Last week’s 2016 Romance Writer’s of America conference had quite a few memorable moments. First off, this was my first time participating at the RWA’s distinguished event as a literary agent. To explain how this experience was night and day from my previous author-only romp would require highlighted words and possibly ALL CAPS WRITING. Summary? If you’re an agent or editor, you’re a reality show star, complete with three days of fame and a ton of “let’s do lunch, call me, have my people get in touch with your people” convos.
In a word, surreal.
I did walk away with several meaningful moments from the event, which is why you’re still reading. These are in no particular order, and their level of greatness is not diminished by where the moment fell on this list. Awesome is awesome.
1. The Beverly Jenkins keynote lunch speech. Brilliant. Touching. Humorous. Necessary. As a prolific romance author, no one would argue Ms. Jenkins lacked the experience to school a room packed with adults in the importance of an inclusive and diverse publishing industry. Her choice of part history lesson/part call to arms had me shaking with respect.
2. The CIMRWA diversity panel. While not listed in the event program, this panel was no less riveting. My contribution (I was a panelist) was received well, but that wasn’t what owned my soul. The women I shared the stage with came from different backgrounds, had different perspectives, yet all of us lay our trust as authors, agents and editors on the table and gave honest replies to every question asked. I found the entire event refreshing and exciting.
3. Pitch Sessions. Name one element of authordom dreaded and feared by most and I’d bet a bag of Hershey’s nuggets that participating in a face-to-face with an agent or editor won. Here I must also say “thank you” to the lovely women who scrambled to seat me one hour early because yours truly chose not to waste “pitch time” wandering around the hotel. I appreciated having authors pitch me who had researched me and thought I was a good match. They came prepared with tight loglines, clear goals, and realistic expectations. That didn’t stop me from enjoying the pure look of shock some gave when their excellent pitches did the job and I requested pages. Good on you, authors.
4. Fuse Family Dinner. I love telling people I’m the “Texas-based Fuse agent” because it sounds 12 shades of kickass. Okay, I simply adore my employer. Truth is, getting an opportunity to hang out with Fuse clients is a treat, and this conference made it possible. Meeting Jeffe Kennedy, Jill Sorenson, Crista McHugh, and Lisa Kessler (second time in person for the queen of hottie wolves) gave me another dose of joy. I work with the best people on the planet.
5. Laurie McLean. Yeah, my boss (and agent) needs a shout out. Like a super soldier, Laurie guided me through the trenches. She knows EV-ERY-ONE. Watching her and listening to her as she interacted with editors was similar to checking out The Discovery Channel. The shows might be different, but the quality never changes and you want to see more.