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 ;).


Edie Ramer said...

What a fun blog, and thanks for all the great photos. I wish I'd been there with you and the others. I'm glad you had such a wonderful time. How much more fun to share it with your husband and son.

Blythe Gifford said...

You were a camera maven! I'm at the mercy of strangers (or friends) for pictures! Amazing conference!

Anonymous said...

What a fabulous roundup. Thanks so much for the photoblog. It was a great week and such a pleasure to meet you.

Marilyn Brant said...

Edie, I wish you'd been with us, too... Then again, even if you didn't write as much as you'd intended last week, you still got a lot more work done than I did! And, yes, spending time with the guys (and having them get to see what RWA was all about) was really cool ;).

Blythe, it was awesome, wasn't it?! I took over a hundred photos and all but 2 on this post, but I don't get to take credit for the one of you and Sarah. That one came from her camera! It was such a cute one of the two of you that I wanted everyone here to see it as well!!

Erika, it was wonderful getting to meet you at the WF party, and I can't wait to get to read Hemmingway's Girl when it comes out!! Hope to see you again soon :).

Kate Douglas said...

What a great blog, Marilyn, and so fantastic to finally meet you in person. (You will ALWAYS be tall to me!:-) It sounds like you definitely made the most of your trip--I'm jealous of all you got to do OUTSIDE of the conference! I stayed close to the hotel most of the time, but it was a great experience and I wouldn't trade that week for a thing. Have to admit, though, I'm still exhausted and have yet to get through all the email.

To answer one question--the reason you didn't get a photo of that cheesecake on a stick is probably because we gobbled them down to fast!

Liz Kreger said...

Great blog, Marilyn. I might have to snatch copies of a couple of those photos for my private photobook.

Marilyn Brant said...

Kate, truly, I just *adore* you for imagining me tall, LOL! Your having told me that was one of my funniest conference moments -- thank you! And I know you're right about the chocolate-cheesecake sticks. They were not sitting on those platters for long ;).

Liz, you're most welcome to snatch whichever photos you'd like. And if you want a larger jpeg of any of them, just let me know!

Kate Sterling said...

I love it that your husband and son went with you, and that your son was so supportive! And the purple dresses were great, too. :)

The photos look like so much fun, that I'm going to make it a goal to finally attend a conference one of these years. :)

Susan McBride said...

Fantastic pics, Marilyn! Thanks for sharing your trip highlights. I felt like I was there (ah, the Met! I heart Impressionists, too!). What fun! Jeff and Andrew look so cute! And you look your adorable self, as always! :-)

Caryn Caldwell said...

Oh, Marilyn, that sounds like so much fun! I read every word with a mix of interest and outright envy. Thanks for including all those pictures, too. They really brought it to life. So did you learn anything you want to pass on? Might make a great blog entry... ;-)

By the way, I LOVE that your son and husband went with you, and that your son not only got to fulfill his dream of riding in a NYC taxi (how neat!) but that he also helped you with publicity. He sounds wonderful!

Rosemary said...

It was wonderful to meet you in person! (Deep into According to Jane and having great fun, by the way.)

Marilyn Brant said...

LOL, Kate! You noticed the purple dresses!! You're the first person to comment on them. They were my subtle way of "blending" with my Friday Mornings book cover ;).

Aw, Susan, thank you!! The guys were just wonderful -- not only good to me, but kind to each other, too. They were able to look at antique weapons and play chess in the park and do all sorts of things I wouldn't have been as quick to join in on. I loved hearing about their adventures at the end of the day!

Caryn, thanks so much. And, yes, I'm definitely going to blog about something I learned at the conference (most likely this Friday on Magical Musings :). I just need to be able to think a few clear thoughts first and that may take a day or two!!

Rosemary, I'm so pleased to have gotten to meet you, too! You were so warm and welcoming on our WF day -- thank you! I'm delighted to hear you're enjoying JANE -- yay :).

Laura Moore said...

Hi Marilyn,

How in the world did you manage to get all those pictures up and provide commentary for each snapshot?! You're amazing, as always!

Loved seeing you at RWA Nationals!


Robin said...

This was an awesome post, Marilyn! Thanks so much for bringing us wonderful glimpses into the conference and New York. It looks and sounds like you had a fantastic time, and I cannot wait to see you next year in Anaheim!

Anonymous said...

Seriously...you got some great photos young lady!!

And you are cuter than cute btw.

You're pictures do not do you justice!!!

Marilyn Brant said...

Laura, so glad you liked the photos and thank you (!!) for the time spent together in NYC. I miss seeing you...

Robin, I wish I could have seen your smiling face at the conference this year! I loved being able to chat with you last year in Orlando, even if it was in the middle of a noisy lunch!!

Tina, you are very sweet to think of me as cute ;). I think that only shows your kind nature. In my next life, I wanna be photogenic and have at least ONE good hair day per week!!

vida engstrand said...

This is the best RWA recap ever, Marilyn! You've got some awesome photos here, even if we can't revisit those ridiculously delicious chocolate cheesecake lollipop lovelies. I just can't believe how much you packed into the week. You did more New Yorkey things in those few days than I do all year!

Marilyn Brant said...

Vida, meeting you was such a highlight for me last week! And, if I *had* all year to see New Yorkey things, I would *definitely* have slowed down, LOL. After this trip, I know I can't let 8 years go by again before coming back... It's an amazing city ;).

Maria Geraci said...

I should be in those pictures:) I'm so sad I missed the conference, but you did a great job recapping! Love all the pics!

Marilyn Brant said...

Maria, you SHOULD be in those pics, you're right! But, at least I got to see you last year and, fingers crossed, we'll both get to go to Anaheim next summer... Hugs to you ;).

Tonya Kappes said...

It looks like you had soooo much fun! Isn't NYC great?? We went for the Thanksgiving Day parade and the week. It was truly magical for my children to see. I loved that you got to sit on a panel with my dear friend Jane Porter! She had the prettiest dresses in NY~didn't she?! Plus having your son and DH there was a great bonus! Cheers!

Marilyn Brant said...

Tonya, I wish I would have had a chance to talk with Jane for longer! I'm a fan of her writing (LOVED Flirting with Forty!!) and really enjoyed hearing her comments on the panel ;).

Pamala Knight said...

You are a wonder! I can barely get through the unpacking and laundry after nationals, but here you've rendered a blog post that recounts the experience in great detail. Thanks for sharing and as always, it was fun seeing you there.

Marilyn Brant said...

Pamala, it was fun seeing you, too, though it wasn't for nearly long enough! I was so excited to hear your request news at the lunch that day!!! You know I have my fingers crossed for you...xo