#RWA17: Is this ADULTING?

Peggy Jaeger~ By Peggy Jaeger Something new at RWA this year was the adult coloring wall. Yeah…I know. This phase of adults reverting back to their younger years and doing things they did as children was originated as a means of connecting with your inner child to relieve the stress of being a, well, a grown-up. I’ve never felt the urge to color as an adult – even though I dabble in painting – and this seemed a little over the top. But…. it was really cool. The walls were covered with historical book covers from AVON authors and there were buckets – literally! – buckets of magic markers available for everyone to use. I took some pictures of the images on day one and then tried to remember every day to take more to show the progress. So here’s day one, then day 4:                       Now, please remember, these were up on a wall, mural sized. Getting to the top of the picture required a ladder! But someone did, and I think this came out pretty well. It doesn’t look a thing like the actual book cover does, but who cares? The background never got filled in either, probably because a writer didn’t have a few hours to stand there and fill it in!                       This one never got finished.. .I don’t know why not. It’s a great Beverly Jenkins cover! The pictures were about 8 feet tall and 3 feet wide, so there was a lot of wall to color. Since the hero has a naked back, maybe color-ers didn’t want to take the time to fill his skin in.                       I was surprised they didn’t all get finished. I will admit one thing, though, it was a great stress reducer! Every day I stopped by and filled in a few more naked spaces on all of them and I actually went away feeling lighter. That whole adult coloring craze has peaked, I think, by now, but still, this was a cute idea and it was nice to see something new and pop culture-y done with historical romance covers. The RWA conference is usually so jammed full with workshops, networking sessions, publisher spotlights and parties, that you can get a little stressed in deciding what to choose to see and do. I had multiple times were there were 2 or three great workshops delivered at the same time and I hated missing any of them. That was one of the reasons I purchased the session Flash Drive this year – I can listen to everything I missed at my leisure. Plus, the hotel is so large and vast, jaunting from workshop to book signing to spotlight was a little fatiguing. Having this wall to spend a few minutes at was actually beneficial. I let my mind just drift, forgetting about everything, and just colored. The sense of calm and lightness that overcame me was probably the same feeling the “child” me experienced when I did exactly the same thing a millennia ago. Okay, maybe not a millennia ago (I’m not that old!) but you get what I mean. Bravo, AVON, for coming up with this idea and for supplying everything needed. And kudos to RWA for allowing it. It’ll be fun to see what the RWA board comes up with for Denver. Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance writer who writes about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them.

Family and food play huge roles in Peggy’s stories because she believes there is nothing that holds a family structure together like sharing a meal…or two…or ten. Dotted with humor and characters that are as real as they are loving, Peggy brings all topics of daily life into her stories: life, death, sibling rivalry, illness and the desire for everyone to find their own happily ever after. Growing up the only child of divorced parents she longed for sisters, brothers and a family that vowed to stick together no matter what came their way. Through her books, she has created the families she wanted as that lonely child.

Tying into her love of families, her children’s book, THE KINDNESS TALES, was illustrated by her artist mother-in-law. Peggy holds a master’s degree in Nursing Administration and first found publication with several articles she authored on Alzheimer’s Disease during her time running an Alzheimer’s in-patient care unit during the 1990s. In 2013, she placed first in two categories in the Dixie Kane Memorial Contest: Single Title Contemporary Romance and Short/Long Contemporary Romance. In 2017 she came in 3rd in the New England Reader’s Choice contest for A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS and is a finalist in the 2017 STILETTO contest for the same title. A lifelong and avid romance reader and writer, she is a member of RWA and her local New Hampshire RWA Chapter.

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RWA Responsibilities

Peggy Jaeger~ By Peggy Jaeger

A few weeks ago, I blogged about what to do if you’re attending the Annual RWA conference for the very first time. Being a first-time attendee can be daunting and overwhelming. So many fabulous courses to choose from; the amazing publishing spotlights; the free books, oh Lord, the free books. That moment when you realize your favorite author of all time is in the same elevator as you.

It’s all heady stuff and those of us who are conference veterans know the feeling well. Which is why I want to concentrate on us old timers today and what I think our responsibilities should be when we attend the conference.

My very first RWA was in San Antonio in 2015. First timers are given an actual stick-on to place on their name badges stating they are first timer conference attendees. Like everyone else, I attached my badge banner after registration. I was standing by an escalator nervously trying not to look conspicuous and awkward in my solitariness the next day, when author Shirley Jump approached me and introduced herself. She stated she was an RWA Board Member and asked how I was liking my first conference. She asked what I wrote, was I published, what chapter did I belong to, all questions that engaged me in conversation and put me at ease. She was absolutely charming, lovely, and (if you’ve never seen her) gorgeous. She made me feel so special, I went about the rest of the day feeling less like a fish out of water.

Knowing that she took the time to reach out to me, a total stranger, to welcome me to RWA and to encourage me to take advantage of the parties, courses and workshops, gave me such a feeling of acceptance and belonging.

flower in handThe next year, as a seasoned conference attendee now (LOL) I remembered that encounter and did the same thing Shirley did: I reached out to several people who had first timer banners on their badges. I introduced myself and then engaged them in conversation about their experience the same way Shirley had.

It felt marvelous to reach out that way. I met three women who were much the same age as me, who were at that point in their lives where they wanted to devote themselves to their writing more and were attending the conference to network, see what was happening in the industry, and take advantage of some of the fabulous workshops and courses. They even asked me advice on publishing. Imagine. Me!

Ego-boosting stuff to be sure.

Every year since then I’ve made it my business to connect like that with first timers. And every year I’ve made more writing friends because of it.

Every one of us who write have at one time or another felt that solitary, awkward, what-am-I-doing-here feeling. RWA is a supportive community of writers in all phases of their publishing careers and we should embrace one another on all those levels. A smile and a word of encouragement go a long way when someone is feeling out of place or overwhelmed. So, I’m challenging all of us RWA seasoned members to reach out this year to a first-time conference attendee and welcome them into the community we all love so much. You just may make a novice writer’s day. And conference.

Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance writer who writes about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them.

Family and food play huge roles in Peggy’s stories because she believes there is nothing that holds a family structure together like sharing a meal…or two…or ten. Dotted with humor and characters that are as real as they are loving, Peggy brings all topics of daily life into her stories: life, death, sibling rivalry, illness and the desire for everyone to find their own happily ever after. Growing up the only child of divorced parents she longed for sisters, brothers and a family that vowed to stick together no matter what came their way. Through her books, she has created the families she wanted as that lonely child.

Tying into her love of families, her children’s book, THE KINDNESS TALES, was illustrated by her artist mother-in-law. Peggy holds a master’s degree in Nursing Administration and first found publication with several articles she authored on Alzheimer’s Disease during her time running an Alzheimer’s in-patient care unit during the 1990s. In 2013, she placed first in two categories in the Dixie Kane Memorial Contest: Single Title Contemporary Romance and Short/Long Contemporary Romance. In 2017 she came in 3rd in the New England Reader’s Choice contest for A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS and is a finalist in the 2017 STILETTO contest for the same title. A lifelong and avid romance reader and writer, she is a member of RWA and her local New Hampshire RWA Chapter.

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Memories from a first time RWA conference attendee. . .

(and what I learned to do- and not do - for the next conference.) Peggy Jaeger~ By Peggy Jaeger In 2014 I attended my very first RWA conference in San Antonio. Not knowing what to expect from the conference, I’d gone with the idea that, as a trying-to-get-published romance writer, I was going to go all in, attend every workshop on craft and publishing, listen to every professional chat, set up as many editor and agent appointments as I was allowed, and basically do everything and see everything offered. What’s that old saying: you make plans and God laughs? Yeah. Describes me perfectly. The reality was so very different from what I’d planned, that it was almost comical. First of all, there was no way I could attend every single workshop I wanted because so many of them overlapped or were at the same time as the others. I hadn’t realized I could see the full schedule on line before going, so I’d just assumed I’d be able to see what I wanted. Nope. Lesson learned? Plan ahead. Read through the online listing (now that you know it’s there!) and consider each class/workshop/chat for what it will bring to you as a writer. The conference is available on audio you can purchase, so if you miss classes, you can still hear their useful info when you get home. I signed up for the Agent/Editor appointments. You were allowed one of each, so I scrolled through their names, saw a few big time agent names I recognized, then the publishers I knew about and made my choices. Again, God must have been chuckling big-time at my choices. Why? Because I hadn’t done any research on the people I was going to speak with. The Agent specialized in historical romance and YA. I write contemporary adult romance. The editor was from a house that was acquiring only through agents. Double flub on my part. Lesson learned? Research. Every single one of those agents and editors had a link to their websites, agencies, and publishing houses. If I’d done my due diligence and clicked on the one I wanted to meet with, I would have known before choosing them that they weren’t going to be interested in me or my work. Along with that, do not bring twenty typed copies of your manuscript to give to potential agents/editors. They don’t want to be schlepping a ton of unnecessary stuff home with them. This is the age of email and attachments. confusedSince this was my first RWA I had no idea all the “stuff” (and by stuff I mean swag and books) you receive at the conference. Every publishing house gives out complementary books during their spotlight events; every breakfast, lunch and dinner has a guest speaker who also leave a book or two on every chair; the Goodie room is chock full of swag, free books, and just…stuff. I brought one suitcase with me that was already stuffed with my own stuff. Now I had over 6o free books and no room. Shipping them would have cost about $100.00. Lesson learned? Bring an extra bag/suitcase. You will be happy you did. Again, since this was my first conference, I wanted to promote myself as a professional, so I brought nice clothes and outfits and shoes to go with them. Because I’m short all my shoes are 4 inches or above. If anyone has ever spent 12 hours in five inch heels you know the kind of agony I was in each and every night. Lesson learned? Dress appropriately, but comfortably. Kitten heels would have been fine! You want to make a good impression, especially on agents and editors, but you don’t need to look like you just stepped out of the pages of Vogue, or like you just crawled out of bed after a binge-drinking night at the hotel bar. Realize you are going to see and possibly meet some of your all time favorite authors. It’s okay to fan-girl. It’s not okay to stalk. I stalked Nora Roberts at my first conference. The moment I saw her across the hotel lobby I simply lost my mind. She was on her way out of the building for a cigarette break. I am ashamed to admit this, but I followed her. It was like I was in some kind of trace. I knew what I was doing was illegal in 50 states, but I had no will to stop myself. When she stopped outside and lit up, I stood in the vestibule behind the glass doors just…watching her smoke. After a minute I realized what I was doing and snapped out of. Then I spotted Jill Shalvis on the escalator going down while I was going up. I jumped off and headed back down and followed her into the hotel coffee shop. Again… I was in a trance, I swear! Lesson learned? Be prepared to meet your writing idols but don’t do anything you could get arrested for!! When I spotted three twenty-somethings at the Literacy signing squeal like pigs when they met Jayne Ann Krentz, it drilled that lesson home. One of the best things I did at the first conference was attend the RWA First Timer’s presentation. It was filled with helpful hints about how to get the most out of the conference without feeling overwhelmed, or as if you missed something. I highly recommend setting aside the two hours of the class and fitting it into your schedule. This year the conference is in Orlando/Disney. In July. Florida in July is not a time frame for curly haired gals like me, so this year will bring its own set of problems and concerns! But I’m still going because I don’t want to miss the exciting, informative, and fun events and classes being offered. I’ll just need to pack an extra canister of hairspray. Or maybe more than just one extra. Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance writer who writes about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them.

