Debby Giusti here!
As promised, I’m blogging today about my experience at this year’s Romance Writers of America National Conference, held at the beautiful Marriott Marquis on the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas. My daughter, Mary accompanied me, and we arrived on Monday to experience San Antonio’s Southwest hospitality before the start of the conference, which gave us time for leisurely strolls and stops at shops and restaurants that bordered the waterway.
|Remember the Alamo!|
Tuesday morning, we joined Janet Dean and her husband for a full-day tour that started at the Alamo. Established as a mission in 1718 and later used as a military outpost, the Alamo has been preserved as a shrine to the 186 heroic men who stood with Colonel William Travis, Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett against General Santa Anna and his army. Outnumber and under siege for 13 days, the men fought for Texas independence and their valor and heroism live on as an inspiration to all.
From the Alamo, we headed to the outskirts of town to visit Mission Concepción. The church was dedicated in 1755 and is the oldest unrestored stone church in the US today. Mission San José, with its expansive grounds and Rose Window, provided a glimpse into the life of the missionaries who spread the Word of God and the Indians who lived and worked within the safety of the mission walls.
|Janet Dean finds a friendly cowboy at the Buckhorn Saloon.|
We ate lunch at the Buckhorn Saloon. Built in 1881, it stands as the oldest salon in Texas. While there, we toured the accompanying museum that included Bonnie and Clyde’s bullet-riddled car, Texas Ranger memorabilia and other Wild West artifacts, including a mockup re-creation of old San Antonio.
In the afternoon, we took a riverboat ride on the San Antonio River. A flood in 1921 claimed 51 lives and devastated the downtown. Bypass channels were built for flood control, and some years later, architect Robert Hugman proposed a commercial development plan which turned the much needed waterways into the fun and festive River Walk that’s a favorite destination today for all who visit the city.
|Mariachis play at La Tierra under the twinkling lights.|
Our tour included time to shop at El Mercado, and we returned later that night with Missy Tippens and her husband and daughter for dinner at La Tierra. The expansive restaurant, decorated with murals of the famous and not-so-famous, is known as the best place for San Antonians—and eager tourists—to enjoy Mexican food, Mariachi bands and lots of local color.
|(L to R) Mary Connealy, Mindy Obenhaus, Lindi Peterson, Myra Johnson|
and DiAnn Mills chat after the FHL meeting.
The Faith, Hope and Love Chapter meeting Wednesday afternoon is the perfect way to start the RWA conference. Joining together in prayer for the success of the conference and for all those who attend sets the tone for the next four days.
|Debby Giusti gets ready for the Literacy Autographing.|
Notice the balloons Harlequin gave their authors.
Excitement built as readers lined up, waiting for the doors to open, for the “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing that evening. More than 500 authors participated this year, and $53,800 was earned and donated to organizations that foster and encourage literacy. The Literacy Autographing is one of my favorite events. I love meeting first timers and reconnecting with old friends. Thanks to everyone who stopped by my table to say hello and pick up copies of my Writer’s Prayer and other giveaways.
|Debby and Tina Radcliffe pose for a picture.|
|Piper Hugely stops by Missy Tippens' table.|
Last week, Myra Johnson recapped a few of the workshops she attended. If you missed her blog, "A Random Recap: RWA 2014," you can find it here.
Like Myra, I attended Marie Force’s workshop, “So Your Books Have Taken Off… Now What?” I came away thinking of my writing as a business. I’m not in Marie’s league, but I do need to have long-term goals and find ways to work smarter instead of harder.
|(L to R) Mary Curry, Tina Radcliffe and Carol Post|
Here are a few notes I took from Marie's workshop:
Think like a business person.
Get an email address with your author name so each email you send builds your brand.
Start a mailing list. When a reader emails, ask him/her to subscribe to your newsletter.
Gather snail mail addresses and consider special send outs, such as Christmas card.
Your website is open for business 24/7, 365 days a year. Keep it updated. List your series books in order and include buy links.
Marie went from making $2500 in 2010, to over $3M in 2013 and 2014. She didn’t expect her business to grow so quickly, and she encourages all authors to be prepared for success.
(BTW, Marie Force will be the Keynote Speaker at the Moonlight and Magnolias Conference, held in Atlanta, Georgia, October 10-12. Consider attending.)
|Waiting for a workshop to begin.|
Myra also mentioned Cindi Meyers’ workshop, “Writing Faster, Writing Better.” Here's what I took away from Cindi's program:
Find free time to write by eliminating wasted activities.
The average person watches 4 hours of TV a day. Cindi’s advice. Turn off the tube.
Grab short bits of time to write.
Record writing time on your calendar to track your progress.
Use ritual to help you “go into” your writing world. Get used to writing at the same time, same place, perhaps get into the “zone” with candles or music.
Really fast writers plot so they have a road map.
When you stop at the end of the day, make notes in ALL CAPS about what you’ll write the next day.
If you get stuck, write your scenes out of order.
Limit negative self-talk.
The Internet can be a bad habit.
Perfectionism gets in the way of productivity.
Embrace your rough draft. (Cindi writes straight through until she has a completed rough draft and then polishes.)
