I just got home two days ago from attending the Romance Writers of America annual conference which took place this year in Disney World at the beautiful Swan and Dolphin Resort Hotel. I’d been there twice before but the first time I never left the hotel and the second time I had a horrible experience due to my former doctor giving me the wrong blood pressure prescription. This time, I wanted a do-over with seeing some of the parks and being able to actually enjoy the conference. I have to say, I had a wonderful time.
RWA is diverse and packed with writers of all genres and I’ve been a member since 1986. So yes, over thirty years! My first conference was in New Orleans in 1991 and I was pre-published and terrified. But I had a blast and was so amazed that they gave away free books, I spouted that out to a nice woman in the elevator. She promptly gave me another free book–hers! While there, I talked to an editor from Avalon books and finally sold my first book to her in March of 1993. I went on to write three Avalons and two Leisure books and then I found a home with Love Inspired and I’ve been with Harlequin for twenty years this year and written for several other publishers. Being back in Orlando after that first trip where I didn’t even go to Disney World, brought it all back home to me. I signed my first books in Orlando, met with the Love Inspired editors and publishers in Orlando and had a blast dancing at my first Harlequin party where another writer was wearing the same dress as me!
A shot of the Dolphin Hotel where I stayed and had a view of the water and the small private beach.
This year, I met with my editors and agent and attended more business related workshops and a couple of great suspense workshops. But one of the highlights for me was the Approval Junkie workshop by Faith Salie, who is a commentator on both NPR and CBS Sunday Morning. Her book “Approval Junkie’ is described as her “heartfelt and occasionally inappropriate quest to please just about everyone, and ultimately myself.” Her talk centered on some of the tips in the book, such as how writers thrive on approval.
It’s true. We can have fifty good reviews and that one bad one star review sets us back for weeks, right?
But Faith suggests since we live more in our characters minds than our own, we need to give the reader our authentic true voice. Our characters aren’t perfect. They stumble and get up and keep trying. We should do the same. Our characters sometimes try to win love from the wrong person and so do we at times. But Faith says the journey is to find approval of ourselves. She believes editing is a life lesson in navigating approval. The first draft is always bloated but editors have already approved us when they buy our books and readers also approve us when they buy the book. (We hope.) And yet … we still edit ourselves and need to learn to love ourselves so we can love our characters. She said a chef once told her that creativity is a mixture of carefully chosen ingredients that are unique to you. She believes approval of your life is gratitude. Then she said something that resonated with me. “I don’t have to write a bestseller. I just have to write.” During the hands-on workshop (where the talented and adorable Rachel Hauck was my partner) Faith told us the best thing we can do is to become good listeners. Because you can never learn anything while you’re talking. And Lenora says–Isn’t listening how we hear our characters’ voices? Why not try that with real people?
She had a lot more good advice, so I bought the book:
I had a great time at RWA. My husband drove me over (since we live in Florida and it’s close) and came back at the end of the week to fetch me home. I had a big room to myself and had a little mini-Elnora retreat. Got a hug from Robin Lee Hatcher, too! (But didn’t get a selfie!) Here are some pictures of the friends I’ve made through the years.
Danica Favorite and me in the pink lights of the Harlequin party ballroom.
Good friends and fellow writers Julia Justiss and Eve Gaddy at Epcot.
Author and wonderful mentor and friend, Marta Perry. We visited at the party and then had breakfast together the next morning. A late breakfast, of course!
My wonderful dessert at dinner with my editor, Patience Bloom. She insisted I get it!!! So good!
And finally, fireworks and Disney sites. Now I’m home and back at work. But I’m still in awe because sometimes ….. dreams really do come true!