Family and food play huge roles in Peggy’s stories because she believes there is nothing that holds a family structure together like sharing a meal…or two…or ten. Dotted with humor and characters that are as real as they are loving, Peggy brings all topics of daily life into her stories: life, death, sibling rivalry, illness and the desire for everyone to find their own happily ever after. Growing up the only child of divorced parents she longed for sisters, brothers and a family that vowed to stick together no matter what came their way. Through her books, she has created the families she wanted as that lonely child.

Tying into her love of families, her children's book, THE KINDNESS TALES, was illustrated by her artist mother-in-law. Peggy holds a master's degree in Nursing Administration and first found publication with several articles she authored on Alzheimer's Disease during her time running an Alzheimer's in-patient care unit during the 1990s. In 2013, she placed first in two categories in the Dixie Kane Memorial Contest: Single Title Contemporary Romance and Short/Long Contemporary Romance. In 2017 she came in 3rd in the New England Reader's Choice contest for A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS and is a finalist in the 2017 STILETTO contest for the same title. A lifelong and avid romance reader and writer, she is a member of RWA and her local New Hampshire RWA Chapter.

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RWA Nationals (and Penguins. . .)

casey~ By Casey Clipper Books ordered. Check. Swag. Check. Flight booked. Check. Wait, where’s the conference and hotel reservation confirmation emails? I didn’t print those out, did I? Crap. I hope I can locate them. Kind of important. Ten cardigans, because you know, I might change them out twice a day. Check. Twenty pairs of shoes, you know, for the pop-up club party that’ll occur. I need to bring these stilettos and five pairs of running shoes, ‘cause I do plan to hit the gym. At some point. Maybe. Probably not. But just in case. Check. Three outfits for each day. One for morning, before dinner, and before hitting an open house or party. Certainly can’t wear the same outfit all day. And what if I spill something down one of my six white shirts I've packed? That is inevitable. I mean, it’s me, mouth klutz. Check. Sunglasses for when I leave the hotel. Check. Ten notepads because each year I misplace the thing after a couple of hours. Don't ask. If it's not attached.... Check. Volunteer for the literacy signing so I can be put in the glamorous job of hanging with Nora and/or Sylvia, who will fall in love with my stellar personality and we’ll become BFFs and travel the world together, all the while plotting. Check. Download the RWA2015 app and choose five workshops each hour of each day to be added to my overbooked phone calendar. Check. Maybe I should order the recordings. Probably. Still waiting on the lab about my clone. Can't be two places at once, no matter what type of mind-telepathy I try to call upon. Hey, plot idea? Separate suitcase for the goodie room raid...wait, where will I put my supply of three different style business cards? I have a two bag airline limit. What can I leave behind? Do I need my laptop? Seriously, the RWA2015 National Conference is upon us. Social media is a buzz amongst authors. Meet-ups are being arranged. Newbies are excited and nervous. Seasoned attendees are trying to figure out how not to over pack. Again. (Still haven't figured that one out. Maybe I only need two different business cards.) Here are a few First Timer helpful packing tips: 1. Cardigans. Each workshop room is well air conditioned. Trust me. Even if you claim you're always hot, at least take one. 2. Comfortable shoes and/or flats. Heels are for the awards ceremony (think cocktail hour, unless you're nominated, then it's formal dress). 3. Dress attire would be considered business casual. Why? Because you never know who may strike up a convo with you. Think four day business interview. 4. Do not over pack. You will leave the conference with loads of books and swag. Unless you're willing to pay FedEx to ship your items home, you'll need room in your suitcase. 5. Make sure to attend the First Timers welcome workshop. You'll get fantastic conference advice. 8. Say hello to Casey. I hear she's kind of cool. She loves penguins and chocolate. Just sayin'. With this my third year attending, there are a few new activities I plan to do for the first time. Volunteer, attend the general meeting, "accidentally" bump into Barbara and hope to have some of her success rub off. (Okay, okay, I won't touch Barbara. Boundaries, I get it...maybe Bella?) My biggest piece of advice? Go in recognizing that the conference can be geared toward you. First Timer or Seasoned Author, what is your conference goal? Make that decision now. Knowing what you want out of the conference will enhance your experience and help choose workshops best to suit your needs. Do you want help with craft, marketing, research or all of the above? Even for those who've attended more than once, it can feel overwhelming, wanting to take in as much information as possible. But no matter how you choose to work your individualized conference, appreciate the fact we've been granted a fantastic opportunity to learn from the best of the best in the romance industry. A community where we get to spend days surrounded by and rub elbows with like-minded industry professionals, who embrace our passion for penning romance novels and some who are gracious to share their successful insight. Not everyone understands our world of romance, but here our writer world quirks are accepted and celebrated by all. Come Monday when you're back home, and the reality of what happened over the course of four days hits, you can smile and say you were there, and you walked away with a better appreciation and knowledge of everything romance. Personally I know there's no other place I'd rather be mid July. Have fun and did you know rock hopper penguins can jump 4-5 feet? Contemporary Romance Author Casey Clipper is from Pittsburgh, PA. She's a noted sports fanatic, chocolate lover (all right, maybe that could be classified more as an addiction), and is slightly obsessed with penguins (seriously, they're forever dressed in tuxes!). Like you, she's an avid romance reader and loves to lose herself in a good book. Casey is an active member of the Romance Writers of America, Contemporary Romance Writers, the Three Rivers Romance Writers, Passionate Ink, ASMSG, and IAN. Casey is preparing to release her fourth and final novel in The Love Series, Taken Love on July 21, 2015.

RWA Conference Bootcamp

Mellanie Szereto~ By Mellanie Szereto Attending the RWA National Conference for the first time is a bit scary and overwhelming, but some planning and research can go a long way in easing those butterflies, especially for those who have never attended a professional conference. Take a deep breath and read on to find out what to expect!


