Rookie Experience RWA18

Romance writers are, of course, romance readers. When I was younger, I read a lot of romance novels, but I also read (still do) a lot of other genres. A couple of years ago, I was browsing Kindle books on Amazon. And I found this book called Everywhere and Every Way by a writer I had never heard of. So, I downloaded it and LOVED it and started both my venture back into Romancelandia and my quest to read all of that author’s backlist.

I have since read many of Jennifer Probst’s books. I’ve read a lot of indie romance books. I found authors like Jill Shalvis and Brenda Novak. I gobbled up books by Kristan Higgins, specifically her Blue Heron series (and not just because we are wine enthusiasts and the series is set in a winery). I try to walk the fine line of fan girling my favorite authors and stalking them…so I do occasionally email them to comment on a book that really touched me. One of these authors has responded to my emails on more than one occasion. In fact, last summer, I finished a book and emailed the author to say I loved it. It was this time of year, right before the big annual RWA (Romance Writers of America) conference. She thanked me for my note and asked if she would see me at RWA.

Um. I had to say no. I had to say NO! Because we had just come home from our family vacation. And because I wasn’t a member of RWA and had no plans to join the RWA. But…I started thinking…up to that point, I had written mostly women’s fiction novels, and I read other genres more often than romance. But, I published Wedding Day Shenanigans last summer, and it’s a romance. By that time, I was well into writing Holiday Fling, another romance, and I had thoughts for The Kiss Off distracting me. Maybe joining the RWA would be a good career move, right? And besides, maybe…MAYBE if I joined the RWA and attended the annual conference this summer, I could meet some of these authors, including Jennifer Probst. So…yes…I joined the RWA last July with the hope of meeting Jennifer Probst this July.

Celebrating my MIL’s birthday.

I got home yesterday from an 11 or 12 day (I’ve lost count) vacation. Yep, the four of us piled into the Durango and headed to Arizona to spend my mother-in-law’s birthday with her. The first best thing of the vacation? We surprised her. We pulled off the impossible, because she figures out everything we try to plan as a surprise. After a weekend at a resort with the family, we moved our party to my sister-in-law’s house and stayed there a couple of days. And then, the four of us climbed into the Durango again, buckled up, and headed to Denver, Colorado for the annual RWA conference.

I didn’t get to meet Jennifer Probst, though she was also in Denver at another incredible (I’m sure) book event. But. I loved every minute of my time at the RWA conference. First of all, let me remind you, writing is a lonely gig. Yes, I love it. I love what I do. But it’s a solitary career. I LOVE being home (mostly alone with my pupper and my kids peeking into the office now and then to talk) and working to bring my characters to life so I can torture them before I let them be happy. But being a writer is kind of intrinsically lonely, too. I live two lives. I live here with my family, and my kids are big readers, so they do get it. They understand that sometimes staying in and reading is preferable to a night out with friends. They understand a book hangover. They get the crazy need to have your favorite author’s newest book as soon as it’s available. But I’m not sure they always get that while I’m right there in the kitchen or on the deck with them, I’m also a million miles away, plotting what’s next in the WIP.

Other writers get that. So imagine, being surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of writers who are also readers. It’s an indescribable feeling.

Kristan Higgins.

I was at a general business meeting when I looked up and saw someone walking toward a microphone to speak and realized it was Kristan Higgins. I was floored! I was in the same room with Kristan Higgins. I met her the next morning, and she was delightful. Nice. Kristan Higgins—an author who made me laugh out loud and cry in three different airports on one trip last winter—is a really nice, friendly person. After she won the RITA for Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance, I got a picture with her. I’m sure she was exhausted after the awards ceremony and the after party (which, by the way, was a blast) and talking to everyone and getting pictures with everyone who asked. But she stopped when I called her name, and we got a picture, and she asked if I was having a good conference. She urged me to come to her workshop the following day. (I did. Can’t wait to put her advice to use!) And as I was leaving the hotel on Saturday to meet the family and head to the next leg of our vacation, I bumped into her again. And we stood for a few minutes and talked.

I’m a book nerd, through and through. I own it. I have loved books since I was a little girl when my dad started taking me to the library. I watch TV, I go to movies, but if I have a choice, I would rather read. I’m not sure I can put into words how incredible the whole experience was, but also how much it meant to me to have a few very short, sweet conversations with Kristan Higgins. Her next book comes out the day after my birthday, and I’ll be all over it, trust me.

A couple of my new friends (and my daughter).

The workshops were good. I came home with a lot of good ideas, good suggestions, and great advice. I also came home with some big decisions in my head and heart, and I have discussed those with my family. And I came home with some new friends. Writer friends are very special. They’re people who understand your need to read and write. People that get that you have words, stories inside that are burning a hole in your heart and need to be told. They are your support, just as you are their support. I reconnected with a writer friend I met two years ago at a Minnesota conference. I met a friend from Instagram. I met that friend’s friend. I made a new friend from Wyoming. I came home far richer in friendships, and I am so thankful I got to meet and hang out with these wonderful ladies.

I didn’t meet Jennifer Probst. That still bums me out, but one day, I will. In the meantime, I will continue to read everything she writes and recommend every book she writes to my friends and readers. I’m sure she doesn’t remember the email; I won’t forget it. But I feel like I owe her a thank you for putting this idea in my head. I might not have joined the RWA if she hadn’t asked me about the conference in July 2017. And after just one conference, I understand the importance of being a part of a group of writers working together as the RWA does, and I feel like I’ve made some lifelong friends.