Sunday, August 8, 2010

Another Perpective of RWA Conference

Let me start with full disclosure. I am the president of Romance Writers of America (RWA). Two weeks ago, RWA's 30th anniversary culminated with its Annual Conference and celebration in Orlando, Florida. Since then, many blogs have reflected the attendees' experiences --writers, bloggers, librarians, editors with networking, attending workshops, reunitng with friends, going to agent/editor appointments.

I will share the unique conference perspective as president of this great group of romance writers.

Friday, July 23
Arrived at World Dolphin Resort with my son. The sales rep literally whisks us away. I felt as if I was a celebrity making a mad dash from the paparazzi - only there weren't any. We head up to the 20th floor and straight to the presidential suite. The suite is huge - two floors - 3 bedrooms. But I had family and non-RWA friends coming in so it wasn't empty. I deliberately filled the space with family and friends to give me that oasis from the hustle and bustle of the conference. Then the luggage arrived, along with the rest of my suite mates. Before long the suite was buzzing with the activity of three adults and three teens.
Met with the executive director. Got a quick report on conference, along with any updates.
Saturday, July 24
I've unpacked the suitcases so I can feel relaxed, as if I was at home. Luckily my brother had a car so I went offsite to eat and also to buy food items for the suite. I have to go clothes shopping. I spent my last few days at home before heading to conference shopping for my daughter who was going on a three-week camp in NYC. Since I knew Orlando had a couple big malls and tons of outlet stores, I wasn't worried about finding clothes. Chico's and Macy's came to the rescue. But I didn't have anything for the awards ceremony and I was exhausted, especially after the ton of makeup I bought from the MAC store.

Sunday and Monday, July 25 and 26
Board meeting from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. And we used almost every minute of that time each day.

Tuesday, July 27

My birthday. But I have to go shopping for that Saturday outfit and wine for a couple receptions that I'm hosting.

Wednesday, July 28
Working on intro for Nora Roberts. Want to make it special and personal, rather than reading off all her accomplishments. By 1 p.m., people are already lining up for the literacy signing with over 500 authors for an event that won't start until 5:30 p.m. Later that evening, a few of my buddies are coming over so I had to head out once again to pick up my food orders. By the time I return, the signing is underway. I head out to the first timers orientation. Pleasantly surprised by the amount of first timers in the room. Standing room only. I welcome them and then head back to my suite to greet my guests.

Thursday, July 29
Headed to a breakfast meeting with publishers and an RWA grant recipient who is working on a romance-related documentary. I have to cut them short and head to the Annual General Meeting. After the AGM, I head to my suite. Now the nerves which have been increasing at each official activity are now in full blown flutter mode. After all, it was time to make the introduction of the keynote speaker -- Nora Roberts. Nora didn't make me nervous. It was the 2,100 lunch attendees, the bright lights on stage, and the oversized screens that had me feeling nauseous.

Headed to the suite to slap on the MAC make-up. I keep an eye on the time, knowing that I had no desire to eat before the introduction. About 10-15 mins before I would have to go onstage, I head down to the lunch from my suite. And then it was time to get on the stage. I prayed with every step that I would stay upright on my new wedge heels. I prayed that my feet would not trip on the steps onto the stage. I look out to the crowd and can see nothing. That doesn't relax me because I was calling out names for people to stand and be recognized. But in the darkness, I couldn't tell if they were standing or what side of the room they were on.

Finally I read my intro for Nora. All is going well. A friend who kept me company while I wrote the introduction joked about me ending the intro with "my friend Nora." Although I'm not a stranger to Nora, I'm certainly not a bud. I'm more like the farthest outer ring of Saturn. Tongue in cheek, I went with the dare and said my BFF Nora Roberts. Lightening didn't zap my arse. Nora was still smiling. All was well.

Hosted two receptions. By the end of the night, exhausted, but pleased with the outcome of the receptions.

Friday, July 30
Have administrative duties to complete. Then, working on introduction for Jayne Anne Krentz. Unlike Nora where there has been interaction, I don't know Jayne Anne. However, I still want her introduction to be special. I concentrated on what she means to the genre and industry, with the result being that she is an icon.