BUDGETING Besides conference registration, hotel, and transportation expenses, attendees need to plan ahead for other costs. Since RWA2015 is my sixth conference, I have five years’ worth of expenses to help create a fairly accurate budget for myself. RWA Conference 2015 (Budgeted) Conference Registration (Actual) $450.00 Transportation /Airfare (Actual)   383.70 Hotel/6 nights (Estimated)   500.00 Baggage Fees (Estimated)     50.00 Transportation to/from hotel (Estimated)     50.00 Chapter Receptions (Estimated)     60.00 Airport Parking (Estimated)     54.00 Meals (Estimated)   200.00 Shipping (Estimated)     75.00 Books (Estimated)     50.00 Total           $1872.70
  • Register early to get the best possible conference fee.
  • Reduce hotel expense by finding a roommate(s). I have two roommates this year to cut my expenses.
  • Compare flying vs. driving expenses and advantages/disadvantages
    • Flying—gas to/from airport, meals, long-term parking fees, airline tickets, baggage fees, transportation between airport and hotel, less travel time. Share a cab or car service to reduce that expense.
    • Driving—gas, wear and tear on vehicle, meals while traveling, tolls, hotel parking expense, more travel time; rideshare to reduce expenses.
  • Avoid hotel room internet expense by bringing a portable wifi device.
  • Avoid going over budget on book purchases by choosing Literacy Signing authors ahead of time. In addition to the free books in the conference bags, more will be available from publisher signings and at the Indie Book Signing. Shipping books home adds an additional expense.
  • Spend less on meals by researching nearby food options ahead of time. Remember to budget for coffee/drinks with friends. Three breakfasts and dessert at the RITA/GH Awards are included in the registration fee.
  • Budget sightseeing expenses by checking out local attractions online before the trip.
  • RWA National Conference is a professional event. Attendees should dress business casual to business professional for all workshops, spotlights, chats, and functions, except for the case of costume parties. The Literacy Signing is more casual, but remember that publishing industry professionals will be attending as well. The GH/RITA Awards Ceremony is dressy to eveningwear. boot campAll rooms will be air-conditioned. Bring a sweater, blazer, pashmina, etc., if you get cold easily.
  • Business casual consists of khakis, casual skirts and dresses, capris, etc. paired with nice tops, work-appropriate shirts, sweaters, etc. Do not wear T-shirts and jeans if you expect to make a professional impression. Wear comfortable shoes, but avoid athletic shoes if possible. Dress flats, walking shoes, and sandals (not flip-flops) are fine. If you prefer heels, go for it! For guys, khakis and button-down shirts work well.
  • Business professional consists of pantsuits, skirts and jackets, dresses, etc. for women or suits and ties for men. This is my preference for daytime conference events like workshops, the AGM, etc. because I’m comfortable in this look—and I like to wear nice shoes. :)
  • Downtime—Unless you’re in your room, headed to the exercise facility, or away from the hotel, plan to be “on” at all times. Industry professionals will be in the restaurants and bars and at parties and other functions in the hotel. Sweats and ratty jeans are not a good choice if you’re in the conference area.
  • If you want to be viewed as a professional, present yourself as one.
  • Again, if you want to be viewed as a professional, present yourself as one.
  • Wait times at the elevators may be long with about 2500 other conference attendees in the hotel, so be polite and patient. Plan ahead and allow an extra 10-15 minutes, especially on Wednesday evening for the Literacy Signing and Saturday night for the RITA/Golden Heart Awards Ceremony.
  • Some editors and agents are receptive to pitches outside the scheduled pitch appointments, but interrupting conversations or cornering someone in the restroom is rude and can leave a lasting (negative) impression. If asked what you write, you can safely assume you’ve been invited to pitch. Otherwise, ask first to be on the safe side.
  • After a day of workshops, many attendees congregate in the bar area to socialize. If alcohol makes you say/do stupid things, consider the consequences before you order that fourth margarita!
  • Private conversations are not private in public areas during the conference. If you need to rant about a workshop, editor, agent, author, etc., do it in the privacy of your room where you won’t be overheard and cause hurt feelings or a grudge.
  • If you notice an attendee who seems to be alone, introduce yourself. Conferences can be overwhelming to first-timers and those who are by themselves. This event is a great way to make new friends and connections.
  • Do not leave your room keys in the envelope with your room number. Memorize your room number and discard the key envelope in your room trash. Lost keys could mean someone knows which room they open. Don’t give anyone the opportunity to endanger you or steal your belongings.
  • Remove your nametag when leaving the Conference hotel.
  • Know the way to the nearest emergency exit.
  • Use the safety latch when you’re in your room so hotel employees and/or guests inadvertently assigned to your room can’t enter without knocking.
  • Use the designated driver rule if you’re drinking. At least one person in your group should be sober enough to get everyone back to the hotel/their rooms safely. Only accept drinks from the bartender or wait staff and don’t leave drinks unattended.
  • Be careful when sharing your number. Don’t shout it across the ballroom or lobby. See the first tip in this section!
  • Use common sense. Other guests besides RWA attendees may be staying in the hotel. Don’t assume you’re safe in the company of romance writers, agents, and publishing industry professionals.
  • The conference is offering 136 workshops on career, craft, industry, marketing, research, self-publishing, and writer’s life topics as well as six special topics this year. In addition to workshops, attendees can also participate in four author chats and learn more about publishing with fourteen publisher spotlights. A complete list of all workshops, chats, and spotlights with dates and times is available on the RWA Conference Workshops page.
  • An RWA2015 app is also available for viewing the schedule, creating a personalized calendar, and much more. For more information, contact Erin Fry at RWA (erin.fry@rwa.org). Users must have a login ID and password to download and use the app.
  • Workshops are first come, first served to registered conference attendees, so be sure to plan ahead for high-priority workshops. While many will be recorded for the conference recordings, some will not. PAN sessions and a few other workshops noted in the conference program will not recorded. Only PRO members may attend the PRO Retreat and only PAN members may attend PAN sessions. Conference ID badges are designated with PRO and PAN, when appropriate, to allow entrance to these workshops.
  • Many events are held during the conference, including annual meetings for online chapters and their members, publisher parties for their authors, and the RITA/Golden Heart Awards Ceremony. The Literacy Signing takes place Wednesday evening and is open to the public. This event draws a very large crowd, so line up early to see your favorite signing authors. All monies raised will go to local and national literacy charities.
  • The Indie Book Signing is open to registered attendees, as are numerous publisher signings. While these books are free, remember that they have to be carried or shipped home!
Conferences are a great way to learn about writing and publishing, make new connections, and advance your writing career. So, make the most of the experience and have fun! When her fingers aren’t attached to her keyboard, Mellanie Szereto enjoys hiking, Pilates, cooking, gardening, and researching for her stories. Many times, the research partners with her other hobbies, taking her from the Hocking Hills region in Ohio to the Colorado Rockies or the Adirondacks of New York. Sometimes, the trip is no farther than her garden for ingredients and her kitchen to test recipes for her latest steamy tale. She is multi-published with Siren-Bookstrand and is self-publishing her foodie contemporary series, Love on the Menu, in addition to her nonfiction Writing Tip Wednesday handbooks based on her informational blog series. Mellanie makes her home in rural Indiana with her husband of twenty-eight years and their son. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Indiana Romance Writers of America, Contemporary Romance Writers, and FF&P Romance Writers. Visit her website at http://www.mellanieszereto.com for information on book signings and her upcoming release, Iced Latté. Sugar and spice and everything…naughty! Social Media Links:


