Tuesday, July 5, 2011
The City/Conference That Never Sleeps
One of the major reasons this particular RWA National Conference was different from the seven that came before was not only because I got to visit my publisher's offices for the first time or even because I was a Women's Fiction Mini-Con speaker...but because my husband and son came to The Big Apple with me. Here are the two awesome men in my life standing in the middle of bustling Times Square about an hour after we arrived in NYC.
There was enough visual and auditory stimulation in the heart of Manhattan to throw me into information overload within minutes, but who could resist snapping a photo of a dancing Hershey's Kiss, hmm?!
Our flight touched down at 10am on Sunday morning and, by noon, we were already walking from our hotel toward the Metropolitan Museum of Art. On the way, we saw Radio City Music Hall and a B&N that I vowed I'd return to later...
I hadn't been to the Met since 1996, so this museum was at the very top of my Must-See Sites in NYC list. It was a place I'd fallen in love with on sight back then because of its awe-inspiring collection and sheer massiveness.
I'd been in grad school that year, in the middle of writing my thesis on "Creativity and Culture" and, aside from studying brilliant authors like Jane Austen and musicians like Mozart, I also focused on certain painters, my favorite being Renoir. So, I couldn't wait to see the Met's Impressionists again. Just look at those gorgeous blues!
These instruments were on display, too, and you may not be able to tell from the photo, but they're very small. They were used for instruction and were so fascinating to see in miniature.
After almost four hours of looking at art (and, in my son's case, armor!), we meandered back through Central Park (see those cute little sailboats on the lake) and finally gave in to our son's desire for a cab ride back to the Marriott Marquis.
Monday morning found us visiting Rockefeller Center and going on a tour of the NBC Studios, including the soundstages where David Lettermen and Dr. Oz have their shows, as well as where Saturday Night Live hosts theirs. (We weren't allowed to snap photos in any of these, though!)
We also went up to the top of 30 Rock and got a great glimpse of the Empire State Building from 70 stories high.
Next up, I had a chance to visit Kensington and chat with my lovely publicist (I have a photo of her further down the page at the Lit Signing), as well as a few other very kind staff members, and then I got to trek down to Greenwich Village to the Penguin building to meet my friend, the absolutely wonderful Lydia Hirt (see photo to the right). After two years of emails and phone calls, it was such a pleasure to finally get to talk with her in person!!
Lydia and I visited Washington Square Park and the famous arch that I remembered and loved from one of my all-time favorite films, "When Harry Met Sally..." So cool to see it right in front of us!
Then to dinner at a delicious little Thai place Lydia knew about, complete with mojitos, which were minty and very tasty. Even they couldn't top the wonderful night of conversation, though ;).
The evening sped by and it was Tuesday before I could blink twice. This was a day I had long been anticipating, the RWA-Women's Fiction Chapter's first ever Mini-Conference, and it was FANTASTIC. Organized by Maggie Marr and the RWA-WF board (see Michelle Diener and Therese Walsh in the picture with me to the left), we had a terrific two-hour story structure workshop with Michael Hauge. Following this, literary agents Kristin Nelson, Meg Ruley, Andrea Cirillo and editor Shauna Summers spoke to us about the state of women's fiction in the industry today.
I was fortunate to be included on the author panel after that with Megan Crane, Jane Porter, Therese Walsh and Barbara Samuel O'Neal, which was great fun! And, after a break for the Lit Signing and the annual meeting, Juliet Marillier gave an inspiring talk to our group that ended with a truly delightful cocktail reception. There, I got to meet author Erika Robuck for the first time (see photo on right) and chat a bit longer with RWA-WF chapter president Therese Walsh and fellow GH Bond Sister/Kensy author Kristina McMorris. I also finally met Karen Doornebos, Jael McHenry , Ellen Meister and lots of sweet and enthusiastic writers of women's fiction. What an exceptionally well run event!
At the annual Readers for Life Literacy Autographing, I signed copies of Friday Mornings at Nine and gave away According to Jane postcards, excerpts from On Any Given Sundae and excerpts and special luggage tags for A Summer in Europe. It was pretty busy once I got to my seat, but before the big crowd came in, I had a chance to make a couple of quick stops and wave to a few friends.
Fabulous ladies Angi Morgan and Laura Moore were signing side by side.
Chicago-North chaptermates Sarah Shulman and Blythe Gifford look so cute in this photo amidst all of the conference chaos!
I managed to get a quick shot with my good friend Simone Elkeles, who was a RITA finalist this year -- her 3rd time! Who wouldn't love to get one of those cool blue flags?!
Seekerville sweetheart, longtime online friend and Love Inspired author Tina Radcliffe stopped by and I was thrilled to finally get to meet her in person!
