Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Ruminations On RWA Nationals

I recently returned from the 2014 RWA Conference, and, after unpacking and trying to get back into my routine, I took some time to reflect on what my experiences were like. This was my third RWA conference, and each time, my choice of sessions, and what I considered important changed, as my career has progressed. During my first conference, I was in awe of the talented ladies who were in attendance. After all, I had entire bookshelves devoted to Nora Roberts, Jayne Anne Krentz, Eloisa James and Julia Quinn, among others. And here I was, in the same hotel, in the same room, breathing the same air as they were! I went to every chat session with these powerful women, and came away thinking what a fun bunch of people I’d landed into. I went home inspired.

By the time my second conference rolled around, I had a publisher and a debut book under my belt. This time, I had joined the ranks of author, just like those women I so admired during my first conference. I forged lasting relationships with some of the ladies from my publishing house, and began networking, which is so vital to being a successful author. I went home inspired.

This time, I had multiple publishers to meet and spend time with, and my days were carved up meeting my obligations from special interest chapters, publisher dinners, and meeting up with friends and fellow authors. I’m not quite ready yet for the Jumbotron, but I’m getting there. I came home inspired. Each year gave me a different experience, and each year I could tailor the conference to fulfill the goals I had as I moved my career along toward publication and developing my backlist. Which is the moral to my ruminations. It doesn’t matter where you are in your publishing journey, or what route you end up taking to get there, the RWA Conference will have some session, or some author, or some other industry professional who will meet your needs and answer your questions. Next year, the conference is in New York City, and it will be expensive. Start saving your pennies now so you can attend. You will come home inspired.

The sixth book in my Cotillion Ball Series will be released September 1. Here’s a taste of what to expect, as Rosemary Fitzpatrick takes center stage this time. roses2 In 1859, ladies of New York society were expected to do three things well: find a husband, organize a smooth-running household, and have children. Rosemary Fitzpatrick’s agenda is very different. As the author of the popular Harry Hawk dime novels, she must hide her true identity from her new publisher, who assumes the person behind the F. P. Elliott pen name is male. She must pose as his secretary in order to ensure the continuation of her series. And in the midst of all this subterfuge, her mother is insisting that she become a debutante this year.

Henry Cooper is not the typical Boston Brahmin. Nor is he a typical publisher. He’s entranced by Mr. Elliott’s secretary the moment they meet, and wonders how his traditional-thinking father will react when he brings a working class woman into the family. Because his intentions are to marry her, regardless. Rosemary’s deception begins to unravel at the Cotillion ball, when Henry recognizes her. The secretarial mask must come off, now that he knows she is a member of New York society. But she can’t yet confess who she truly is until she knows if Henry will accept her as F. P. Elliott.

The more time they spend together, the closer they become. But when Rosemary reveals her true identity to him, will Henry be able to forgive her or has her deceit cost her the man she loves?

For more information, visit Becky Lower’s website at http://www.beckylowerauthor.com

Writer’s Conferences

Later this month is the Romance Writers of America’s National Conference in New York. And while I have to miss this conference I will be going to the Historical Novel Society Conference this month. If you are a writer you should make an effort to go to a conference.

If you can’t make it to the national conference takes advantage of a local conference. A conference is a place to meet editors and agents and to network with other writers. It can be exciting, fun, worrying and exhausting and a darn good time all at once.

Here are some pointers I’ve picked up from attending local and national conference through the years.

Plan ahead. Look at the conference schedule, and see which workshops will be of interest. It never fails that there will be a time when you want to be in two places at once. Perhaps you can arrange beforehand go to one and a friend can go to another and then share notes. If you have a ms. ready, sign up for an editor and/or agent appointment. Be sure to read all the conference info and sign up with someone who’s looking for the genre or subgenre you write. Can you relate your work to other works they represent or published? How is your work in the same vein or is it different?

Dress professional. Just because writers can work in their sweats, doesn’t mean you should wear them to the conference. The editors and agents dress professional, and so should you. The conference is essentially a business meeting that last several days. At large conferences, you may end up doing a lot of walking going from workshop to workshop, so comfortable shoes are something to consider.

One of the benefits of conference is to get to know other people. Take advantage of this, especially at meal times. Sit with people you don’t know (that why we all wear name tags!). At the RWA National conference, there are 2000 (mostly) women flowing into huge room filled with tables. I’ve seen people try and save seats for their friends, who never show up as they are sitting somewhere else. Met up with one or two friends and go in together, and take a seat. I’ve had lunch with big name authors, editors and agents buy just going in and intentionally not sitting with someone I already knew. Mingle!!!

If you’re not sure about a workshop, sit in the back so you can slip out without bothering others if you decide that workshop is not for you. Workshop presenters are used to people slipping out the back to go to editor or agent appointments, or just because.

If you get an editor/agent appointment – celebrate. And relax. Some editors/agents are just a nervous as you are. Just smile, shake hands and introduce yourself. Give the pitch (the one you’ve been working on). This can be as simple as the one sentence or log line or the high concept. Mention any previous works, awards, etc. and a smidge about your background — at the Historical Novel conference, I’ll be sure to mention my MA in History and that I used to teach. Make sure you leave time for the agent/editor to ask questions about your story. Be prepared if they say they are not interested in that particular story, but ask ‘what else do you have?’

At the end, if the editor/agent asks for the story, note do they want a proposal, or the whole ms? How do they want it? Usually today it’s electronic, so get the complete email address. If you have a card, give one to the editor/agent and say ‘thank you’. Leave on time.

If you’ve gone to conferences, what other hints or recommendations would you give to other writers?

Right now I’m off to work on my pitches.