July 25, 2017

orlando bound

I'm headed to Orlando. Today. For my first Romance Writers of America National Conference. Since I read about RWA and the RITAs in my favorite authors' bios in my favorite books, I knew that someday, when I grew up, I wanted to join.

So I did. Last July.

A week ago, I mentioned setting professional goals for myself upon turning thirty. Top of the list: network to build more relationships in the industry and my support system. First step: I joined RWA. If you're unfamiliar with RWA, it's the top professional organization for romance writers. I also joined the local chapter, Romance Authors of the Heartland.

The memberships in both have been a game changer for me. I read the Romance Writers Review, the organization's magazine, every month. I've participated in a couple of the courses and seminars. I lurk on the Professional Authors Network board. Locally, I attend every meeting I can, participate in monthly writing challenges, and--like with book signings--say yes more than my sweatpants and Netflix would like.

That brings me to my third goal: developing my craft. The groups are helping me grow as a writer and an author. I actually mean those as two separate words in this instance, though I often use them interchangeably. I mean that it's helping me develop my craft (the writer) and my person (the author). The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know and the more I want to learn. And with this week full of informative sessions, workshops, and networking ahead of me, I'm almost overwhelmed by how much I'll learn this week (and how much more I'll want to know).

In some ways, I feel like I'm brand new even after all these years.

On top of the workshops, this will be a huge networking opportunity. For the first time, I'll have a chance to meet friends I've known via emails and social media for years. I have a couple of professional meetings scheduled. I'm going to the RITA awards. I may actually see, in real life, women I've fan-girled over for years and years. It's going to be, like, a million degrees with ten-thousand percent humidity and I hope I've packed the right kind of clothing so I fit in and don't feel comfortable. (I've actually made charts and sketches to figure this part out, because I'm nuts.) Just like I used to worry about my look on the first day of school.

It's enough to make me a little nervous. And when I get nervous, I can get a little nutty. And obsessive.

So for the next few days, my primary goal will be to stay in the moment and enjoy it. To stay focused on my goals. To make it happen. To figure out what "it" means. To keep my shit together.

And through this, I need to remember how affirming it has been being part of RWA and RAH this year. So often being a writer is a lonely endeavor. And with these groups, I have friends who are on similar adventures to mine. They're in similar places in their writing careers. They experience a lot of the mania, fear, and need for approval that I do. I can't express how nice it is to have people who get where you are and what you're doing. To remind you that you're not alone.

Knowing I'll spend the next few days meeting and learning from people who get me will refill my cup, so to speak.

If you're headed to RWA too, give me a shout. Hope your experiences are everything you hope they'll be.

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