Two Thousand Romance Writers Walk Into a Bar…

Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

Two thousand romance writers walk into a bar in Denver…

Wait. There’s no punchline here because that’s exactly what going to Romance Writers of America® Annual Conference is like. And it’s no joke.

Everywhere you turn, there’s a familiar face from social media or from conferences past (this was my sixth consecutive, and seventh total RWA!)—and in some cases you strike up a chatty conversation with a lovely woman in the checkout line of the Sheraton only to discover you’ve been talking to a superstar author all along. And unfamiliar faces become familiar when you get trapped in an elevator with them <waves to Wendy> and/or practically kidnap a conference newbie who seems cool and invite her into the fold <waves to Elisa>!

But it’s always difficult to write a post-con wrap up. Especially since I landed in Denver several days early to hang out with my OG HBIC 6, so much of what remember fondly was “you had to be there” kind of moments. And while they’re great, warm and fuzzy things to wrap around the cockles of my coal-black heart, those memories don’t really do much for you, dear reader.

(Except, in the end, they do, because surrounding myself with my Romance Baes makes me a better person and ultimately a better writer.)

There’s so much good book news to be had at Nationals: celebrating book deals, new releases, award nominations, wildly amazing reviews, and getting your hands on coveted ARCs. Here’s a quickie list of GOOD THINGS for you, Citizen of Romancelandia, to celebrate…

1. I held a drawing for newsletter subscribers to get their hands on a giant box of swag + books I picked up at RWA. That winner has been contacted. But I’m also going to have to do another giveaway of my gently-read books because I picked up SO MANY. So BOLO for that—make sure you’re on The A-List.

2. I plowed my way through three ARCs I was DYING to get my hands on at the conference. I cannot recommend highly enough that you pre-order Tessa Dare’s The Governess Game. If you follow me on social media, you’ve already seen me gushing about it. But y’all, seriously, historical is my jam, and if it’s also yours, you do not want to miss this book. I FELL IN LOVE with our rakish hero on page four when he attends his ward’s doll’s funeral and it only got deeper as the book went on. TGG is charming and tender and funny and sexy and THIS IS THE FEEL-GOODEST-ROMANCE I’VE READ IN A LONG TIME AND I JUST WANT YOU TO BE HAPPY TOO.

(Speaking of, I’ve got some #BeHappyReadRomance swag with your name on it. Just drop me a line and I’ll be happy to send you a sticker from my swag series.)

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3. The awards ceremonies at RWA saw me celebrate old friends and new as they were nominated for awards. (And hey, I was also a finalist for the National Readers’ Choice Award and that was super fab.) My darling Fran Strober Cassano (aka Frannie) is the Cathie Linz Librarian of the Year Award recipient, and my heart is super-duper full because it is an honor bestowed upon an incredible woman and advocate for the romance genre. You should definitely follow Frannie on Twitter @FranniesRomance.

4. A bunch of people I adore were nominated for RITA®, but Lexi Ryan and Alexis Daria brought home the golden girls and I couldn’t be more proud. I first met Lexi in person officially at RT in New Orleans about a thousand years ago (but unofficially at an infamous house in the Quarter a bunch of my friends rented), and I have loved charting her career. Smart, determined, gracious, giving. That’s Lexi…and that’s also Alexis Daria. Watch their acceptance speeches and you’ll fall in love with them too. <3

We got to snag a pic with Lexi before the ceremony began--and before I took my hair down from its "curling bun". My sparkle rainbow clutch (a pencil pouch from Target) was definitely on point. (L to R: Mary Chris Escobar, Alexis Anne, Alexandra Haughton (aka me!), Lexi Ryan, Laura von Holt, Lindsay Emory, and Julia Kelly.)

We got to snag a pic with Lexi before the ceremony began--and before I took my hair down from its "curling bun". My sparkle rainbow clutch (a pencil pouch from Target) was definitely on point. (L to R: Mary Chris Escobar, Alexis Anne, Alexandra Haughton (aka me!), Lexi Ryan, Laura von Holt, Lindsay Emory, and Julia Kelly.)

5. Speaking of speeches. Suz Brockmann brought. down. the. house. in her Lifetime Achievement Awards speech. I urge you to watch it (it’s around the 56 minute mark in the video RWA posted). I was so happy to be in the room where it happened. Everyone deserves an HEA. And I was also lucky enough to have a seat at the Librarian/Blogger/Bookseller Luncheon where Sonali Dev delivered an incredibly moving and deeply poignant address we should all listen to: https://soundcloud.com/user-620052388/rwa-2018-librarians-day-keynote-from-sonali-dev

6. My darling friend and conference wife Lindsay Emory got A Very Important Email before the Golden Heart Luncheon that caused me to burst into the happiest tears. The Kirkus STARRED REVIEW was published this week for her print debut with Gallery Books, The Royal Runaway: “This imaginative, absorbing, and empowering story is a must-read.” You can read the full review here.

If your clicker finger isn’t broken already, click on that gorgeous cover to pre-order your copy.

