Monday, August 04, 2008

20 Things I learned at the RWA National Conference in San Francisco

1) Continental Airlines has squished seating, but excellent customer service. Three cheers for an airline with check-in personnel, flight attendants, and gate agents with manners, who actually seem happy to treat their customers with kindness. Signing up for a Continental OnePass account TODAY. Take that, Northworst!

2) 12:30 am on Saturday does not mean half an hour after midnight on Saturday, but half an hour after midnight on Friday. I generally know this, but apparently some neurons were misfiring when I made my reservation. Heaps of gratitude to the excellent Continental customer service agent who was able to put me on the exact same flight at 12:30 am on Sunday that I missed by not arriving at the airport at 12:30 am on Saturday. And an extra thank you to her for not pointing and laughing at me for being such a bonehead in the first place--at least, not while I was standing in front of her trying to prevent my head from exploding.

3) Just because someone has a low-key, Sally Kellerman-esque voice and is enviably skinny does not mean she cannot inspire. I was ready to sneak out of the PAN retreat because feeling chubby and squeaky-voiced in comparison was hardly my idea of inspiration, when Gail Blanke figuratively knocked me off my feet with a great speech that made me want to dive for my laptop and start writing. I've already ordered a copy of Between Trapezes....

4) If you plagiarize Nora, she will, and I quote, "go after you with a hammer while you sleep."

5) Nora Roberts actually gets asked by booksellers if she was the one who plagiarized Janet Dailey. Which sucks on so many levels. (For the record, it was totally and repeatedly Janet Dailey who plagiarized Nora.)

6) Harlequin as a whole is actually up 13% in profits for the year! Go, Harlequin!

7) Intrigue is doing incredibly well in sales. Go, Intrigue!

8) My editor does not hate me for taking a much-needed 7-month hiatus, and my agent is "pleased" that I still exist. Three cheers for Tracy, the Queen of Schmooze!

9) The elegant Francis Ray started a foundation to help abused women--with her own money. I got to meet her, which was a privilege.

10) I should not be on workshop panels sandwiched between two editors. I think I lost my mind from nervousness.... If you listen to the MP3, just fast-forward through any parts where a squeaky, non-Sally-Kellerman-voiced Latina starts talking. I don't remember a thing I said, which is never good....

11) Attendance at the multicultural PAN panels was kinda dismal. Seriously, people (of color), if you have been feeling like RWA doesn't notice your concerns, show up when they DO notice you and put together a workshop or PAN panel to address said concerns. The disappointed coordinators said that they had been told that "if they built it, people would come." People did not come, and if they continue to not come, no one's going to be building much at all. Which would be sad.

12) My usual limit of 2-3 glasses of wine, which has served me well in the past, does not work when I'm running on little sleep and much caffeine. Three small glasses of wine at the Harlequin party, and I was practically wearing a lampshade on my head. My apologies to everyone I talked to, hugged, danced spastically beside, or "love you, man!-ed." And a big thank you to Cathy Yardley for steering me back to the hotel, so I didn't wander around the city at night and try to commune with the other, perhaps less genial street drunks. Next year, I'm totally cutting myself off at one. God.

13) It is evil of Harlequin to put full bowls of Hershey kisses AND platters of cupcakes AND Rice Krispie bars AND little Key lime cakes into one room (the Harlequin Intrigue meet-and-greet) and require one to stay in said room for an hour. I'm going to have to work out for a week to get that mess off my Latina ass. (Mmmm, little Key lime cakes....)

14) Rumor has it that editors are looking for paranormal romantic suspense and YA suspense/romantic suspense.

15) According to at least one industry professional, no publisher has been able to do well with Latina lit.

16) The staff at the downtown Marriott in San Francisco is, to a one, unfailingly polite and incredibly competent. I've never had a more pleasant hotel stay in my life and am making a point to email the manager as soon as I recover from the jet lag and stop feeling like the plane ran over me rather than flew me home.

17) If you are from Central America, just let Enrique at the front desk know about it, and your Central American brother will secretly hook you up with the equivalent of the Presidential Suite, on the floor of your choice. Seriously, that was a SWEET hotel room, so muchas gracias, Señor Enrique!

18) If you're not up for a Rita and you skip the ceremony to hang out with an old friend who lives in the city, you will not feel you missed anything. But a big congratulations for the Rita and GH winners!

19) If you take a 12:30 am red-eye and have a layover after only three hours of flying, you WILL walk like a drunk to your next flight. You will also not be able to fully open your eyes for a good half hour, which results in your walking like a drunk into walls, side rails, other passengers. Fortunately, the gate agents must be used to this kind of behavior at 4 am and so did not breathalyze me.

20) It is really, really great to see old friends. And really, really great to come home and have two little ones who are thrilled beyond measure to see you.


Jill James said...

Tracy, sounds like you had a great time, me too. I loved meeting the Harlequin authors at the PJ party and the Intrique meet and greet. You all were so gracious and the key lime cakes WERE to die for.

Tracy Montoya said...

I'm glad you had fun, Jill! And I totally need to find a recipe for little Key lime cakes--they were sooo good. : )

Leesa said...

Oh man. 11 and 15 make me sad. Although the ms I'm starting is a ya, so maybe that's a good thing. I thought it was probably usual bad timing. Thanks for the update!

Michelle Monkou said...


It was a damned good conference. I was disappointed with the turnout for the AA panel, but not to fear, we will continue to build it for the folks who need coaxing to get off their duffs. Plus there was a lot of competition of other workshops.

Harlequin party required two Tylenols for my throbbing knees. My body wasn't meant to jump into the air repeatedly.

Gail Blanke, the PAN motivational speaker, was voted (in my head) a girl who I would have hated in high school. There would be no picture taking standing next to her.

All in all, it was a blast and I'm furiously trying to get my brain back into writing mode.


Jennifer McKenzie said...

I talked about this with a writer who is just starting out but doesn't want to sub to Kimani press or one of the other cultural lines.
Her comment is one I've heard from others. She didn't want to be pigeon holed into writing ONLY people of color.
I don't really understand it all, but I that's why SHE didn't go to the panel. (I encouraged her to go).
I imagine the ones who were there got something out of it. If nothing else, they got to see other Latina and African American writers who are making it.
Glad you had a good time.
I, too, am thinking DC needs to involve a little less alcohol. LOL.

Sharron said...

Sounds like a great time and I am so sorry I didn't go. Sounds like you had a great time though. I'd have paid money to see you dancing after 3 glasses of wine!

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Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

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