By now, I'm beginning to breathe normally. I've been checking off all my presidential duties. Unfortunately I'm not making it to any workshops because my nerves are too shaky for me to sit through a workshop. I'm sure that I wouldn't hear anything the person said or be able to concentrate on the subject matter.
I attend the Golden Heart/RITA finalists reception. This is a fun event to celebrate with all the finalists before the ceremony. This year is especially fun because I personally knew three of the finalists: Lena Diaz - Secretary of First Coast Romance Writers (my home away from home chapter), Jane Sevier - we go way back - I can picture sitting with her at a workshop at one of Washington Romance Writers retreat many moons ago, and Keely Thrall - President of WRW, critique mate, and bud.

Later, I head to the suite and welcome the reprieve from the conference bustle to hang out with family and friends.
This night is also my trek to the Harlequin party. This event turned into a great stress reliever as I danced to 70s, 80s, 90s, and current hits. The DJ is on his third year with Harlequin's party and he's a hit!

Saturday, July 31
This is a busy day, especially since I slept in because my body was trying to recover after the Harlequin party. I had the Publishers Summit to host in the suite. This event went well and immediately after I had to head to the awards rehearsal. Another moment for me to project what I would look like on stage and if I could read the teleprompter correctly.
The time came for the awards dinner. Again, I chose to skip the meal. Eating before a nerve-wracking task is not wise. Finally I come down from the suite and took my place. Because time doesn't stand still, eventually it was my turn to take the stage. At the end, when I joined emcee Sabrina Jeffries and Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement winner Debbie Macomber on stage to close the awards and mention NY's conference next year, I was a happy camper.

Although I didn't have the normal attendee experience, I still had my share of enjoyment from the enthusiasm of the members.
I look forward to next year when I will be simply a general member attending the NY conference.

Photos: personal photos, belonging to the blogger


  1. Thanks for sharing your RWA experiences, Michelle. You were one busy lady! I missed the trip to Orlando, but you've got me hoping for next year.

  2. As someone who watched you carry out your duties as president during the conference, I think you did a bang up job at nationals, Michelle. Your presentations were wonderful, your receptions fun, and everything ran smoothly. Job well done! I had a blast in Orlando and I know it was due to your leadership of this great organization. Huzzah!

  3. Thanks for giving us a sneak peek into the busy life of an RWA prez at the conference! It sounds both daunting and exciting - probably too much for me to handle, but you seemed to have done a great job.

  4. Thank you for posting all of that Michelle. I saw you here and there for parts of it but had no idea how much else you had going on. I say this over and over to you, but it's true: I don't know how you do it!!! But I'm glad you did because I had a blast!

  5. Michelle, you rocked your role as president. In fact, you've been amazing since the first time I heard you speak when you were still president elect.

    Thanks for sharing the crazy busy life of the president at conference and although we will miss you in this role next year, I'm glad you'll be able to sit back and relax. :)

  6. Michellebud,

    As I said in Orlando, you will always be my president! You projected the elegance and calm of a swan during the entire week. I think back on how busy I was and just imagine increasing that by a factor of ten for your schedule and I wonder how the heck you pulled it off. But you did it, dearie, and you did it well. Congratulations.


  7. Gosh, Michelle, I still don't understand why we didn't run into you in the bar, the lobby, the BlueZoo, or Fountain! It's not like you were THAT busy!! (ha-hah!)

    Thanks for giving us your perspective. I know I was exhausted just from trying to go to workshops, meet folk for lunch and coffees, and prepare my pitch. I was nervous enough speaking to one person, can't imagine what it was like standing before more than 2,100!!

  8. Wow - what a job you had to do, and it sure sounds like you did it proud! Congrats!!

  9. Michelle,
    Thanks so much for this unique perspective. You did a bang-up job as did the RWA staff. It was a fabulous conference...a great success! Your to be commended for all of your hard work.

    You rock!