Follow Janet On Twitter!





Archive for August, 2008

Fun At the RWA Conference

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

So I just went to a Romance Writer’s of America conference. Lots of estrogen, breath mints and unmet need. And that was just me. But I would guess that 70% of the people there fit my category. Still, it was amazing amounts of fun. The main reason I attend the event is that I get to be around 2200 other romance writers: my sisters, my compatriots, my fellow lunatics.

You’d have to be a lunatic to do what we do. Most of us toil and sweat and swear for countless hours on a manuscript. Then we bravely show it to our critique partners who dissect it down to the syllable and make us believe we have created The Next Big Hit. Then we rewrite it to death. After much wringing of hands, we send it off into the world where editors and agents respond to our greatest hope, our greatest desire, our unbound passion, normally with a form letter: Dear Author, It was great meeting you at the RWA National Conference. I apologize for this form letter, but you can’t believe how much of this crap I have to sift through daily. You people freakin’ inundate me with this junk and I simply can’t respond to every goddamned one of you. Like what do you expect? I’d have to give up my family, my vacations and every spare moment of my life to respond to every query letter I get. I get five hundred submissions a week. This is an insane amount of paperwork. Not only that, most of your ideas aren’t worth my time. Most are either trite, bizarre, nonsensical, just plain bad or incoherent. Sometimes downright disturbing. So, I’m sorry but I could no more sell your work than I could sell a meat pie to a vegetarian. But thanks for thinking of me and please, never give up the dream.

And yet we feel compelled to move forward. An unknown force drives us. I believe it is misguided optimism. Or a terrible addiction, more like. I jones for my stories, to get lost in my other world like a heroin addict craves for the next fix. Worse I think. Because I’m more coherent when I’m getting my fix. More awake when I’m indulging my favorite drug. The power of creation is heady stuff. More fun than anything. Which is bad when the book is finally done. Saying good-bye to people you’ve spent more time with than your own husband is hard. Which brings me to my next point.

Writing is a form of insanity. You can’t call leaping from one reality to the next sane behavior. It splits you. You are your writing self, your mind completely dedicated to solving a problem like: How do I get my heroine in bed with the villain without making her seem brainless or immoral? I need the villain to attempt to make love to her, but the hero saves her at the very last minute. With a twist so it’s not trite. Making it funny is a bonus. But not too funny so the punch isn’t there. Something really original. Be clever! You allow yourself to journey there in your mind: you can see your created world, smell it and touch it. You try to quickly write down what you see. A millisecond later it’s dinnertime and we switch to our normal where’s-my-beer selves. What’s on the tube? Did we pay the taxes? Who ate the leftover beef, now I don’t have dinner. Very jarring, transporting back and forth. Most of the time, I can’t leave my created world. I cook, I clean, but in my head I’m running down some alley, a van stops in front of me, three dark, scary-looking guys dressed in black with scars and three-day-beards leap out and grab me and oh, goddamn it, I just burned the sauce.

Wait… how did I get on a diatribe about writing? Where was I? Oh, yes, the conference.

So I’m at the RWA conference. There’s the main organization, then chapters within the group. Some are regional, like most people belong to a local chapter, then there are the national chapters for various genres within romance. The ones I belong to are the Kiss of Death (KOD) for the romantic suspense authors and Passionate Ink for erotica writers. Mainly I joined those two chapters because they have great parties. KOD has a Death by Chocolate party where they give out their Daphne Du Maurier awards. Passionate Ink has their awards party (Sex by the Bay was this years theme), but it’s the raffle prizes and door prizes that kick ass with Passionate Ink. Plus they are some FUN people. Always know how to have a good time.

So this year the Passionate Ink Party preceded the Death By Chocolate Party. I went to the Passionate Ink Party at five. As I enter the room, one of the organizers points to a table in the back, “Make sure you get your goody bag—it’s got a silver bullet in it!” Yes, this year’s door prize was a vibrator. (I told you these people were fun.)

