Thursday, July 30, 2015

Afterthoughts on RWA

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.
'til later



Lori said...

I've loved the few times I've been able to attend. And I so look forward to the next time (and seeing you again!)

RRRJessica said...

Thank you for the mention, Kristie. I had such a great time and seeing you was a big part of it. I think we all have to decide in life what our money is worth spending on, and no one can tell us any different. I thought the expense was 1000% worth it. I have memories for a lifetime. I wish I could go every year, and maybe I will go another year.

I hope you can get into the physical condition you want to be in. One day at a time!

See you in San diego (maybe). :)

azteclady said...

I have only been able to attend two RWAs--2009 and 2010--and both times the registration was a gift, and the accommodations were resolved in such a way I didn't have to pay for hotel or food; otherwise, I would not have been able to attend even once.

But for me, as for you, RWA is like a dream vacation. Some people save for the whole year for a week's cruise somewhere; if I had any disposable income at all, RWA would be quite a bit higher on my list than a cruise, or some such.

As someone who has lived alone for several years now, and who actually struggles when my family visits (usually only two people, and only for a handful of days), I completely understand what you mean, about the...well, cultural shock or system overload, of suddenly being plunked down in the middle of thousands of people.

And yet, this is our tribe; these are the people who understand our passion, who speak our language, and who share a lot of our concerns.

It makes me happy--and yes, a bit envious--to read the experiences of those bloggers and readers who manage to attend RWA. There are issues with the organization (diversity, the "babies are a must" and others), but still, these are by and large the people who get me, and whom I understand.

Patti (@TheLoveJunkee) said...

What a great post! This is how I feel about RT. I didn't realize readers could go to RWA but all the tweets this year made it look like a lot of fun.

Lover Of Romance said...

I think this would be such a fantastic opportunity! And all those authors...I just love Lisa Kleypas.

Kristie (J) said...

Lori – I do so want to see you again. I hear next year it’s out in your neck of the woods – at least on the west coast and in San Diego so there should be a number of bloggers who I might get a chance to see.

Jessica – it absolutely is putting RWA conferences on your priority list. For me I have the time, usually 4 weeks vacation, the money, and no family that live with me to juggle. So it’s a good fit. But a mid-list author who has a young family and a bit of a struggle financially, well it would less on a need list and more on a want list. I’m actually debating on doing both RT & RWA next year. I don’t know if I can swing it or not but it would be more of an incentive to both train and save

AL – the conferences are like a cruise, a trip to the islands and a trip to Europe all rolled into one for me too. I would rather do that than anything else – except possible a cruise to Alaska – that’s the only thing that comes close – well and a trip to Australia – that goes without saying. And when we get used to our own company – it’s an adjustment getting used to having more isn’t it? I’m not complaining - not at all – but it was different.

Patti: I’ve been to both and it’s a different vibe at both. RT is more of a party atmosphere and more is geared towards readers whereas RWA is definitely author oriented. But as I’m getting up there now *heh, heh, heh* I can’t party like it’s 1994 anymore. But as I said up above, I’m thinking of both next year.
Lover of Romance: I haven’t met an author yet who I have anything negative at all to say about. They’ve all impressed me to one degree or another. But there are a select few that are very special and Lisa is one for me.

Wendy said...

You get back with your training and I'll get back into my yoga regime. People won't recognize us in San Diego!

This year was a little discombobulating for me too, but I think that's largely because I haven't been in a very good head-space with blogging for a while. RWA has a way of turning that around for me though. Authors saying nice things to me, people mentioning specific blog posts, Rosie who I'm thinking of hiring to handle all my PR :) And just connecting with so many in the community. It's really a good experience and like you I've never had a *bad* experience at RWA. Everyone is always so darn nice.

Great, as always, to see you roomie. San Diego here we come!

farmwifetwo said...

I keep telling myself... it's time to leave and go see things. Leave Dh and kids (who are now teens) behind.

If you can afford it, and enjoy it... then go.

Sounds like you had a very good time.

Kristie (J) said...

Wendy - I'm actually thinking of doing a 2fer next year - San Diego to see all the SoCal bloggers I know and meet ones I haven't and then RT since I've never been to Vegas and it's a good time to go. As I've said - meeting with fellow romance people is my dream vacation

Farmwifetwo, it is harder when we have young'uns at home to get away by ourselves isn't it? But I think we need to do that every so often to recharge our batteries and even appreciate what we have to come back to. Since many romance fans tend to be a rather unique bunch, spending that time with fellow fans is such a wonderful experience, I think every fan of the genre should try at least once in their lifetimes. It's hard to really capture into words how it feels to be surrounded by "our people"