Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Post-Conference Coma

Well, I'm back. Back in the physical sense, that is. My brain is still sleeping on the plane 35,000 feet over Nebraska.

This might just have been our best conference ever. I arrived early to give myself time to do a little sightseeing with friends. So Tuesday afternoon on Wednesday morning were spent wandering, shopping, viewing landmarks, and getting caught up with friends. I was thrilled to see the City Lights bookstore, the one owned by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the one where Allen Ginsberg gave the public reading of his poem Howl that gave rise to new obscenity standards. As both an editor and an attorney, that's the kind of landmark that makes my heart go pitter-pat.

My boss arrived early Wednesday afternoon, and no sooner had she checked into her room than we dashed off together for a meeting with a book buyer. This was the first of a series of business meetings, all of which were remarkably fruitful. After we finished those, we made a quick lap through the room for the literacy signing, dropping "Red Sage Secret Society" buttons at all our authors’ signing stations. This was the first stage in a planned giveaway which we kept more or less under wraps before the conference. The idea was that our authors would be doing random stops of people wearing our buttons to give away free books. You had to have a button to get a book. We gave away several hundred buttons, and almost as many books.

After doing the lap through the literacy signing room, my boss and I headed off to dinner at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant, Postrio. The meal was fabulous, and our waiter was adorable. I wanted to put him in my pocketbook and take him home. If you happen to be in San Francisco and are looking for a really superior meal, that would be a great place to go.

The next day, Thursday, was a whirlwind of author meetings and pitches. We took a record number of pitches this year, and for the most part, they were all terrific. Authors were well-prepared and understood what we were looking for. Of course, you can always count on an RWA conference to generate good pitches. That's one of the reasons we attend.

Pitches and meetings ran from about nine in the morning until almost four in the afternoon, at which time our coffee social started. What a rush! I still can't believe how many people came out for that! The room was so crowded that people couldn't even get back to the coffee and cupcake table. I want to thank everybody who attended -- you made it so much fun -- and I did try my best to at least say hello to everybody. I failed. I know I failed. But I did try.

From there, we went to the Passionate Ink reception, where we were delighted to see Angela Knight honored by having an award named after her. We love Angela. She's such a wonderful ambassador for the genre. Congratulations to her and to the winner of the award. I paid close attention to the names that were called during the awards ceremony -- but then, I always do. It's interesting to hear which authors are deemed best by their peers. I think that writers are often the most difficult-to-please readers, and an award like this is particularly meaningful. Congratulations to all the winners in all categories.

One rather strange thing happened at that reception, and I'm going to mention it here even though I've debated whether to do so. At one point, I was working the room a little bit, and I walked up to a table of about six writers. They were talking amongst themselves, and all of them glanced at me as I approached the table, but not one of them said hello. I wasn't sure if I might be interrupting, but it quickly became apparent that their conversation was not particularly animated. Some of them were talking to each other, and so I turned to the other three, intending to say hello and introduce myself.

To say that they froze me out would be a great understatement. In fact, I haven't seen behavior like that since the high school cafeteria. I'm not sure what caused it -- I don't know if I may have rejected one of their friends, or even one of them, or maybe they write for one of our competitors -- but after thinking about it, I've decided I don't care what the reason was. The simple truth is that at a business networking event, people should expect to be approached and should be prepared to say hello. They don't have to like me or my company. They don't have to submit manuscripts to my company. But even if they outright hated me or my company, the polite and professional thing to do would have been to say hello, make a brief connection, and then move on. As it happened, I walked away from that table without saying a single word to any one of those five authors.

It's rare that something like that happens at a writing conference. Usually, writers are pretty happy to meet new people at these events -- or at least, that's been my experience. So that's why I debated saying anything here. This particular event, the Passionate Ink reception, is usually a wonderful venue for networking. I don't want to sound like I'm criticizing the event or the event coordinators or the chapter as a whole. They do a great job. I just hate to see their event marred by behavior like that.

In any event, moving on. From there we went to our author dinner. This is always a fun and lively event, and this year was no exception. I think the funniest moment came after dinner. Our submissions coordinator, Barb, was celebrating her birthday that day. Several of the authors got together and ordered a naughty cake for her. I knew something was up when the waiter carried it in, and the look on his face made it plain that something wicked this way came. Then he set down the cake, and we all got a good look at the picture on top -- two bunnies having sex. Maybe you have to know Barb to understand how truly funny that is, because she is definitely a woman who understands the benefit of going at it like rabbits, but regardless, this is one of the funniest cakes I've ever seen. Kudos to the authors who came up with that one.