SJeffery~ By Susan Jeffery I know, I know – the RWA national conference is just a few weeks away. If you’re a nominee, you may be stressing about what you’re going to wear to the awards ceremony. You might still be uncertain of your ensemble for Harlequin’s Black and White party, or whatever party you’re invited to. When the finalists for the RITA and Golden Heart awards were announced on March 26, I believe the earth shifted on its axis. And I am pretty some writers jumped up and down, screamed, cried, and called everyone they know.  If they dialed the wrong number, they shouted the news to a perfect stranger and hung up.


And, once that was over, they’ve been struggling since then with that dull, ugly lump of dread blooming in their innards: WHAT IN THE WORLD AM I GOING TO WEAR? image003 If you’re like the majority of us, you’re not a nominee, but you are still welcome to stress! Because, it’s not just the awards ceremony, people. It’s the parties, and more parties happening during the week. Cocktail parties, workshops, evening events, signings, or themed parties, whatever – it’s like a family reunion gone wild. image005Back in the day (1986, to be specific), the events were fewer, and the dress code was easier. The finalists knew in advance if they were winners. Was it calmer? Oh, yes. I don’t even know who was in my finalist class for the Golden Heart, because Houston informed the winners in advance. This finalist/winner wore a chic white cocktail dress she found in a bridal shop, and some very nifty gold-and-black jewelry. For the Harlequin party, I wore a blue silk maid-of-honor dress I’d sewn for my sister’s wedding. The white dress is long gone - thank goodness shoulder pads went out of style. The blue dress lives in a storage closet. The necklace is still in my jewelry box, a beloved and respected treasure. The medal has changed since I received mine, and no one really recognizes it anymore. Do folks still wear cocktail dresses when they final? I wouldn't know, since that hasn't been a blessing for me since re-activating my membership in 2009. What I do know is, you'd better get your Oscar vibe going as a finalist, You'll be expected to be wearing some serious flash when you're at the awards - and before! Still, let's not forget: New York is a shopping capitol of the world (if not THE shopping capital). I know it's late, late, late to be thinking of which dress to wear. But we can dream, can't we? Which is why you want to browse this list before you land in the Big Apple. image008New York Magazine lists the drool-worthy shopping destinations. I know you're going to be super busy chasing down editors and agents and making appointments, and maybe you can fit in one more workshop (thank goodness for Starbucks!), but seriously: make time to hit just one of these icons. Personal favorites: Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany. Not like I go buying things there all the time, people. I mean, really? I can look, though. And you can, too! (Another FYI I heard from a cabbie during the last New York conference: New Yorkers take cabs. Tourists walk. Don't be shy, take a cab.) Now that you've had to stop off in some going-out-of-business dive somewhere off Broadway to buy a second suitcase, let's not forget the ultimate Mecca of all that is good in the pursuit of loveliness: Sephora After all, you're at image009Nationals! Hie thee to this website before you’re in the Big Apple: http://www.sephora.com/stores/new-york-times-square You can make an appointment for a tutorial. Or, you could cross the street if you have a spare moment, to admire the wonders there – promising to make you a sultry vixen or a stylish know-it-all or just... You, But Better (my personal favorite). And, just an FYI, makeup containing SPF doesn't photograph well. I wore an SPF 35 tinted moisturizer and finished it with dusting power for RWA Atlanta. All my photos include happy people and one ghost. Take it from me: don’t. Finally, what do I *wear* at Nationals? Good question! I'll leave you with this list – a wonderful post on www.makeupalley.com by a kind and organized (and fashionable!) member named Asphalt. Her answer to my Help! What Do I Wear? post was this: makeup i would bring +
  • bright pencil skirt
  • white jeans
  • pretty silk blouse
  • nice t-shirt graphic t-shirt
  • button down (chambray, cotton, whatever)
  • cocktail dress (2 of them)
  • linen blazer
  • scarf
  • sandals
  • neutral heels (or flats)
  • evening heels
  • and whatever fun jewelry you have
then you could wear:
  • day 1: bright pencil skirt, pretty silk blouse, scarf, neutral heels
  •  day 2: bright pencil skirt, nice t-shirt, linen blazer, neutral heels
  • day 3: white jeans, button down, neutral heels
  • bar: white jeans, pretty silk blouse, neutral heels or sandals
  • party 1: cocktail dress 1, evening heels
  • party 2/dinner: cocktail dress 2, evening heels
  • bar: white jeans, pretty silk blouse, neutral heels or sandals
  • playtime 1: white jeans, nice t-shirt, scarf, sandals
  • playtime 2: bright pencil skirt, graphic t-shirt, sandals
  • playtime 3: white jeans, button down, sandals
Voila! Change out one of the cocktail dresses for an evening gown, and you’re ready to show up at the awards ceremony. PS, I used this list for Anaheim and Atlanta, and had a blast. Although, in Anaheim, I broke down and visited a Skechers shop to replace my incredibly impractical sandals. On the big day, after all, we want to still be fresh enough to look like this: image014 And, about packing?  There are, of course, plenty of videos on YouTube. Take your pick and see if you can glean some tips. image017I created a master packing list on my iPad’s Trello app, with categories for clothing, lingerie/sleepwear/ makeup, shoes, hair, medications, electronics and power cords. See you there! I’ll be at Check-In on Wednesday morning. Stop by! Love, Susan Susan Jeffery (irl Susan Andrews) writes contemporary romance. A romance reader since the early 1970s, and a writer since 1982, she won a Golden Heart in 1986, and published Fair Game with Harlequin in 1987. She’s a high-school librarian who loves working with her students (all boys? you’d want a pseudonym, too!). A member of CRW, CTRWA, TGN, and WRWDC, she’ll be at #RWA15. She will also be wearing of the outfits organized with the list in this article. Susan Jeffery is online at www.waterworldmermaids.com, on FB at https://www.facebook.com/SusanJefferyBooks, and on Twitter @susannjeffery.

