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NOTE: I have resurrected these Crazy Trip™ posts from a previous blog. For the accompanying Photo Essay, click the link in the main header (above) or HERE.

It has taken me over a month to write about the Conference itself. The reason for that, I see now, is simple. I’m in denial that it’s over. So far in denial, in fact, that I’ve signed up for a regional conference at the end of this month (which involves another train trip).

Hi, my name is RAFinley and I’m a “writers conference and travel junkie.” The fact that I can use one habit to feed another is…absolutely fantastic. Writing may well be the best career ever. (Which I knew at age eight then promptly overlooked, thanks to a bite from the Filmmaking Bug.)

Anyway. The RWA Conference.

It was terrific, as I expected it to be. You just can’t put 2,000-plus aspiring and successful romance writers in one place (especially one on Disneyworld property) and not get positive results. The energy level, even on the last day, is phenomenal—and I’d be surprised if it didn’t get picked up by various satellites as they passed over Orlando. I’ll have to check NASA image websites, or perhaps NOAA.

What goes on at the conference to make people so happy?

For one, there’s a lot of freebies. You’re guaranteed to walk out of there with 20+ bookmarks you never thought you wanted (and in fact are fairly certain you don’t). And that’s without your even setting foot in the “Goody Room,” where you can pick up even more bookmarks, postcards, notepads, pens, candy, and whatever other doodads writers (and their publishers) very much hope will inspire you to become a devoted fan of whatever book(s) are advertised thereon.

There are book-signings galore. First is the biggie—the one whose proceeds go towards charity. You have to pay for whatever books you have signed and the lines can be long, but just about any romance author you might hope to see—and more—will be there. Next, throughout the conference, are the publisher-hosted signings. Books you pick up there and have signed are free. Yes, that’s right. Free. Unfortunately, they take place at the same time as the workshops, so a bit of a conflict is created. (At least, it is for me. Figuring chances are good I’ve already bought the books earlier in the year, I’ve always opted to attend the workshops. Plus the lines to the “how the heck can I get all this stuff home” shipping table are scary-long. Almost as long as the line to a Nora Roberts signing.)

Workshops! Nothing makes me feel more justified in taking what really amounts to a wonderful vacation than attending three days of back-to-back workshops. Sure, I miss one or two in there—it’s not easy keeping one’s brain in working order when the social day begins with a 7:30am breakfast and “classes” start an hour later. What are they on, you ask? Anything and everything to do with writing and/or romance writing in particular. This year, Lincoln Child (thrillers) spoke along with Suzanne Brockman (romance), which supports the theory that there are more similarities between the genres of popular fiction than there are differences. Also offered were several workshops on how to market yourself (with a lot of emphasis on the social networking sites, blogs (*ahem*), and websites). There were panels in which authors discussed the future—read, viability—of their particular subgenres. There were workshops on the craft of writing (how to say more with less, how to use setting, how to outline, how to write without an outline, how to develop character, how to craft a fight scene). There were workshops on publishing—what the future may hold, given the development (and developing confusion) of e-books—and on finding and submitting to agents and editors.

Speaking of which, the conference allows attendees the chance to get one (or both) for themselves via appointments. I haven’t tried this yet, but definitely will next year if my anticipated regional conference “pitches” and planned springtime Query Letter Blitzkrieg don’t get anywhere.

The conference also has two luncheons and a gala dinner, and while the food tends to run the gamut from blah to awful, the speeches are always inspirational–and frequently highly entertaining. The awards ceremony after the dinner is the romance-publishing version of the Oscars and is truly a sight to behold…and inspiration in itself.

NOTE: There are many, many tables behind these.

In the midst of all the giveaways, the workshops, the lunches, and so on there are the encounters with other attendees. Maybe you encounter an author you admire in an elevator (hello, Tessa Dare!). Maybe you meet someone who enjoys the same books as you, or who is dealing with the same frustrations with her manuscript. Or maybe you just meet someone with the same sense of humor and have a good laugh.

It all comes together to make an incredibly fun experience—and an incredibly addicting one. I look forward to RWA New York City 2011. Good times ahead.

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