One other noteworthy moment from the dinner erupted at the end of the table where Alicia and our copy editor were sitting. This was the first volley in what has come to be known as the Great Semicolon Skirmish of ‘08. Trust me when I tell you this was a complicated battle that covered much territory and involved the use of much precise ammunition. I did enter the fray briefly, but backed away slowly when I realized I would have a hard time getting a word in edgewise. And that's saying something. It's not often that someone can outshout me on the topic of punctuation. I will leave the disclosure of further details to Alicia and Lynn.

The next day, Friday, we had several more meetings, meetings, meetings, with a brief break in the afternoon for some much-needed downtime. I was starting to hit my wall. I hid in my room for a bit, and an hour and a half later, I rose refreshed and wandered off for a dinner meeting. This one was at a place called Kuleto's, and it was fabulous. Every meal we had in every restaurant we visited was fabulous. I just can't say enough good about restaurants in San Francisco. We lingered over dinner and drinks, and it was pretty late at night by the time this one wrapped up. I hated to say goodbye to my boss -- she was leaving early the next morning, not joining us on our editing retreat, but if we do this again next year, I really want her there. I just adore this woman. I feel very lucky to be working for her.

So that takes us to Saturday morning, at which time we left for our editing retreat. I won't go into that now. I'd rather stay focused on the conference itself for a little while. This seemed like a very upbeat conference this year, remarkably upbeat. I didn't hear much doom and gloom, and very little dire prognosticating. There wasn't much industry gossip, and what little I did hear, I would agree with. People were talking about paranormal starting to get saturated, and I would say there's truth in that. Readers are still snapping up these books, but I think that the trend is at its peak. Not that it's falling off, but that it's reached maximum density.

I confess, I don't pay a lot of attention to the chatter about other publishers. I did hear are a few tidbits -- I heard something about a new Harlequin contract, though I can't for the life of me remember what it was, and I heard something about Kensington not being as open to new authors, though I can't remember why. If anyone wants to shed light on these rumors, please correct my imprecise information in the comments. Or if anyone heard any other good industry information, feel free to post it in the comments, or if you prefer to remain anonymous, send it to and I’ll preserve your anonymity and share your information.

I will tell you about our editing retreat, but to do that, I want to post pictures, and my camera cable is in my suitcase traveling all around the country. Good old American Airlines. They charge fifteen bucks to check a bag, and then they can’t even get it to its destination. But that's a whole other story which we’ll save for another time.



Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your experience at the PI party. Too bad I wasn't there (although I'd have probably left those dead fish, too) -- one of my favorite things about these conferences is walking up to total strangers and making conversation.

One day, we'll be in the same place at the same time and we'll make up for that group.

Ian said...

Boo for nasty writers - I met a few of them at Pikes Peak Writers' Conferences (hey, do you all ever come to that one?).

As far as semicolons go ... I don't think they should exist in dialogue. At all. But I have no problem using them in narrative; I like them.

They also make good winks. ;)

Jody W. and Meankitty said...

Thanks for the lengthy conference description. Semicolons, secrets buttons and coffee parties, oh my! In 2010 (I look to the future) RWA is in Nashville, and if I can't come next year, at LEAST I can come to the one that's local to me!

Jody W.

Edittorrent said...

Ian, I've spoken at the Pikes Peak conference. I have one thing to say about it: You sure get drunk fast at 7700 feet.
Alicia (don't ask me how I know)

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the experience at P.I. I had a bit of a similar experience, in reverse. I'd spoken with an agent the day before, garnering two partial requests. I saw her again at P.I., but when I tried saying hello she very quickly brushed me off. Maybe she thought I was conference-stalking her, but that wasn't the case. Or maybe she's shy. Or didn't recognize me. I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt, because I did like during our conversation the day before and her clients seem to love her. But it did feel a little awkward.

Genella deGrey said...

It was great meeting you, Theresa!

I enjoyed my secrets button (I was awarded a RS book for wearing it!) and the coffee mixer was fun. It was very generous of you all to do that for us. :)

I personally don't mind it when I come across semicolons in a book - but the editor who has been assigned to me has an aversion to them. Tee-hee! It’s funny how things turn up in books like Sherrilyn Kneyon's “Acheron” that are not allowed in my manuscript . . . Like semicolons, just to mention one.

Oh well, onward and upward –