RWA Nationals: A Change in Perspective

Deb author photo~ By Deborah Blake

I’ve been to three RWA National conventions, each of them falling at a different point in my career, and I was particularly aware when I went this year of how different the experience was depending on my perspective at the time.

Don’t get me wrong. All the Nationals had much in common: they were loud, overwhelming, and a lot of fun. And I learned something from each and every one. But depending on where I was on my writing path, the convention took on a very different shape. Maybe you can learn a little something from my experiences, and what I figured out in hindsight.

My first RWA National convention was in Washington, DC in 2009. The only reason I was able to go was because I was granted one of the organization’s scholarships, funded by successful authors wanting to give back. I will be forever grateful. I was published in nonfiction then, but still searching for my way into the fiction world. I didn’t have an agent, and finding one was one of my major goals. I also took a number of fabulous Craft workshops, including one (Turning Points) by author Jennifer Crusie that ended up literally changing my life. I got to meet some authors I’d been talking to online, like Candace Havens and Mindy Klasky, which was really exciting. They ended up being friends and cohorts I still treasure to this day. My main focus at this first convention was trying to find an agent, and I wound myself into knots worrying about my pitches to agents and editors. In fact, the folks I pitched to all requested partials and fulls. And I never heard from any of them ever again. It turns out that this is pretty normal, and while I still recommend pitching, I would advise people not to worry about it too much. While it isn’t unheard of to be discovered this way, it turns out to be fairly unusual. The part of the conference that ended up making the most difference was that lecture on craft, which made a huge impression on me and lifted my writing to the next level, so that the book I wrote next actually got me an agent. My suggestion to other first-timers is to try and relax, pitch if you want to, but mostly learn all you can while you have all those great authors sharing what they’ve learned from years of practicing their craft. My next Nationals was in 2011, in NYC. By then I had signed with my agent, the lovely Elaine Spencer from The Knight Agency, but we hadn’t managed to sell a book yet. My focus that time was in trying to make all the right connections, establishing a name for myself, and again, hanging out with author friends and talking shop. I was still stalking Jenny Crusie at every workshop she gave. That Nationals was the first time I gave a workshop (as part of one I organized with TKA authors and agents). I spent lots of time networking and finally got to meet my agent in person, which was the main reason for attending the conference. It was well worth it. Among other things, I learned that making that personal connection can move your professional relationships to the next level. Personal connections are important, and I suggest you make as many as you can. But again, try and relax and enjoy the conference. Sometimes having fun is the best way to meet an unexpected future ally. [caption id="attachment_6053" align="alignright" width="240"]With the amazing Jennifer Crusie With the amazing Jennifer Crusie[/caption] This year was my third conference, again in NYC. This time was very different in some ways, since I finally had that book contract (my second) and got to participate for the first time in both the Literacy Signing and the Berkley signing (my publishers). I also got to meet my Berkley editor in person, hang with my author pals and compare publishing stories (the good, the bad, and the ugly), have lunch with my agent, and continue my tradition of stalking of Jenny Crusie. (I bring her chocolate every time. It has become a tradition.) I still go to every workshop she gives, because she knows more about Craft than I ever will, including her updated version of that Turning Points workshop from years before. It was still helpful. This time around, the conference was both more relaxed and more stressful. It was a relief not to be worried about finding an agent or having to pursue a book contract. But I still spent most of my time running from place to place, meeting up with author/agent/editor friends, my own agent and editor, and giving a workshop. I discovered that while it was a lot of fun to be participating in book signings, in some ways I missed being able to run around and grab all the books for myself. (Although my groaning TBR shelf was probably relieved, and I still managed to get enough books—most of them for my cat sitters, I swear!—that I had to mail them home.) I think that my biggest take-away from this year’s conference was the realization that there is a different kind of joy to be had from every level of the writing career. I’m enjoying my success, such as it is, of course, but there are some aspects of “pre-success” that I didn’t fully appreciate until I’d moved past them. I wish, for instance, that at my first conference I’d spent less time worrying about pitching and more time just enjoying myself. One thing is true no matter what level you are at, whether you are a newbie still trying to learn the craft, an almost-there seeking an agent, or a multi-published author greeting your fans and networking with your peers. The people you meet at Nationals are usually kind, interesting, and can become an integral part of your writing path. It is definitely worth doing at least once. Maybe even three times. As soon as I recover from this one, I’ll consider number four. You know, as soon as I finish writing the next book. Deborah Blake is the author of the Baba Yaga paranormal romance series, including Wickedly Magical, Wickedly Dangerous and Wickedly Wonderful (Berkley) as well as eight books on modern witchcraft from Llewellyn Worldwide. She has an ongoing column in Witches & Pagans Magazine and was featured in The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction. She can be found at www.deborahblakeauthor.com.

