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. 


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