By Debby Giusti and Josee Telfer
Last week, writers from around the world gathered in Denver, Colorado, for the Romance Writers of America National Conference. Josee Telfer and I shared a room. We knew each other from Seekerville, and the friendship that had developed online grew deeper when we met in person and spent time together throughout the week. Josee is a 2018 Golden Heart finalist and first-time RWA National Conference attendee. I’m a 25-year RWA veteran and author of as many books so we decided to team up and provide an overview of what we each enjoyed most about the conference.
|The Seekers: Mindy Obenhaus, Winnie Griggs, Mary Connealy,|
Audra Harders and Debby Giusti at RWA 2018.
1. Connecting with other writers tops my list.
About two thousand writers and industry professionals attend the national conference each year, and although that sounds like a lot of people, friendships form easily because we share a common bond with our love of writing. I’ve attended just about every national conference since 2005 so the week of conference always seems like a “coming home” of sorts. I see folks I’ve known for years. We quickly catch up on our writing careers, kids and grandkids and anything else that’s important in our lives. Throughout the year, we keep in touch via email and social media, but the time together at conference is always special, like icing on a friendship cake.
|Love Inspired Authors (L to R) Pamela Tracy, Mindy|
Obenhaus, Laurel Blount, Sharee Stover and Sherry Shackelford
at the LI Meet and Greet.
2. Quality Time with my Editor and Publishing House
I write for Love Inspired, the Christian arm of Harlequin. Each year at the conference, Harlequin hosts a number of informational meetings and gatherings to help their authors with marketing and promotion. In addition, we learn about new retail initiatives and the many innovative ways Harlequin ensures our books get into the hands of our wonderful readers. Along with marketing tips, IT support and Q & As, Harlequin also hosts a gala party for their authors. This year, we gathered at the Ritz-Carlton and danced the night away!
|Debby Giusti at the Ritz-Carlton, Denver.|
The conference runs from Wednesday through Saturday, and every day is filled with workshops that range from career and research to craft and the writer’s life. There’s something for everyone and for every level of expertise from the beginning writer to the multi-published, bestselling author.
As theater evolved, the second act in most plays grew longer and was often divided into two parts, Act II:1 and Act II:2. With the introduction of movies, each of the three (or four) acts were divided into segments, called sequences that ended with a hook. In the early days, movies were filmed on eight reels that each contained fifteen minutes of action. The reels—or sequences--ended with a cliffhanger to keep theater audiences in their seats and eager for the next segment of the story as the reels were being changed.
Over the years, that eight sequence format has been ingrained in theater goers as well as readers who expect eight hooks or turning points that grow toward the exciting final climax and resolution. Sokoloff encouraged us to use the eight sequence structure to satisfy reader expectations and to make our stories more compelling and marketable.
4. Published Author Network (PAN) Workshops
In addition to a plethora of workshops, the RWA provides something extra for both their PAN (published authors) and PRO (writers nearing publication) members.
|Rosanne Bane discusses how the brain functions.|
Rosanne Bane was this year’s PAN Keynote speaker. She calls herself a Creativity Coach who, as she says, “specializes in helping creative people understand why it’s so hard (at times) to do the very thing they love to do and what to do about that resistance.” Her workshop, “Romancing the Creative Brain: Avoiding Burnout and Block,” drew a huge crowd of published authors eager to learn constructive ways to navigate the writing life.
According to Bane, stress is the new normal, which isn’t good for our mental or physical health. She showed us how the brain works with emphasis on the limbic system that deals with involuntary reactions, such as flight or fight responses, contrasted with the cortex that makes good, conscious decisions and is our creative, storytelling area. Stress stimulates the limbic and suppresses the cortex.
Chronic stress takes its toll with anxiety, sleep disorders and self-doubt. Self-care is necessary to inhibit the limbic and enhance cortex activity. To optimize brain function and enhance creativity, we need sleep, exercise, meditation and downtime to daydream. We also need to incorporate play into our busy schedules for a healthier and happier life!
|Debby Giusti at RWA's Literacy Autographing.|
5. Book Signing for Literacy
At the conference, RWA hosts the “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing where 400-plus authors and thousands of readers connect. The publishers provide the books and proceeds from the sale of the books go to literacy organizations in the local areas. The 2017 signing raised more than $45,000, and since 1990, RWA has raised over $1 million for literacy organizations around the country.
|Look at the crowd of people at the|
Autographing for Literacy 2018!
Meeting readers is what I love most about writing. One lady at the signing said she had driven from Colorado Springs to see me. Another woman maintains her direct mailing subscription with Love Inspired Suspense so she can get my books before they appear on bookstore shelves. A number of other readers shared the enjoyment they get from my books. As you can imagine, their comments touched me deeply. When I’m at home, sitting at my computer, struggling with a new story and wondering if I should continue writing, I'll remember their kind words and will be buoyed by their support.
|Debby Giusti and Josee Telfer|
Now for Josee’s highlights!
