Monday, February 4, 2008

A Memorable Conference

I enjoy going to conferences. There's so much energy at a conference, so many hopefuls queueing up for the agent and editor appointments. I was that person once.

One particular conference stands out above all others, that of RWA National in NYC in 2002. Two writer friends and I arranged for the trip, driving up to my brother-in-law's house in Princeton and taking the train into the city. We thought we were so cool.

The reality was probably more like the Clampetts from the Beverly Hillbillies come to town. We gawked at everything. Our shared room was way up, like 30-somethingth floor. The conference passed in a blur of learning, crowds, and appointments.

Two highlights stand out. One was a chance sit-down with a multi-pubbed harlequin/silhouette author in a break room. One friend and I were bemoaning how long we'd been writing and couldn't get a contract. The author, a woman we'd never met before, took a deep breath. she said, "You want to know why you're not getting contracts?" Gosh we perked up real fast. This woman had the Keys to the Kingdom! Of course we said yes. She said it was because we weren't good enough yet. She hastened to add that by coming to the confernce and continuing to write our odds would improve, but I only heard that first sentence.

That thought kept running round and round in my head the whole conference. My friend Marilyn didn't seem to disturbed by it, but I was somewhat stunned. Needless to say, I knuckled down when I got home and wrote more. That woman was right. It was a long time until I sold a book. But I wanted it bad enough to keep improving.

Still it was hard to hear, but I listened.

On another note, the third friend on this trip was on a different time schedule than Marilyn and I. She went to sleep sooner and got up earlier because she had this hour long hair drying ritual. Between the noisy room and the long hours, we were exhausted by the last day. This other friend got us up and we plodded down to checkout and grab breakfast before hopping on the train. Turned out she'd gotten the time wrong and we had to wait an hour for the restaurant to open. Then, because we were so exhausted, we stopped in the shade before the terminal in NJ and missed our ride.

We made it home, and we're all still friends today. And everyone of us got published. Woo-hoo!

Maggie Toussaint
No Second Chance out now in ebook; in print 2/29

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