Kensington's awesome publicists, Vida Engstrand and Karen Auerbach, paid me a visit and gave me chocolate (for energy, I'm sure!) before they dashed off to share goodies with the other authors.
My son surprised me by popping into the signing (along with my husband) and insisting on helping me get the book excerpts and luggage tags in the hands of passersby. What was originally supposed to be a five-minute visit to say hello turned into three-quarters of an hour as I watched my extraverted son display his sales skills and tap into his inner Vanna White as he showed off my cover flats. Every author should be so lucky to have such an advocate ;).
After Steve Berry, Diana Gabaldon and Tess Gerritsen brightened our Wednesday morning with their humorous opening session panel, we had an impromptu Chicago-North gathering near the stage. (Pictured left to right: Cici Edward, Nkeiruka Mbah, Pamala Knight, me, Clara Kensie, Karen Dale Harris and Erika Danou)
Wednesday night brought two exciting parties -- the first was the Kensington party held at the office building. Between the gift bags (with books and treats!), roses for all, the chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick (how did I miss taking a picture of those?!), the fun conversation with authors and staff, and the VERY attractive men serving us things like macaroni-n-cheese truffles (so good it actually rivaled the cheesecake...), the evening was off to a great start.
I got to see Vida Engstrand there (see left), who was majorly involved in organizing the event. And I walked over to it with a group of really lovely ladies, including Addison Scott, Jackie Ivie, Kristina McMorris, Mingmei Yip and Kate Douglas (pictured with me above).
Kate, Kristina and I headed over to the Algonquin Hotel after that for the PASIC party -- and round two of delicious drinks and desserts, along with some good conversation and a chance to catch up with a few people I'd seen just in passing. I enjoyed chatting with editor Peter Senftleben, Barbara Vey from Publishers Weekly (she and I kept running into each other everywhere!) and Stephanie Klose from Romantic Times, whom I'd loved working with back when I was an RT reviewer. It was a fun but very late night!
Thursday morning came and I was starting to get a little bleary-eyed from all the activity. There weren't many occasions for breaks, but when I had a half hour here or there, I visited with my peeps, including good friends Karen Dale Harris, Laura Moore and Erika Danou. (We went out on the town for a Chinese dinner one night that was just scrumptious!)
My Magical Musings pals had a Thursday breakfast together, and it was wonderful! I so enjoyed getting to chat a bit more with Michelle Diener, who'd flown in from Australia (!!) and to finally meet in person Amy Atwell and Liz Kreger (all pictured left). I found myself wishing our whole MM gang could be together that morning, though... Edie Ramer, Misty Evans, Cynthia Eden, Karin Tabke Harlow, Lori Brighton, Dale Mayer and Maria Geraci -- we missed you all!
Thursday afternoon was our Spencerhill Associates agency party and a chance to meet some very warm and funny authors. On Friday, I got to listen to an inspiring PAN workshop (given by Jenny Crusie) with two fabulous women and talented YA writers, Jennifer Echols and Maureen McGowan. So glad to get to talk with them again! (They're pictured with me on the right. They look great. I look ready for a nap. ;)
That night was the long-awaited Golden Heart and RITA Awards Ceremony, and our Chicago-North friend Ruth Kaufman was up for a GH in the Inspirational Romance category...and she won!! We couldn't have been more excited for her! (Pictured on left: me, Karen Dale Harris, Ruth Kaufman, Erika Danou, Laura Moore and Beverly Long)
Also at the ceremony were literary agent Kristin Nelson and her assistant Anita Mumm, who both looked gorgeous!
Karen, Erika and I also caught up with Michael Hauge following the ceremony and had fun getting in a few last questions on novel structure before we ladies headed up to The View restaurant and bar at the top of the hotel.
Upstairs, we met up with our friends, two of the young adult RITA nominees of the night, Heather Davis and Simone Elkeles. (Pictured to the right: Heather, Simone, Karen, Heather's agent Stephen Barbara and her editor Julie Tibbott)
The four of us -- after midnight -- ambled downstairs to say goodnight and wish each other safe travels for our separate journeys home.
On our last morning (Saturday), my husband, son and I went to that B&N I'd wanted to visit on Fifth Avenue, I found my latest novel there and I got to sign stock in Manhattan before flying to Chicago. Whew!! It was a really incredible (enjoyable, exciting, exhausting...) trip and I am -- I'll admit -- glad to be back home, if only so I can finally get some sleep!!
And so ends another RWA National Conference...until next year in Anaheim...where I'm hoping I might see some of you whom I didn't get to hug in person this year. Hope you all had a wonderful week, too ;).