I am on vacation, but I thought I’d take a second to tell everyone how incredible National was. As many of you know, I've been planning this trip since last summer when my critique group decided it was time we met each other in person. After months of planning, scrimping and saving . . . it came to be. Here's what happened.
I booked a late afternoon flight so I could meet my friend and crit partner Kelly McCrady Schaub at the airport and we could go together to the hotel. Have I mentioned that I hate flying . . . and I hate flying alone. Ended up at the airport 2 hours early, forget my great jacket at home, and was unhappy with that because I’d taken great care to plan what I was going to wear. Airport was quiet. I’d eaten before I left home, so I chilled in the seat with a book and waited. Finally, I boarded the flight and sat next to a woman who was going to the convention as well and we talked through most of the flight making it go faster – thank God! Those seats seem to get closer and closer together every flight I take. I think they are making me claustrophobic. To make matters worse, the flight was packed full, stuffy, and noisy with lots of crying babies. Poor things.
Got into San Francisco and right off the plane ran into Kelly. I knew it was her the moment I laid eyes on her. Sharing hugs, feeling great! We collected my luggage and headed for the BART. Interesting experience that. Quick. Noisy. Full of college students and street people, but got us directly into downtown San Francisco where we took a right outside instead of a left and managed to wander around a little in downtown before a local took pity on us tourists and directed us to the hotel.
We arrived in time to check in and jet to the Literacy signing for the last 15 minutes. The room was packed with romance authors and readers. Unfortunately, I was so tired and overwhelmed I could hardly put one foot in front of the other. I hustled over to Nalini Singh to meet her and gush over her books, but then the event was over. Next year, my other friend and crit partner, Carrie Lofty will be signing her book – What a Scoundrel Wants, out in December from Kensington. Must go earlier next year so I get to stay for the whole thing. We caught up with Carrie at the signing and then met my other crit partner, Cathleen Delong aka Lorelie Brown, in the lounge. It felt like old home week. Having never met or even talked on the phone, the transition from internet friends to in person friends was seamless.
We grabbed Carrie’s roommate, Ann Aguirre (if you haven’t read her fabulous book “Grimspace” run out and buy it!) and walked to Straits – an Southeast Asia cuisine restaurant. By now it’s 10 pm – Pacific time and I haven’t eaten all day. Exhaustion is twining its way through brain cells and body muscles. We had a wonderful, cute, personable waiter and ate a delicious meal. Back at the hotel, I fall into bed and lapse immediately into unconsciousness. Cathleen, Carrie, Kelly, and Ann have a pajama party and talk half the night.
Thursday: Kelly and I register and get our name tags. Now we match everyone else. Fun and gratifying. Get four free books in our bag from registration. We attend the Opening Session with a speech from motivational speaker, Theresa Behenna, who is also a pianist. We keep track of the number of cliques she uses in her cheesy talk and whisper among ourselves trying to decide whether to have shots for each of her cliqued remarks, only to decide against it when she hits 51 cliches. We skip the annual meeting and hit the Goody Room for freebies and then went to the Harlequin Blaze book signing. Came away with three books, appropriately autographed and I’m happy. Luncheon keynote speaker, Victoria Alexander, was a hoot. Two of her books on everyone’s chair. More freebies. Cool. She gave one of the best speeches I’ve heard in a long time. Major coolness. The food was pretty decent, and the conference was off and running.
Workshops galore. I had my list made up from home and diligently got out the activity plan and started off. First up, Cherry Adair – Layering. This two-hour workshop was packed. Kelly and I had to sit on the floor along with a dozen other people as all the chairs were full. No new information gleaned from her process although she has a certain ditzy humor that was entertaining. We skipped the next session as there was nothing we felt compelling. Then, we went to The Lessons of Firefly with Jacqui Jacoby and Suzanne Brockmann. Interesting, entertaining workshop. No new information gathered to apply to my writing process, but a great exchange with Suzanne Brockmann, one of my favorite authors.
The crush of people, of new faces, of struggling to come up with how to describe what I write in brief form, and socializing with adults when used to being home with a baby made my brain short circuit. I’ve never been to a professional writers event, not even a local one. The only interaction I’ve had has been online. So this is totally new experience and is exhausting and overwhelming. I spend the evening in the room, playing on the internet and resting – while the others had things to go do. Determined that I needed to rethink my workshop strategy as this ‘no new information’ trend was bothering me. Surely I couldn’t be so knowledgeable about writing that I can’t find one workshop to really teach me something. I sorted through the workshop schedule again. I had pizza from room service thanks to Carrie. Again fell asleep early. Just as a side note – falling asleep early is not something that has been in my schedule for months – not since grandbaby arrived. Such a treat!
Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2 -- more of my journey through the Nationals and a picture of my crit group. Will I find that elusive workshop?