Resist the temptation to show your draft to critique partners.
Use writing sprints to increase productivity. Set a timer for 10 to 15 minutes and just write. Don’t stop until the timer dings!
According to the Pomodoro Technique, the most efficient work is done in 20 minute time periods, followed by a 5 min break.
Go on writing retreats two or three times a year.
Accountability Partners are good.
Cindi writes 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, with a yield of 3,000 words per day. She spends 3 to 4 days in prep prior to beginning a new story, and does one big revision and one fine-tuning review when her draft is completed. She writes a HQ Intrigue in 5 to 6 weeks and spends three months on a 90,000 single title. Although she writes for different lines, she works on one book at a time.
|Harlequin even decorated the furniture with their logo |
for their big party!
I moderated Love Inspired Editor Emily Rodmell and Harlequin Editor Susan Litman’s “Tips for the Perfect Pitch from the Editor’s Side of the Table” Workshop.
Susan started off the hour by saying:
Consider every pitch as a moment of opportunity.
Do your homework and know what the editor is acquiring.
Does your project hit her sweet spot?
Check to ensure your manuscript fits that particular publisher’s needs.
Remember you’re selling your story and yourself.
Index cards are fine, but don’t rely solely on them.
Practice your pitch, and include word count, hooks, blurb and plot.
|On the dance floor at the Harlequin party.|
Emily offered the following advice:
Consider the pitch a conversation rather than a monologue.
A short blurb is good.
Focus on the plot, conflict and hooks.
Hooks can include a special location, Amish or secret baby, and/or a particular occupation, such as cowboys or firemen.
Include both internal and external conflict.
You’re the architect of your story. Tell the editor why your story is memorable, along with the obstacle that will keep your hero and heroine from falling in love?
Mention if you’re published.
The manuscript should be completed.
Share your marketing strategies, such as your followers on social media, and explain why you want to write for their particular house.
Submit as soon as possible. Include a short email and mention something to refresh the editor’s memory about your project.
Turn off your cell phone
Make eye contact and smile.
Leave on time.
Don’t be nervous.
Don’t bring your manuscript.
|Tanya Aglar and Julie Hilton Steele are so pretty!|
This year, I choose workshops that focused heavily on business, hybrid writing, and ways to juggle traditionally published stories and independent releases to build readership.
A number of workshops talked about writing fast and releasing stories—full-length, novella or short stories—every ninety days to keep readers remembering your name and buying your work.
In the past, the publishing house or agent was orchestrating a writer’s career. Now the writer is the CEO of her writing business.
Not yet published? You’re learning your craft. Pubbed or not, we all need to increase our productivity and keep our eye on any changes in the industry.
Indie author Hugh Howey and his agent, Kristin Nelson, in a PAN workshop, “The Down and Dirty: What It Means to be an Outlier,” talked about earning a living by writing. Hugh went from earning $200/month to $3,000/month by releasing work every three months. He writes short stories and releases them independently to generate more interest in his full-length books and claims good content and regularity are the keys to his successful career. Kristin said we’ll see more changes in the next three to five years, and those changes will happen first in the romance genre.
This year, the Keynote luncheon was held on Thursday. In lieu of a second luncheon, the conference attendees received breakfast on Friday and Saturday, followed by General Session speakers Cindy Ratzlaff and Karen Rose. Each person attending got a free copy of their books, and following their talks, the ladies autographed in the lobby. I like the new format and found the talks inspirational and a great way to start each day.
Our lunch break was shortened, which made room for more workshops. President-elect Cindy Kirk, the RWA board and staff were always available to answer questions or help with any problems. Cindy is an outstanding leader, and I’m looking forward to her tenure as president.
|The Awards Ceremony Saturday night.|
I often hear Christian writers question whether to attend RWA. Everything I know, I learned from my GA RWA chapter. This year’s National Conference was warm and welcoming. I always felt surrounded by good friends, perhaps because I was usually with Seekers and Villagers and other Love Inspired authors. Joking aside, RWA offers something for everyone, and I encourage you to consider attending next year when it will be held in New York City. You’ll mix and mingle with industry professions and editors and agents and have lots of opportunities to pitch, to network, to improve your craft and sell your story.
|After the Awards Ceremony. Tomorrow we head home.|
Share your RWA experiences from this year or from past conferences. Leave a comment to be entered in the first-ever drawing for my October Love Inspired Suspense. I’ll be giving away five copies of HOLIDAY DEFENDERS, featuring my novella, “Mission: Christmas Rescue.”
In honor of San Antonio and RWA, I’m serving Southwestern Breakfast Burritos, Scrambled Eggs with Cheese and Peppers, Quesadillas, an assortment of pastries, ham and…you guessed right…GRITS! Enjoy! The coffee and tea are hot. Pour a cup of your favorite beverage, and let’s talk about books and writing and what we learned at RWA!
Wishing you abundant blessings,
MISSION: CHRISTMAS RESCUE
by Debby Giusti
On the run from a killer, Elizabeth Tate must accept U.S. Army captain Nick Fontaine’s protection for the sake of her young niece and nephew. Now her life is in the hands of the very man who broke her heart years ago.