I attended my first Romance Writers of American national conference in 1990. Fate stepped in. I had just started writing a few months before the conference took place just across San Francicso Bay from my home. Those few days definitely changed my life. I found myself surrounded by over a thousand people who wrote and loved "those books" and who gave me permission to be proud of what I was doing. I also, suddenly, had people I could talk to about my writing. My husband didn't get what I was talking about, and neither did my friends. Later on, of course, I'd join my local RWA chapter, find a critique group, and when the internet became popular, made dozens of on-line writing friends. In the summer of 1990, I was totally isolated in my writing. RWA national was the first time someone treated me like a real writer.
I haven't attended every conference since then, but I have gone to many, and I always make sure to get to the ones on the West Coast. Of course, I was going to go to Anaheim this year. Even getting clobbered by my own cane dropping out of the overhead bin, courtesy of a flight attendant who was trying to secure it at the time, couldn't stop me. They took me off that plane but put me on a later one. If you saw me wearing a floppy-brimmed, brown hat, I was hiding the boo-boo on the top of my head.
Boo-boo notwithstanding, I was also determined to get a new publicity picture. The old one was nice, but it didn't show me in all my 63-year-old glory. Plus, I knew this photographer would capture my Attitude -- that age is no reason to cut and die your hair or to stop grinning.
There are people I only see at RWA national, like my friend and amazing writer, Pamela Clare. I also got a hug from my editor at another publisher from back in the day. I haven't written for him since 2001, but we've remained cordial. Never burn your bridges in this business. It's a small world, and editors move around. As the delightful Robyn Carr said in her lunchtime address, you may have heard that the squeaky wheel gets the grease but sometimes, the squeaky wheel gets replaced.
Then, there were the parties. As a Carina author, I was invited to the Carina cocktail party and the Harlequin party afterward. The staff had created a special cocktail for the Carina party that was so good, I didn't dare have a second for fear that I'd end up having a third and a fourth. The Harlequin party, well, that's notorious.
All this sounds like a writer's dream...hobnobbing with your editors, having a publicity picture taken, going to publisher parties. It is fun, and I indulge myself whenever I can. Honestly, though, that fun only lasts for a few weeks, and then you return to the real joy. The writing.
The truth is, all those other things are trappings. The creation is its own joy. It has to be, or you could never survive the hours and hours of pounding on keys and revising, revising, revising. When an editor tells you she loves your book (once you've revised it again, of course) and she sends it to production you know you've done something wonderful. When it comes out, either in print or e-book format, and readers tell you they love it, that really is the greatest reward.
I know that some of you reading this have always wondered if you could write a book and get it published. I'm here to tell you you need to try. Set your feet on that path. Write words every day or every week...whatever amount it takes you to get to "the end" before you've forgotten what the beginning was. Then submit and submit. Maybe next year, I'll see you at the Harlequin party!