Takeaways from RWA 2016

Last month I went down to San Diego to attend my first ever RWA National Conference. It was the most inspiring four days of my life. I met a bunch of amazing romance writers, I came home with a pile of books and the best thing is I’ve been diligently working on my latest project ever since.

I spent the majority of my time at the hotel and saw very little of San Diego the entire time. Luckily I had a lovely view of the harbor from my room.

While the entire experience was four days of non-stop learning and inspiration, here are my three biggest takeaways.

Romance Writers are Awesome!

The first workshop I attended was the first timer’s orientation. This workshop helped set the tone for the rest of the week. Their big message was: welcome to the tribe where all writers are equal.

Granted, RWA has different levels of membership depending on where you are in your writing career. However once you are all in the same room the playing field is the same for everyone and the unspoken rule is be kind and provide support. I honestly believe this attitude stems from the fact that (yes I’m going to say it) 99% of the RWA membership is women. Women are completely different animals when men are not around. Men bring out our competitive side. Take them out of the equation and we are left to survive on our own and because we are nurturing by nature we help others do the same.

I also believe that the content romance writers focus on brings out good energy. What else can you expect when you bring together 2,000 women who spend their days thinking about unconditional love and commitment?

Nora Roberts is My New Idol

I was not planning to attend the “Chat with Nora Roberts” on Friday morning. I figured it would be standing room only and besides there was another workshop scheduled at the same time that I also really wanted to attend. I changed my mind at the last minute after chatting with a woman in the elevator who told me that hearing Nora Roberts speak would be invaluable. After a brief moment of
Sophie’s Choice I did an about face and hurried off to the “Chat with Nora Roberts.”

The woman on the elevator was spot on. Nora Roberts is not only a talented and prolific writer. She is warm, funny, authentic and swears like a sailor. When the hour was up I walked out of the room feeling like a better person.

Nora’s advice to writers is to write every day, stay disciplined and finish what you start. More than once she said “finish your first draft.” In fact at one point she said, “Finish that first draft. Puke it out!” The entire room chuckled at the joke but my jaw dropped, I found her statement so profound. Writing a first draft is EXACTLY like puking! It’s miserable, you don’t want to do it and you feel much better when you’re done. Not only that but the end result is NOT something anyone wants to look at. Knowing that even Nora Roberts, who has written and published over 200 novels still finds it hard really inspired me.

Time is Not an Excuse

I attended a workshop on time management, taught by Caridad Pineiro who has written and published over 50 books. She talked about making a plan and scheduling in time to write. She also shared her techniques of “thinking out her story” before she sits down to write for the day. I loved her many suggestions but then Caridad revealed something else that won me over for good: she is an attorney who works full time at a New York City law firm and she writes her books during her commute on the train. Also she has children!

If a New York City lawyer (she’s a partner no less!) with children can find time to write romance novels anyone can. Even me!

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