Jessica wrote a Most Excellent Post on the economics of attending RWA. There is no question it’s quite costly and I do wonder why I am willing to pay that much money when I’m not an author and at this point in time don’t have any plans to be one. I do write though, I love to write. That’s why I started blogging so many years ago. I didn’t and still don’t have the talent, time or ambition to write a novel. That’s one reason why I admire so many authors even if their works may not work for me. They are driven to write and I appreciate that.
So again, why am I willing to spend so much money? I spent years when my kids were small doing vacations I hated. Camping. After spending all those years doing what I didn’t like, I want to do what I do like, no, not like but love. To be surrounded by romance people is like nirvana for me. I have found going a very empowering experience. While I once hid my passion for romance from everyone, now I’m proud romance reader and have no problems telling people where I go for that week in July. I couldn’t have done that before. But listening to speakers, talking to fellow romance fans and meeting authors has made me proud to be part of the community. And a community it is. My time at RWA proves that. Not once in all the conferences I’ve gone to have I felt out of place. It took a while to figure out what to say when someone I’d never met asked me what I wrote. Then the answer came to me – I don’t write romance, I write about romance. I AM what authors write for. I completely realize that for many of them RWA is also a time for business and I think that’s part of the appeal. There is a professionalism underlying the conference. I’ve been to RT and it’s a different vibe. For me, I like the RWA vibe better.
I am thrilled beyond belief when an author recognizes me. I didn’t get to spend as much time with authors as previous years, but the interaction, brief as it was, was like a balm to my soul. I didn’t talk to her, but Nalini Singh waved at me when I was checking in. Julie James came to our table for a short while one night. Tessa Dare was thrilled to see me when I went to her line at a signing. Really, it’s the other way around. And Lisa Kleypas is a very special person to me. When I saw her, well, that moment alone made me glad I had spent the money and gone.
Reconnecting with friends again is so very, very special. Wendy, my roomie, Rosie, LB Gregg, those are the people I hang out with the most and even though it’s a year that passes between spending time with them, it feels like only a few months. Every time there is that instant connection. Nath and Ames were there. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve spent time with them, but within moments it was like that time wasn’t years, but only months. Instant connection again. I know I’ll forget if I start naming names, but I enjoyed each and every conversation I entered more than I do many normal conversations with my RL people. For me that’s priceless.
At the beginning, I’m being honest, part of the appeal was all the books. I would pick up so many books it would seem to offset much of the price I was paying but as I said earlier, I cut way back on the number of books I picked up this year.
I kind of think of it as a fantasy camp in some ways. I get to interact with the stars and bright lights of a profession I get so much enjoyment from. I’m not sure how much a fantasy camp costs but I imagine quite a bit.
And while I’m not an author and find the conference a way to renew my desire to write a book, I do find it my desire to renew my desire to blog is intensified. I had so many great ideas for blog topics while I was there.
Despite all the good and wonderful things about attending the RWA conferences, there are a few things that, while I certainly won’t say bad, are a bit discombobulating for me. I live by myself, me and my two cats Finn and Munch (who were less than excited when I was watching Law and Order and pointed out Finn and Much the police detectives to whom they were named after). Being surrounded by so many people while WONDERFUL, is still a bit unsettling after a while for someone used to living with only 2 cats. In order to remain sane, I have to take more down time than I would like. I would like to be go, go, going all the time as the hours in a day when I can connect with others is limited, so even as I unwind I resent the fact that I have to. But if I don’t, I’d be like a robot who goes into overload and just shuts down completely. Claustrophobia is connected with this somewhat and it’s getting a bit worse each year.
In addition, I wasn’t in the physical shape I should have been. One of the side effects that takes a loooong time and is one of the hardest to overcome for me when I’m in a depression is weight gain. I’d lost over 50 lbs and sadly put it all back in my lost year last year. But I’m going to go into training and plan to be much shapelier – in more ways than one – for the next conference I go to. Again that limitation was very frustrating. My back, my feet and other parts of me were breaking down by the end.
But despite these couple of issues, for me, attending RWA is worth every penny. I’m fortunate as I have a nice disposable income, I make pretty good money, my house is all paid off and my husband left a very nice pension. Plus I live rather frugally most of the year. So for me to attend RWA is a time of empowerment, a time to connect again with people dear to me, to express appreciation to authors for the time they have entertained me and made me happy, to drink and talk books, to not have to go to my job every day, to mingle and absorb atmosphere and to truly appreciate the wonderful community I am a part of.