Debriefing RWA16

No joke: going to RWA is a huge investment. Last year, the conference was held in one of the most expensive travel destinations in America—I still cringe when I think about how much I spent. (For journalistic integrity, I thought about doing the actual math on how much #RWA15 outlay was. However, as someone who did not share a room and only got a so-so deal on a flight to NYC, I’d rather not.) Fuhgeddaboudit.

But I know you already know all about the financial costs. I took an informal poll of those who were not planning to attend, and the number one response to the question “why aren’t you going to Nationals” was resoundingly “the money.” (Anecdotally, everybody at Nationals pulled a face and made grumbling noises about the cost, too.) There are the other costs, too: time off from day jobs, leaving family unattended for days, and travel/large crowd phobias.

Each year, I tell myself, “Lexi, save your money and skip Nationals next year.” And each year, the promise of education, networking, and fellowship (and this year, potential Navy SEAL sightings!) lures me back in and I sign away a good chunk of change and a week of my summer because the benefits of attending the conference are, though largely intangible, enormous.  

For a published author, the benefits include: meeting with readers at the literacy signing and getting your books in their hands; networking with agents/editors/publishers/other authors you rarely have the chance to see in person; attending the PAN workshops; scheduling dinners and meetups with friends, new and old; and riding the tidal wave of love for/from Romancelandia for the next few weeks. (Even when the con crud hits hard, that wave of love carries you through.)

For an unpublished author (or as Sherry Thomas referred to her unpublished years in her keynote, the years of her “apprenticeship”), the benefits can be life-changing: a pitch appointment with an agent/editor; a serendipitous meeting with an author you admire; workshops on craft or business that help show you a path you hadn’t considered; and forming lasting connections with other writers. And that tidal wave of love? It applies to unpublished authors, too. Big time.

This year, I signed copies of The Last Plus One at the ginormous Readers for Life Literacy Signing and at the Indie Signing. I wore the pink PAN stripe on my badge for the very first time, too. It was pretty awesome, but it did make me a little nostalgic for that first conference I attended as an unpublished author, when the whole wide world of Romancelandia was laid out before me, shimmering and new.

But isn’t that the best part about our business? No matter where we are in our careers, there’s always something new to consider. Something shimmering on the horizon.

I spent the last week recuperating from con crud and letting my brain rest from all the ideas I crammed in it in San Diego. I did a lot of journaling, trying to decompress—I have a bunch of thoughts that aren’t fit for public consumption because I’m still not sure how they all fit together. And speaking of horizons, I’ve got another long road trip ahead of me this week. Instead of listening to Hamilton incessantly (I think it took a little more than six Hamiltons to drive from SoCal to my parents’ house), I’m excited to fire up the conference recordings and cram my brain full again.

The conference recordings are rad because no matter how carefully you plan, you can’t be two—or three! Or more!—places at once. (And sometimes, being at conference means missing out on a session you really wanted to attend because a business meeting by the pool needed to take priority.) Fortunately, most of the workshops were recorded…except that one that was supposed to be recorded and then didn’t end up on the flash drive and was changed in the conference app to “not recorded” after the fact. But I’m not bitter or anything. <weak smile>

Yes, ponying up for the conference recordings is another big investment, but it is well worth it—especially if you consider that each session is about an hour. I’ll have lots of lunch-break listening and parties-in-my-ears during neighborhood strolls and/or elliptical sweat sessions.

And gosh, before I start sounding like an infomercial for the RWA flash drive recordings (and I could probably recite that disclaimer by heart, I’ve moderated so many sessions throughout the years), take a moment to poke through my Instagram and Twitter. I used the official conference hashtag #RWA16 as well as a few of my own imaginings: #RWAPillowTalk #RomanceAhoy #RomanceCamp

This is a pretty accurate pictoral (and, uh, pectoral) representation of RWA16:

Oh yeah, a few of my people have smart, sharp recaps up. Don’t miss them: 

So I’ll pay my bills for 2016 and try to forget how much I spent. And I’ll try to talk myself out of going to Orlando next July (ugh, I’m already shrinking from the very idea of the humidity…and crowds). But I’ll still keep my eye on you, Romancelandia!

PS I haven’t ventured out on the web much for other RWA Debriefings, so if you have one that’s a MUST READ, leave a link for me in the comments or email me, please!