Total confession: maybe I got a little weepy the night of the RITA® awards once we got back to our room because I imagined a future when Lindsay is a finalist and she’ll spend that night with Mr. Emory and not me. The love of a conference wife is strong, though. I’ll survive. (It's also possible I posted a pictoral of our love affair on my insta: https://www.instagram.com/p/Blor5SaBbMb/?taken-by=writerahaughton)

Okay, I meant this to be a quick list and here I am going on and on. I’ll post a list* of books I picked up and am excited to dive into…and encourage you to look them up as well.

*A partial list. I grabbed a few more from friends for my keeper shelves and a bunch for the big giveaway.

**Sci-Fi/Fantasy isn’t typically my thing, but I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS ARC. SPACE PRINCESSSSSSSSS.

***I’ve already read this, but I’m stoked to have a paperback so I can do a pretty bookstagram post with it.

Oh yeah! I also helped raise $38,000 at the #Readers4Life ProLiteracy signing.

I'm sure Blue, the hockey hottie, was responsible for raising at least 1% of that--or at least a few pulse rates.

Drowning in Swag

...but what a way to go!

I have so very many pretty things to give away at conference. (I had to make a mind-mapping chart to keep track!) Between my author stuff, HBIC Nation, Romanced by the Cover, and the return of #ReadWritePlan, I'm up to my ears in swag. 

(P.S. Check out my home page for the link to a sweet giveaway. It'll be an RWA SWAG-travaganza!)

But it's not just all pretty, shiny things to give away, though. Conferences are serious business. Like an elephant. Sitting on my chest. 

I know. I know. I made a very vocal, I executive decision to avoid #RWA17 in Orlando for a few reasons--chief amongst them: Orlando in July. But, December rolled around and then FOMO got the best of me.... 

So here I am: HEADING TO ORLANDO. 

This will be my fifth conference. (Atlanta, Houston, New York, San Diego were the previous stops.) Wait a minute, let's go back to that. <record scratch> Fifth. Conference.

It just doesn't seem real. 

TL:DR; super real talk coming up...

And I'm back to that elephant sitting on my chest. Five years. When I decided to start writing, seriously, I knew it would be a long haul. (And I still know that.) But five years seems like this mythic milestone. And I'm zooooooming up on it with nothing but rocks in my pockets. 

It's like I'm in a move montage. Lana del Ray sings ("well, shit, girl, you tried" or something like that) and people are putting up their ponpoms and filing out of the stadium shaking their heads. "It's been a good run, but it's time to make a change."

Not so fast, imaginary-movie-montage people. Keep those ponpoms out. I'm not going anywhere (except on a jet plane to Orlando).

There's been this meme going around Twitter lately. About the age Oprah was when she got fired from her first reporting gig. And the age Julia Child was when she published her first cookbook. How Morgan Freeman was 52 before he landed his first major role. (This might be the original source, but I'm not sure.) And I'm so glad it decided to pop back into the rounds of social media, because it's just what I needed to be reminded of. Right this minute. 

Y'all. I'm living my dream. Living it every single day. And I define my own success--not numbers, not publishing contracts, not multi-bajillion dollar book deals. (Though, if you wanna give me a multi-bajillion dollar contract, I'm ready to receive.) 

If you're reading this and you're an author who will be at RWA, come see me (and 5 of my closest allies in this business). I wanna talk about success and so-called failure--and all the beautiful ugliness that goes along with being a creative professional. (And I also want to give you a sticker and maybe a button.) :)

If you're a beloved reader who's still with me here on this post, thank you for sticking with me through this truth spilling. And wherever you are, and whatever you do, know that your dream is still within your reach. <3 

 

You might also be interested in the HBIC Nation Conference Survival Guide

Five for Friday: New Moon Edition

Could also be the new moon tonight and January is almost over (?!) edition.

Like, whoa. February is upon us. How did this happen?

Anyhoodle, I'm loving my new Friday master plan—because it really does feel like a grand architectural choice to take a day to especially enjoy all that surrounds one. I'd love to see you take it and make it your own. Use the hash #5ForFri on Twitter and Insta so I can seeeeeee what you're doing to ignore all the noise and seek beauty this year. 

Today's list without further ado:

1.  Read this rad article on The Quiet Revolution site and basically fist-pumped my way through it: http://www.quietrev.com/the-science-of-awe-and-why-it-matters-at-work/

2. Spent a delicious afternoon being hygge A. F. reading my RITA books all snuggled up in bed. Polishing off the remnants of the best dang snacks in all the land. 

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3. Related: was wearing my delightful HOT PINK leggings while lounging about...and then forgot to put on real pants when I went to grab lunch. (I like to think that brought some small measure of joy to someone out and about in Dallas.)

4. Also related: you know how I used to say you'd pry my leggings out of my cold, dead hands? Well… These majestic caftan thingies can't replace them, but they are going to be supplementing my cozy wardrobe. Just call me the modern Mrs. Roper.

5. Tonight I'm having a total girls night: crazy face mask (that turned my face tin man silver… Yeah… It was so fabulous!!!), deep conditioning my hair, and watching Dirty Dancing*. Gonna drink lots of water and say no to dessert...because I had a burrito the size of my face earlier. #balance

 

*Did you catch my post about the 30th anniversary of that piece of cinematic greatness? http://alexandrahaughton.com/blog/2017/1/26/dirty-dancing-thirty-years-later