My final thoughts on attending RWA
From RWA National Conference Website FAQ’s page:
1. Who can attend the RWA Conference? Anyone can attend the RWA national conference.
2. Should I attend the conference if I am unpublished? Of course! While there are special workshops that only members of the Published Authors Network (PAN) may attend, most workshops are geared to authors at every stage of their writing careers. It is also a wonderful opportunity to "network" with other writers -- chat about writing, share writing woes, exchange good information.
3. Is this conference geared towards readers as well as writers? RWA’s primary goal is to advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy, and the conference is developed with that in mind.
The main question I had about attending my first RWA conference was, do I have the right to go? As everyone knows, I am not a published writer, as of yet. The three questions above are the ones I have asked myself countless times in the past six months since I reserved my spot at the conference. I am part of the “anyone can attend” group. I am unpublished, but I feel I am at a certain stage in my writing career. It was an excellent opportunity for me to network, exchange ideas and talk with others who “get me” and why we all love the romance genre. I feel I am a, "professional and career focused individual romance writer".
Wait, Kate. Stop right there! You don’t write romances.
I may not have published any novels, but every review, commentary and post I have here is geared to the romance industry, the people, the readers and the genre itself. If there were no romances, authors, or publishers who write and publish them, I would be adrift in the world, lost. There would be no light at the end of my tunnel. I would be a drone who goes through life bored. I am a fan and a reader who does tend to go a bit fan girly from time to time. When I walk into a bookstore and go straight to the romance section, my heart skips a beat. When I pick up a book, I feel I belong. I am lost in that world where a happily ever after is promised. Romance books are a promise that I am welcomed. It is like I am coming home again and again. I rather have books than any other things on their planet, even over purses, shoes and even other essentials. If I were down to my last ten dollars, can you guess what I would buy?
I am a blogger whose true joy in life is to promote and support those who have reached their dream regardless of money, fame or prestige. They write because of their love for the written word. They are my idols, my super heroes, my muses. I aspire to be like them. What I do is for love. My parents keep asking me what do I get out of this? I don’t get paid in dollar bills. I can’t put a monetary value on what I do. I write reviews and commentary because it has become as important to me just as it is to read.
I am a writer. I write for a blog. I also write reviews for countless other sites. I may not write books that you can purchase in the store, but I am writer to my very soul. I write poetry and short stories. I have done so since I have been sixteen years old. I have a work in progress I am allowing people to finally read so I can have their opinion and critique so I may possibly be brave enough to send it to a publisher. I have unfinished manuscripts to be finished. My characters call to me, “Kate, come back, we miss you!”
I was welcomed by the romance community this week by authors, bloggers, reviewers, and the publishers. We talked and laughed. I had a permanent smile on my face. I cried. I cried tears of happiness, especially on the last day there because I was welcomed in a way I have never been before. I wasn’t an outcast, I was part of this elite group of intelligent, witty and lovely people. My tears were those of true happiness. Countless people to come up to me give me a hugs and were so very happy because they finally were able to meet me and see me, as well as I to them. I was speechless. As I stood in line for various signings, I was nervous, I was shaking. The minutes I entered the room and went up to my idols, I was at peace. I reached my own personal nirvana.
To those who don’t think I deserve to be there, of course that is your opinion. I may not be a “published author” and perhaps you believe I may have taken away a spot from someone who deserves it. Don’t I deserve it? Am I not worthy? I may not have a publishing contract and my books may not be ready to be purchased, but I am a writer to the very depths of my soul and I say: I belong and quite honestly you can’t take that away from me. This week I did belong and for all those who helped me, who told me to go, who supported me, who gave me advice, who sat down and talked with me, who took pictures with me, who wanted me to be in pictures with them and those who said, “thank you” just because, I in turn say, thank you, THANK YOU. My gratitude will never be enough.
One final thought. I also went for those who couldn’t go, those who feel they don’t belong, those who feel they may not be good enough to write, or don't have the talent to be thought of as an author. As Nora Roberts said during her panel, sit your ass down in that chair and write, stop making excuses, believe in yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.