Conference Report: National Nerves

Last week I went to the Romance Writers of America’s national conference in Washington, D.C.


 Ordinarily, I only attend when the event is in New York City since getting there from New Jersey requires no white-knuckled, gut-twisting flight on an airplane (one of those metal tubes hurtling through thin air 30,000 feet above the safe, solid ground). However, there’s a wonderful invention called the Acela train which sweeps you smoothly–with tons of leg room and a plug for your laptop–between Newark, NJ, (no security check required—just waltz onto the platform fifteen minutes before boarding time) and the nation’s capitol. And I have friends and relatives in D.C. so the trip offered several temptations beyond the conference itself.

There was one more variable in my decision: presenting a workshop. I have given workshops for several regional writers’ groups and they’ve always gone pretty well so I thought maybe I was ready for the big time. I would submit a workshop proposal to RWA. If it was accepted, I would go to Washington; if it wasn’t, I would stay home. It was my own weird version of a coin toss.

 I chose my most esoteric workshop topic because I figured no one else would be submitting a competing one: How Do I Love Thee: Using the Techniques of Poetry to Strengthen your Prose. Not a lot of folks spent three years in college writing poetry and then metamorphosed into a romance writer (although more than you’d think, as I discovered at my presentation). Since I’ve given the workshop before, I already had handouts and a short description of the workshop. I uploaded the info and forgot all about it.

 Until I got an email from RWA, saying my proposal had been accepted and I would be presenting it at 4:30 on Thursday, July 16th.

 Excited, I made my reservation on the Acela, called my relatives and friends to set up dinner dates, and then it hit me: I had to stand up and speak in front of a room full of writers at all levels of experience from all over the world. Even worse, it would be recorded so writers at all levels of experience from all over the world could download and listen to it, long after the conference was over. My West Virginia twang, my ums and ahs, the deafening silences when I asked the audience to participate would all be preserved for posterity.


 Long story short: I survived the workshop, thanks to my wonderful moderator Roni Denholtz who kept me calm and to a truly terrific audience who participated with talent and enthusiasm. I would even go so far as to say it went pretty well. The best part: it was OVER and I could enjoy the rest of the conference without losing any more sleep.


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