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: 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 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, on FB at, and on Twitter @susannjeffery.

My First RWA National Conference

celialucente~ By Celia Lucente This is dedicated to the first responsders, fire fighters, police, paramedics and civilians who minimized the human loss suffered on the events of 9/11. Because of these brave souls we are able to carry out our lives, the American way, with freedom, pride and hope. From the moment I assembled the robin blue RWA conference ID holder and placed my name badge in it, I knew I was in for an experience of a lifetime. I quickly affixed the pins for my chapter, RWA Pro and RWA 2013 and was raring to go. I had arrived on Wednesday for the RWA Women’s Fiction chapter mini-conference, which started at eight-thirty … at seven am. Since the day I left the corporate world, I have not been dressed and made up that early on any given day, let alone four in a row! After the mini-conference, I learned the tips of making the most out of the conference and how to hone your elevator pitch at the first-timers’ orientation. I duly tried out my elevator speech on what would become nine unsuspecting agents and editors throughout the conference …and now have the same amount of requests. But I discovered something else. In addition to my first writing choice of women’s fiction, there’s a contemporary romance writer lurking inside of me who desperately wants to come out. I attended the Harlequin open houses and spotlight events. Later serendipity was at work when I “won” a lunch with a multi-published author of Harlequin Desire. I thought I might have found my publishing home. She had no choice but to listen to the synopsis of my first book in a proposed series. I then met with her editor, who asked for the full MS. ice-creamMy very favorite experience was that of the Contemporary Romance chapter Ice Cream Social. The panel guests included several bestselling authors, an editor and an agent. And an ice cream bar with flavors, toppings and syrups the gym nut in me dare not touch. But, I ate ice cream, drank red wine, and didn’t feel guilty one bit. I shamelessly scooped up the extra shot glasses labeled “falling in love”, card decks with all suits of hearts, and even a sparkling cardboard ice cream centerpiece. On a serious note, we learned about market trends, demand and tactics for a sub-genre some of feared was passé but learned it’s alive and well, just packaged and marketed differently. Other things that stand out for me was the amazing “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing. I was shocked at the sight of celebratory authors I had no idea I’d meet let alone be able to carry a conversation. And I received tons of books at the various book signings. I have so much to read that I highly doubt a visit to the library or the Amazon website will be necessary for the rest of the year. If you caught sight of me, you would no doubt see me zigzagging through crowds and riding up and down the escalators with a determined look as I attempted to get into every workshop I could. I’d practically burned up the ten-hour battery on my tablet madly typing my notes. Most workshops were packed to the gills. But, sitting on the floor in front has its advantages—first dibs to pitch the agent/editor or talk with the speaker afterwards. And maybe get another free signed book. As I settled down from my post-conference excitement, I listened and cried to Cathy Maxwell’s and Kristan Higgin’s keynote speeches, for the second time, on my MP3 drive. I shall remember their words that yes, I am good enough, and writing my stories is not my choice but my true calling. Having said that, I’m working on sending those nine requests and that little sneaky doubting devil in my brain taunts me. You’ll probably be rejected …again. You may not be cut out for this. You may not obtain representation or a book deal. But, I know, with firm conviction that nothing you want that badly is worth giving up. On the drive home, I noticed the orange ribbon labeled “first-timer” which was once affixed to my badge had dropped to the car floorboard. I realized why. I’m no longer a first-timer. I’ll be back to the RWA conference again. And maybe next time with representation or a book deal. Someday maybe I’ll give a keynote speech that inspires other writers to see that giving up for them, too, is not an option. Through RWA, we gain the education, friendship and contacts that make the dream of publication a reality. And, now, it’s time to get back to my writing. Ciao, until we talk again after San Antonio! Celia T. Lucente is a retired CPA and banker.  She is a full-time writer of contemporary women’s fiction and romance. She is currently seeking an agent for representation. As a member of FWA, RWA, RWA Contemporary Romance, RWA WF and several critique groups she enjoys working on her craft by with fellow authors.   

The Romantic Times (RT) Conference, 2012

~ By Angela Kay Austin At what age did you decide (realize) you were meant to write?  It’s always been a part of me in one way or another.  When I finally made the decision to jump off that bridge and submit, I think I didn’t sleep for weeks waiting for responses.  When the rejections came, I just knew they were wrong…how could they not see my genius J It took years, but finally, I did receive that wonderful wonderful yes! Now, feeling like a “legit” author, I thought it’s logical attend a conference.  Participate and sign.  Attend lectures.  It’ll be no big deal.  Right? What on earth was I thinking? I freaking lost my mind at RomanticTimes!  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I think I lost weight…no time for eating or sleeping will do that to you. I don’t know about past events: ratio of cover models to guests, aspiring writers vs. readers, etc.  But, what I do know is that I was able to walk up to people whose books I’ve read for years, and say hi.  Take pictures, and ask questions.  Nalini Singh will never know how amazing I felt when she walked into a Harlequin party and strolled over to me to say hi.  AMAZING! Every lecture I attended made something explode in my brain.  I thought I was the only one to think or feel a certain way about something, but here I was surrounded by others who thought and felt the same way.  They battled the same problems. I can’t wait for next year! [caption id="attachment_2965" align="aligncenter" width="228" caption="Jeanine Frost and me! Love me some Cat and Bones."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_2966" align="aligncenter" width="325" caption="ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Brenda Jackson, and Kimberly Kaye Terry! Brenda Jackson was one of the first romance authors that inspired me to write. I wanted to do what she did!"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_2967" align="aligncenter" width="296" caption="Charlaine Harris’ accent was so adorable. Loved meeting her and sitting in on her panel."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_2968" align="aligncenter" width="319" caption="Anne Rice! That’s all…Anne Rice!"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_2969" align="aligncenter" width="293" caption="Nalini Singh was incredibly friendly and personable! Loved meeting her."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_2970" align="aligncenter" width="313" caption="Meeting these ladies was such a pleasure. They were so willing to share information about how they do what they do. Secrets of research and weaving it into your writing."][/caption]

 I had an absolutely amazing time!  I hope that I’ll get to run into a few of you guys next year.  See you in Kansas City!

After twenty years of practicing marketing: writing copy, designing layouts, developing advertising campaigns, Angela realized each piece of the plans she put together eventually told a story. And, since she was a tween reading her mother’s Reader’s Digest, and every teen magazine she could find she’d dreamt of telling stories. Her first book, Love’s Chance stayed on Red Rose Publishing’s Best Seller list for 10 weeks.  Her second release, My Son, is available from Red Rose Publishing.  And was a best seller at All Romance Ebooks.  New releases:  Sweet Victory and Scarlet’s Tears are available from Vanilla Heart Publishing. Angela has written for the Ezine Rithm ‘n Blues.

This Week In Chick Lit

~ By Melina Kantor Hi Everyone, In honor RWA Nationals in NYC, which start next week, I thought it would be fun to collect sites with conference posts at tips. I'll start the list, and I hope you'll leave a comment and add to it! Here we go: Also, just for fun, here's a nice and inspiring story from the New York Times. (Thanks Chris Bailey!) Have a great weekend, everybody! :-) Melina writes contemporary women’s fiction with a pinch of oregano and a dash of chutzpah. By day, she is an elementary school computer teacher. You can visit her at