The night I got the vibrator was also the night I won a huge raffle basket at the Death By Chocolate Party (And my friends Ann and Linda won an award!) So I’m going up in the elevator with my huge basket and there are about five people in the elevator, mostly men in their mid-sixties, plus I think one woman. I don’t remember. I’d had a few. So a guy comments on the raffle prize and I tell him that I just won it at this RWA party. He asks about our conference (kinda hard to miss 2200 women in a hotel). I explain about the different chapters and mention the erotica chapter. One guy really liked this idea. So as the elevator stops and I walk out, I enthusiastically relate the information about the door prize. “No, really, a real vibrator! It was so awesome!”  I looked over my shoulder and five frozen, slightly horrified faces gaped back at me. Then the elevator doors closed on my audience, wiping away the montage of shocked expressions like a movie fade in a 50’s horror film. I couldn’t tell whether it was the information about the vibrators as door prizes or the enthusiasm with which I delivered the information that shocked them the most.

So the vibrator was the highlight of the swag I got at the conference. Coming in a close second was the five boxes of books. Yes, five. Full. Boxes. Of. Books. This year, I was a book whore. The big publishers sponsor book signings at the conference. The first year I went to a RWA conference, I avoided the first three book signings because I couldn’t afford to buy any more books. Then someone finally gave me the unbelievable news that the books were FREE. Your favorite authors signed their books and GAVE THEM to conference attendees FOR FREE. After that, I went at the free books like a mad woman, giggling uncontrollably while grabbing armloads of books. Well, until I remembered that I was in Atlanta and California was a long way away. That’s the trip I learned about overweight charges on luggage. I learned that paying the fee is actually a lesser cost overall than the damage one does to one’s back and shoulder when one carries sixty pounds of books in one’s carry-on backpack to avoid the aforementioned charges. A-hem.

The other highlights aside from the vibrator and books: Christina Dodd’s room was close to mine, we rode up in the elevator a couple times together. On the last trip, she pointed to me and said: “This is my favorite person at the conference!” I was floored. This woman is a freakin’ goddess-writer person and I am… well, me. Of course, I chat with everyone I meet because these people are my sisters and even if they’re famous-type people, we do the exact same job, they just get paid more than I do (at the moment). Still, it was flattering and went straight to my head.

Then I was at our Silicon Valley’s chapter’s workshop called Speed Dating With Agents and Editors, when a woman sat next to me and started asking me questions. Turns out she was with the FREAKIN’ SF CHRONICLE! Too cool. She interviewed me for about ten minutes and got all sorts of info about my work and website. Of course, I haven’t seen a story come out yet, the Chronicle probably nixed the story. Not sure how cool or important romance writers are to the capital of the Left Coast. At least the interview impressed my chapter buddies.

The only slightly bad news came from one of the most important reasons I attended the conference: to get face time with an agent and an editor. Attendees sign up online before the conference during this five-minute period where 2000 women are all trying to get appointments at the same time which normally crashes the RWA server. Somehow I managed to navigate the system and picked the editor from the house I thought most compatible with what I write and a hot New York agent.

I met with the editor first. I already had two packets for the same story, Tastes Like Chicken (a sci-fi romance), on his desk. He remembered the story and told me what was wrong with it and why he wasn’t going to buy it. But he liked my humor. He asked what else I had and I pitched a new series I’m doing: twisted fairy tales with no magic, just the main story arc (Cinderolda, Beauty and Mr. B. East and some variation of Sleeping Beauty). He liked the idea and wanted to see three chapters of Cinderolda and a synopsis.

Which overall was still good, he didn’t totally hate my work, but I was still bummed. I’ve already had many rejections on Chicken and I really think it could be The Next Big Thing.

So with this rejection in my mind, I now had to be super positive about the work because next I had to pitch it to the hot New York agent. This woman gets her authors such good deals and she’s so caring, all her clients rave about her. When we met, we hit it off, but it quickly became clear to her that my stuff was too fringey for her. I was bummed, but she could not have been more complimentary, nor more helpful. A tremendous person. She just doesn’t handle my flavor of work, she doesn’t represent “weird”.

So be it. Now I will sit down and finish Cinderolda and send the man his chapters. I can feel my delusional optimism returning. I am even more convinced that this next book will be My Big Breakout Book.

And if not, I still have my new vibrator.

©2008, Janet Periat

Site maintained by Laideebug Digital
Laideebug Digital