Taking Over Nationals — Stories from Chapter Members!

The chapter was well represented at the RWA National Conference in New York City!

Congratulations to Sonali Dev on her RITA nomination (Best First Book, A Bollywood Affair), to Abigail Owen, our Chapter VP of Communications, on her Prism Award (Andromeda's Fall, Shadowcat Nation #1, RWA Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal Chapter, 1st Place in Dark Paranormal) and to Caro Carson on her RITA win (Contemporary Romance: Short, The Bachelor Doctor's Bride)! Here are some highlights from our members. If you've got your own stories to share, please leave them in the comments. Enjoy!  
Pen Name Problems ~ Sophia Henry I admit, it's taken me awhile to get used to my pen name, because I joined RWA and my local chapter under my real name first, and changed to a pen name when my publisher asked me. But I was awesome at RWA. I remembered to introduce myself as Sophia and everything. Until a late night dinner after the Rita/Golden Heart Awards... A group of friends and I walked over to Junior's across the street from the hotel, and I put my name on the list "Sophia - Party of 9." We waited and waited. After about thirty minutes, I heard the host call, "Jane (My real name) - party of 9!" Ok, so Jane is not my real name - but you guys aren't gonna trick me this time. Anyway, when I heard my name party of 9, I gathered my troops and we marched back to "our" table. Within seconds of sitting down, the real "Jane" comes to our table saying, "This is not your table. I'm Jane. I'm Jane, party of 9."at Juniors And the embarrassing realization of what I did clicked. I did not put our reservation under my real name, Jane. I put it under Sophia. So we gathered our stuff and trudged back to the front to wait. Needless to say, my friends were laughing at me, I was laughing at me, Jane was laughing at me (thankfully--since I really wasn't trying to steal her table.) When we got to the front, I had to explain the story to PJ Ausdenmore from The Romance Dish blog, who had been sitting waiting for a table through this entire debacle.A lady from Mississippi, who watched the entire thing go down, even asked to take a picture with me as the person who got kicked out of her table! And I did. Funny publicity is good publicity. We all shared laughs and "Sophia, Party of 9" was called a few minutes later. Pen Names. Gotta love 'em!! From Karen Ellard Chadwell via Facebook: "Just met a new friend and probably the only person who got kicked out of a table here. --with Sophia Henry at Junior's Restaurant and Cheesecake."
~ PJ Sharon As far as workshops, my favorite was Investigations 101 with Margaret Taylor, a veteran in law enforcement who was very knowledgeable, and hysterically funny. I learned a little about a lot of things, most of which is how Hollywood gets it wrong! Never put DNA evidence in a plastic bag. Apparently this degrades the sample and can lead to mold. A paper bag would be used instead. She also talked about surveillance, undercover operations, and setting up the bad guys. She touched on use of informants, and the difference between a CI-Confidential Informant (usually mercenary and “disposable”) and a CRI-Confidential Reliable Informant (someone who is protected by police and whose info can usually get a warrant served faster). All very interesting.
~ Win Day 11755908_10207070739304270_5856735121064330653_nHad a terrific time at the conference! Missed the meetup -- actually, I was in the bar but got into a conversation with some other folks and never made it back into the corner where the group was supposed to gather. Favourite workshops: "You Think You're Funny" by Tracy Brogan & Kristen Higgins; "How Not To End A Series" by Jaci Burton, Marie Force, Jill Shalvis, and Shannon Stacey; and the "Spotlight on Entangled". Two successful pitches: agent Linda Scalissi of 3 Seas Literary Agency wants to see 3 chapters and a synopsis, and editor Stacy Abrams of Entangled wants to see the full manuscript. Whoohoo! Oh, and gave my card to about a dozen writers who need help with their websites. All in all, a successful conference!
~ Casey Clipper I also took MA Taylor's workshop, along with Liliana Hart & Scott Silverii, & Lt. Jamie Prosser, all three were fantastic research workshops on police procedures. There was, of course, the fantastic self-publishing advice given by Bella Andre & Barbara Freethy, who also had a great keynote speech. Their fantastic advice: quit panicking. And they're right. There's this panic mode right now in the industry that's unwarranted. It hadn't occurred to me until they pinpointed it. I even find myself in a "panic" type state at times about SP my work. It was great to hear someone say, "Calm down." and put it all in sane perspective. The elevator system was something that took me a day to grasp. (For some reason you can't get on or off the 9th floor by elevator.) The big "oops" of the workshops was Michael Hauge's was put into a small conference room, and it was packed, so if you didn't get in early, you didn't get in at all and it wasn't recorded so you were left out in the cold. Myself and one of my roommates ended up in the elevator with actor Michael Emmerson. Yep, totally had a freak-out moment. Apparently, I'm not one of those cool people when they run into a Hollywood actor. Aaannnnd am too much of a chicken to say hi to him. Nope, just waited to have a meltdown when we exited the elevator. I loved that the awards ceremony was live streamed. I asked on my author page who watched it and was surprised to find a handful of fans did and loved it. They were shocked over the grandeur of the ceremony, having no clue such a thing existed in the romance book world. This small post doesn't come close to all the events that took place.

~ Samanthya Wyatt

I found some great workshops, but several of the ones I wanted were already full. Sitting on the floor, standing room only, or could not even get in the door.

