writing attempts began back in 2005 when I wrote Jane Austen fan fiction. I’d created a website called Longbourn Loungers for fans of the 2005 Pride & Prejudice movie and we had a lot of fun for a while indulging our addiction and exercising our writing muscles. My screen name was Plange. One of the participants was Tessa under the screen name Vangie and we Beta’d each others stories. I remember being blown away then by her prose. So we were super excited to see her succeed so well later on! I’m still in touch with several of the participants via Facebook and email and they were the ones who turned me on to NaNoWriMo back in 2009 which finally got me over my fear of writing novel-length fiction, and so I owe a huge debt to the Loungers :) One of them is fellow Six Sentence Sunday participant Kate Warren who just published a fabulous ebook, Bridging the Gaps.

Anyway, this was a long way of saying that it was really great to finally meet Vangie (Tessa Dare) in person:

With the lovely and super-talented Tessa Dare at RWA12′s Literacy Signing event Wednesday night

Okay, quick recap this has not become! I’m going to try to be more brief! In fact, I’m just going to say a general statement, show some photos and hit some personal highlights…

The conference was my first national writer’s conference and I know they say that you’re not supposed to hang with the same people, but I’m sorry, I did. I know this might have made me miss out on making some connections, but what it did was give me the feeling that I was part of the conference, not a stranger on the outside looking in, seeing everyone else interacting. My conference buddies were the wonderful Jami Gold, Buffy Armstrong and Janice Hardy, and it was so great getting to know them better and know they had my back. Thanks guys, can’t wait to see you again! I also met other online friends and several fellow Six Sentence Sunday and Critique Circle writers, so it was like meeting old friends, but not.  :)

Personal Highlights

  • Getting recognized at the Literacy signing! Another writer approached me by saying, “I have to meet the woman who wrote Must Love Breeches.” I think my jaw hit the floor. I know I look befuddled and probably stammered. First, I’m not published, so… Huh? How? Turns out she’d judged it in a writing contest and made me feel pretty dang good with her praise. What a way to start the conference :) There was an irony to this too– we’d just walked away from Courtney Milan’s table and I said to Jami, “Meeting great writers like her makes me really wonder what the heck I think I’m doing trying to write,” and two seconds later, this lady walked up to me and said the above, LOL. Served me right for succumbing to the writer’s worst enemy: self-doubt.
  • Hanging in our hotel room briefly Thursday night with Jami and Kat Latham and practicing our pitches. Kat was pitching to someone I’d pitched to at FF&P and I said I might still have my one-page dossier that I’d made on that agent if it’d help. So I opened my laptop and we were reading the bullet points I’d garnered on that agent back in March and then Kat says, “That’s me!” — I’d had a bullet point referencing something that agent had said on her blog, LOL.
  • Pitching on Friday. I pitched to two agents and one editor and all went well. I wasn’t nervous and I think I have the FF&P conference to thank for that. It’s one of the main reasons I went, was to experience pitching in a less intimidating atmosphere before I went to Nationals. I got requests for partials from the agents (50 pages and 30 pages) and a full from the editor.
  • Being told by Carrie Lofty at her Pitch Witch Rides Again workshop, that my pitch was a “win”
  • The lunch time keynote speeches
  • The awards ceremony (though we didn’t get to sit at a table, despite being only 2 minutes late, so we missed dessert and had to stand for part of it until they brought in chairs). It was so wonderful seeing all those talented writers going up to receive their award and hearing their tales. It just felt like a big dose of girl power and was very inspiring!
  • Running into writers that I’d met at the FF&P conference
  • Meeting published writers I admire
  • Meeting online friends
  • Free books!
  • Great workshops!

Photos

Wish I’d taken more, but here’s my paltry offering:

Thursday Night, at the FF&P’s party The Gathering. The theme was Disney characters…

With the fabulous Amanda Quick/Jayne Anne Krentz. She’s the one, with her sparkling wit and humor, who inspired me to write romance!

All dressed up with some place to go! With my conference buddies Buffy M. Armstrong and Jami Gold

Jami Gold’s hand, and Buffy Armstrong adjusting her napkin… After the awards ceremony– we arrived two minutes late and so had no place to sit and missed out on dessert. So we ordered our own later!

All the free books I got (well, mostly free. I bought 3 at the Literacy Signing, and then sent some back via Media Mail for $13)

Contest Update and Other News

I came back to some great news. First I’d won a pitch contest on Savvy Authors that resulted in a partial request from an agent. And then I found out that MUST LOVE BREECHES finaled in two more contests, making that a total of 7:

So right now, I’m doing one last exhaustive polishing revision of MUST LOVE BREECHES, before I send it to the ones who requested it and also do another wave of queries.

Did you go to RWA? What did you learn? What stuck with you the most?

Hijinks or Tears – Which Romances Do You Prefer?

funny pictures - *CHILLAX, GURLFREN!*

I’m always obsessed with learning more about anything I tackle, and so for writing, I read and reread craft books, trying to soak in every tidbit. Right now I’m in the planning stages of a new novel and so I’ve been rereading some books on structure and some on writing romance. Coupled with a comment made by an instructor in a class I’m currently in, it’s made me step back and look at what kind of romances I like to read.