Hands-down, the best thing about the RWA conference was meeting so many fantastic people. It was an opportunity to finally see many of my online friends IRL (in real life.) I also had the privilege of meeting authors I admire (and I did my best not to fangirl all over them.)
|The Golden Heart Persisters pose for a photo!|
In my Golden Heart Group, The Persisters, I spent time with other finalists and formed friendships I’ll carry throughout my life. Encounters with industry professionals whether in the lobby, the elevators, and the hallways lead to important connections as we build our platforms and grow our businesses. For many authors, it may be the only time they meet with their agent and editors face to face. You never know who you may meet and what that will lead to. In my case, I shared an Uber with two talented authors and all-around lovely ladies whose books I adore. I also thanked an agent who rejected my query because I wanted her to know how deeply I appreciated her gracious, personalized and thoughtful response and that it was a turning point in my career.
|Josee Telfer's name and story are up in lights as|
the Golden Heart Finalists are announced in the
7. Fun times.
Many of us spend a lot of our time in yoga pants at our desks but conference gives us an opportunity to get gussied up. Whether it’s the Golden Heart luncheon, dancing at the Rita’s, our publisher parties or dinner out with our tribe, it’s good to eat, laugh and cut the rug with our new and old friends.
|Josee Telfer (L) with mentor Tina Radcliffe at|
the Golden Heart luncheon.
Whether you’re a newbie or have just published your fiftieth novel, RWA offers something for everyone. There are classes for every sub-genre, as well as workshops for hybrid and indie published authors. Sessions run the gamut, from marketing your book, social media presence and branding, to in-depth classes on the writing craft and time management. Education happens outside of workshops as well. I learned a lot from conversations where someone shared a word of advice, or an experience that provided a fresh perspective.
|Josee Telfer and the Golden Heart Persisters enjoy dinner together!|
9. Challenging Yourself.
It’s easy to get comfortable in our writing caves where we rarely have to venture outside and beyond our imaginations. There’s nothing simple about traveling but it’s good to push ourselves outside our comfort zones. It keeps us sharp and agile and you never know when inspiration will strike. You’ve got to live life to write it.
|Christa Sinclair, Josee Telfer, Sharee Stover and|
Mindy Obenhaus in the hotel lobby.
I got two novel ideas while in Denver which came from conversations with editors and other writers. These conversations often provide inspiration. Maybe you’re unsure of which direction to take in your career, perhaps you’re stuck in a current novel and don’t know your way out, or maybe you’re coming up empty with fresh ideas for new stories. The conference was a reminder for me to get out more and meet with fellow authors whenever possible to brainstorm, learn, grow and laugh.
|L to R: Tracy Brody, Josee Telfer and Debby Giusti|
gather after the RITA Award Ceremony.
I hope you enjoy the photos we posted today and the glimpse we provided into this year’s RWA conference. Josee and I are eager to read and answer your comments and questions. Let us know what you like best about writing conferences or what you hope to learn from a conference you someday plan to attend.
|Villager DebH lives in the Denver area and|
stopped by the conference to say hello!
Each name will be included in a drawing for the first giveaway of the fourth and final book in my Amish Protectors Series: Amish Christmas Secrets. Josee is giving away Pure Vermont Hard Maple Candies to the winner so be sure to leave a comment.
Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti and Josee Telfer
AMISH CHRISTMAS SECRETS
By Debby Giusti
Safe Haven for the Holidays
The thrilling Amish Protectors conclusion
Leaving the nursing home where she works, Rosie Glick’s accosted
by a man demanding incriminating evidence her murdered boyfriend
stole—until Ezra Stoltz scares him off. Now with a killer dead set on
silencing the Amish single mother, Ezra must hide Rosie and her baby
to keep them safe. But can he expose a sinister conspiracy in time
to save the woman he secretly loves?
Josee Telfer writes contemporary romance from her home in Vermont which she shares with her husband and three children. This year she was honored to be an RWA Golden Heart Finalist. She is represented by Ann Rose of Prospect Agency and is excited to begin shopping her first novel. (Well, her agent will do that. She'll be working on her next project while trying not to anxiously twirl her hair out of her head.)
Publishers Weekly bestselling author DebbyGiusti is also a medical technologist who loves working with test tubes and petri dishes almost as much as she loves to write. Growing up as an Army Brat, Debby met and married her husband--then a Captain in the Army--at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Together they traveled the world, raised three wonderful Army Brats of their own and eventually settled in Peachtree City, Georgia, where Debby spins tales of suspense that touch the heart and soul.
Debby’s stories have won numerous awards, including two Daphne du Maurier Awards for Inspirational Suspense, the National Readers’ Choice Award, the Golden Quill, the Beacon, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence and the Write Touch. In addition to full-length fiction, Debby has written magazine articles for Southern Lady, Woman’s World, Our Sunday Visitor, Army and Family, and served for over twelve years on the editorial advisory board of ADVANCE for Administrators of the Laboratory.