One word to describe the Romantic Times Conference in New Orleans--Overwhelming. Yes, I did go to the orientation for newcomers, but it didn't help me cope with the long lines or the crush at all. For some reason I thought I'd run into FaceBook friends and writers I knew simply by reading name tags--impossible. Not to say I didn't make new friends and meet interesting people because I did. So sorry I never found Jane Lange and Cassandra Carr but did get to talk to Farrah Rochon whom I've known for some time as we both do football romances.
My pithy observations on the conference: Cover models are thinner and older than on their covers (camera adds twenty pounds and I suspect some air-brushing goes on with them as well as female models), but all were very nice gentlemen who helped elderly writers up on the stage and appeared at every big event doing whatever was asked of them such as handing out Mardi Gras beads at the Pub Crawl which I did not attend. At the end of that exhausting day, I merely crawled back to my room three blocks away hauling immense bags of free and heavy books and watched an NCIS rerun while trying to decide which new book to read.
Writers are also older than they appear in their cover shots. That's because we never get a new photo taken and remain frozen in time. But, all were very approachable and many were good speakers. Though I don't in any way think of him as a romance writer, Lee Childs excelled as an especially good speaker. The awards ceremony was incredibly long, but I did enjoy hearing the short back stories of so many of the authors. Those who stayed until the end were rewarded with another bag of books. That and winning a giant basket of erotica caused me to skip the last of the big parties and limp back to my room once more helped on my way by a new friend, blogger Jenna Perlin, who helped me lug my loot. We went out for hamburgers, talked, and I gave her one of my books and one from the gift box.. Actually more my kind of evening than a big soiree.
I confess I did one thing I swore never to do again--I pitched at the Pitchapalooza where like speed dating you got three minutes with an agent or editor. Having just attended a workshop on writing Regency novels ( yes, people were there in costumes) and learning that genre was not dead after all, I pitched to three editors and one agent. All gave me cards and expressed interest in my Longleigh Chronicles and even in the contemporaries I have in print. What a pleasant surprise. Now, I must force myself to submit. So far I've only followed up with the agent.
A high point for me: a woman sat next to me on the bus to Mardi Gras World for a huge event and told me she'd read all my books. I doled out some signed postcards, the only thing I had with me for promotion since I didn't want to drag foam footballs to a party. The low point: another attendee said people only do that to get swag. Oh well, I got to enjoy the glow of being recognized for about twelve hours before having my party balloon pricked. Nearly everyone I met was very pleasant with the sole exception of a wannabe writer (guess I should say pre-published) who seemed pissed that I had ten spicy romances in print while she hadn't sold her inspirational novel yet. I later saw her, sour expression in place, at Pitchapalooza and gathered it did not go well for her.
Would I go again? Not without a room in the conference hotel and a wheeled cart to haul books, but I would recommend it to others. Next year's venue is in Dallas. Not too far away, but I haven't quite recovered from this one yet.