Hijinks or Tear-jerkers

What started this introspection were some comments made by this instructor that in romance the main conflict needs to be based on emotion, which echoes what I’ve been reading in the writing romance books. That I can’t have external issues keeping the two apart, etc. And typically the books will list different emotional, drama-inducing scenarios that frankly, while yes, they are heavy on emotion and conflict, just don’t interest me in the least. My usual response when reading a romance where the main thing that’s keeping them apart is some huge emotional baggage is “get over it.” I’ve never been into watching movies or reading romances where the sole purpose is to indulge in some huge emotion-fest.

But, please know this is not me judging those types of stories, it’s simply me stating it’s not my thang. I know that there are other types of stories that I find awesome, that don’t interest others. That’s what’s so amazing about humanity– the variety of opinions. Thank GOD we don’t all have the same tastes!

So, back to exploring my tastes :) Perhaps this is why I don’t normally read contemporary romances, since that seems to be how they’re mainly structured. Everyday domestic drama holds no interest for me. Especially if the main plot is 80% working through some emotional trauma that’s keeping the two apart. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read some contemporaries that aren’t like this, but I usually come by them from referrals or because I know the author’s work.  The historicals I typically read have some kind of interesting external plot the two get ensnared in, and hijinks and fun and love happens along the way. If some happen to elicit a tear or two, that’s awesome sauce. I’m not averse to emotion, I just don’t relish wallowing in it, if that makes sense.

Anyway, this led me to question whether MUST LOVE BREECHES is even a romance (according to the instructor, based on my GMCs I turned in, it’s not) and set me into a panic last week. But then I’d just finished reading a wonderful romance and I thought I’d analyze it to see if it would hold up to the instructor’s strictures, and I really don’t see that it does. But I could be wrong. Please feel free to set me straight in the comments. I want to learn!!

The book? A Week to Be Wicked, by Tessa Dare. It’s also getting great reviews, so I’m not alone in thinking this was a great story and romance. In fact, it could be one of her best. Since I’d closed the book with a sigh during all this introspection, I thought I’d see if I could write up the GMCs for this book (GMC=Goal/Motivation/Conflict, usually stated as x wants ___ because ____ but___):

Minerva

External GMC: She wants to present her findings on her geological discovery because she wants to leave a mark on the world, but the symposium is in Edinburgh and she can’t get there alone.
Internal GMC: She needs to feel attractive and loved for herself but her bluestocking habits are usually all that guys see.

Colin

External GMC: ? In Act Two, he modifies his goals in order to get Minerva to Scotland because he realizes she’s determined to go anyway but he has to have a woman in his bed every night. But what’s his original story goal? Is it: He wants to live life on the surface and have a woman in his bed every night because he cannot sleep without someone physically next to him, but Minerva is a virgin and wants her to escort her to Scotland?
Internal GMC: He needs to keep everyone at an emotional distance because that’s how he’s learned to cope in life but Minverva challenges him

What am I missing here? I feel like I’m missing “it” on several levels. One– I can’t seem to come up with solid GMCs for Colin. If you’ve read it, can you help me out here? In fact, I just looked up the book description, and his goal is stated as “Colin Sandhurst, Lord Payne, a rake of the first order, needs to be . . . anywhere but Spindle Cove” which would actually dovetail with hers, not be in conflict with it. And Second– if this had been my homework assignment my instructor would have told me that my story was flawed because my hero’s GMCs were muddled and not tied directly to the heroine’s strongly enough. She would probably say that he needs to have some competing external GMC that would be opposed to her going and ditto with the internal, so that the whole middle was taken up with their conflict over this. But yet, she’d be so wrong. This story WORKS, and it’s a wonderful LOVE story with tons of ROMANCE. And I loved Colin to pieces and wanted to wrap him up and take him home with me. His character arc was wonderful to witness and a natural progression. As one reviewer said, it’s so much fun seeing a guy like that fall like a tree. Sigh.

The pretend instructor feedback on Dare’s book (hero’s GMCs were muddled and not tied directly to the heroine’s strongly enough) is similar to what she’d told me about mine and said “let me guess, your middle is mostly external conflict.” Well, yes, it does have a lot of external conflict, but it also has emotional conflict. After a while, I realized that the kind of romance she’s advocating is actually the kind I don’t like to read. As noted above, I like to have a good balance of external and emotional conflict. I also realized that this is how many who don’t read romance perceive it and is why they don’t read it as it wouldn’t be their thing.

So that you have an idea of the styles of romance I like to read, here’s my list of auto-buy, big-name romance authors:

  • Loretta Chase
  • Julia Quinn
  • Amanda Quick
  • Tessa Dare
  • Katie MacAlister
  • Courtney Milan (a recent addition)

I’ve never read a single Nora Roberts, as I have this perception that her work is the kind of romance I don’t like to read.

So, am I completely whacked and I’m analyzing Dare’s book incorrectly? Am I missing some key ingredient that would make all this crystal clear for me? Do you like purely emotional-driven conflict or a mixture of both?

Sorry for the rambling post as this is something I’m trying to grapple and understand. I’m hoping that by writing this post, it will help clarify some things in my mind.

I’m also aware I probably just exposed myself as a complete ignoramus and just shot any chances of landing an agent if they happen to check out my blog while evaluating my partials/fulls. *waves* Thing is, I want to learn. To get better. I figure by posting this and getting your feedback, it will help to this end. What am I missing in understanding the romance genre?