Learned some great tips on all sorts of material. Hated I missed Jude Deveraux's workshop !!!! Keynote speakers were great. I too took the workshop with  Bella Andre & Barbara Freethy. Write more books and don't worry too much about marketing. People don't believe the grandeur of the ceremony, when I mention it is just like the "Grammys". Met a lot of authors I've only chatted on line with. Wonderful to put a face with a name. Time's Square was - different. Every dress up character available for a picture "I work for money!"  HA. I told my friend when she went to take her photo with the statue of liberty guy, it's not free. It will cost you.! Loved walking the streets and seeing the sights. Broadway theaters, lots of shops, lots of eating places. Fun. Private taxi drivers were a hoot! Starbucks made a mint off of the authors!  Chuckles. And I stayed wired, but crashed in bed each night when my head hit the pillow. Missed the literacy signing cause RWA didn't notify me in time to order my books for the signing. Would have loved to do that. [gallery ids="6124,6123,6122,6121,6120"]
~ Deborah Blake [gallery ids="6051,6052,6053,6054"]

~ Callie Amo

[gallery ids="6103,6102,6101,6100,6099,6098,6097,6096,6083,6065"]

RWA Annual Meeting Panels Featuring CRW Members

Laura Kaye crop~ By Laura Kaye The Romance Writers of America annual meeting is next week in New York City and the Contemporary Romance Writers will be out in force! Below are just some of the panels on which you’ll be able to hear CRW members speak. THURSDAY, JULY 23 9.45 am: Bollywood Basics: Lessons from the world’s largest film industry to turn your novel into a blockbuster Presenters: Nisha Sharma, Suleikha Snyder, Sonali Dev 12:45 pm: Which Track Is For You -- Indie, Traditional, or Hybrid? Presenters: Serena Bell, Rachel Grant, Bria Quinlan and Monica Murphy 2 pm: No Muse? No Problem Presenters: Cynthia D'Alba, Lori Wilde, Elle James, Laura Kaye, Sarah M. Anderson 2 pm: Beyond Business: Taking the author/agency relationship into a new era Presenter: Deborah Blake FRIDAY, JULY 24 9:45 am: Staying Fit While Writing Presenters: Sara Humphreys, Laura Kaye, Eliza Knight, and Maggie Marr 9:45 am: The Perfect Threesome: Exploring the Relationship Between Author, Editor, and Agent Presenters: Nalini Akolekar, Tracy Brogan, Kim Law, Kelli Martin, and Terri Osburn 12:45 pm: Is Your Writing Killing You? Ergonomics and Stretching for Writers Presenter: PJ Sharon 3:15 pm: Juggling Two Pen Names And Making It Work (and Learn from my Mistakes) Presenter: Monica Murphy SATURDAY, JULY 25 12:45 pm: Writing a Novel in 30 Days: Tips, Tricks, and Cautions Presenters: Laura Kaye, Jade Lee, and Rebecca Zanetti 2:00 pm: "Beyond Business: Taking the agency/author relationship into the next era" Presenters: Deborah Blake, Lucienne Diver, Elaine Spencer, Nalini Singh, Nephele Tempest 4:30 pm: The Trade Secrets of Best-selling Authors Presenters: Laura Kaye and Jennifer Probst 4:30 pm: Writing with a Partner: What to Consider Presenters: Susan Scott Shelley, Veronica Forand, and Ursula LeCoeur See you in New York City!   Laura Kaye http://www.LauraKayeAuthor.com

Why Do I Need Writing Organizations?

cynthia~ By Cynthia D’Alba I love talking with aspiring writers. When I started writing, if only I’d know then what I know now! If you’re reading this, you might be writing romance, but you might be writing mystery, sci-fi, or any of many different genre fiction categories. You know what writing is like. You sit either in front of a computer with your fingers on the keys, or with a paper tablet and a pen in your hand, and you create. You tell a story. It’s you, all alone, writing and creating this tale to entertain others. Creating a world with its characters and setting is hard work. It take effort to transfer a fictional world from your brain, where it’s alive and colorful, into words to share with others so that they too see your world and watch your characters act out their parts. I live in the town where I grew up. I have women that I have been friends with since the first grade. And I have eight other women that I have been friends with since seventh grade. Another others since high school. They all work, have families, go to church but none of them are writers. As much as they support me in my writing, they simply don’t have a clue what goes into storytelling. The same is true of my family. None of them “get” it. Now other writers? They “get” it. They understand the frustration, the depression when things aren’t going well, the elation when it is. Other writers can talk the business, sympathize about royalties and understand that writing a book doesn’t mean you’ll be rolling in the dough. Writers pass along tips they’ve learned, or industry news and gossip that can help your career. You’ve written a great book and you’ve decided publisher XYZ is a perfect fit, only to hear that XYZ is floundering. Their authors are not being paid on time. Authors are jumping ship. You would never had heard about that from your non-writing friends. So where do you find all these supportive and helpful fellow authors? For me, it was Romance Writers of America®, aka RWA®. My monthly meeting is like a lifeline for my sanity. I’m in a room with people who get “me” and my work. If you’re trying to do this (i.e. writing) all alone, stop. Find a group of fellow authors. Go to https://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=512. See if there is a chapter near you. Go visit. You’ll find your people there. No RWA chapter? Look for a genre fiction writers group. They are everywhere. Still can’t find one? Post a note to Twitter or Facebook. There are yahoo groups, Facebook groups, private online writers’ communities. Writer communities can really make a difference in your writing career. Use them. A writer’s life is hard enough. Take any advantage you can. How have writing groups and organizations like RWA been helpful to you?  I was born and raised in a small Arkansas town. After being gone for a number of years, I’m thrilled to be making my home back in Arkansas living in a vine-covered cottage on the banks of an eight-thousand acre lake. I started writing on a challenge from my husband in 2006 and discovered having imaginary sex with lots of hunky men was fun. I love to hear from readers and there are lots of ways to find me. Online, you can find me most days at my website, or follow me at FacebookTwitter, Google +, Goodreads or Pinterest. Or subscribe for my newletter. Email me at cynthia@cynthiadalba.com  To send me snail mail, write to: Cynthia D’Alba   PO Box 2116   Hot Springs, AR 71914