Monday, July 16, 2007

Failure to Meet Expectations

Maven Jacqueline BarbourThe title of this post came to me for two reasons:

1. I know you were expecting Erica today, but instead you get me. Sorry 'bout that, but Erica and I decided to swap days this week because I was ready to post and she wasn't. (Of course, then it took me until mid-afternoon to get around to it, so maybe I wasn't that ready after all!)

2. The RWA conference totally failed to live up to every one of my expectations. And in the most spectacular, wonderful way possible.

Obviously, I'm not going to spend the rest of the blog talking about the first one. Those of you who clicked over here for Erica's wisdom and insights are just going to have to suck it up and wait for tomorrow :>!

But on the second one...ah, lots of fodder!

Before I can explain why I was so surprised, I probably have to explain what I expected before I got there. And I'm honestly not completely sure I can articulate (especially not on the little sleep I've had this week), but I know I didn't expect to walk away with such ebullience and optimism about how we are all going to be published if only we'll never, ever give up.

A big part of the reason I expected a "downer" was probably because I'd gotten some very disheartening contest feedback right before I left on my family vacation at the end of June (check out my blog for some photos of our trip). I didn't really have time to digest that information nor to do anything about it before I left, but I was really feeling that I'd spent a lot of time writing a book that was just never, ever going to work. (And that still might be true, but I digress...)

Anyway, the point of that information is that I figured going to the conference would just convince me even further that I'm a talentless hack who'll never sell anything beyond my one, tiny novellla which was obviously just a fluke. Because, after all, I was going to a place where at least 1,200 other authors and aspiring authors would be, vying for the very few and very coveted slots that publishers have to offer. How could that be anything but a competitive and depressing environment? Yes, the Mavens would be there to keep my chin up and I was looking forward to spending time with them, but I wasn't looking much beyond that for a positive experience.

Needless to say, my expectations were entirely controverted. To a person (and I don't say "to a woman" because a few of the writers as well as industry professionals in attendance were men), everyone I met was friendly, encouraging, and supportive. Even (get this) the industry professionals made me feel positive and hopeful about pursuing publication, and I figured they'd be the first ones to slap us all down by pointing out just how poor the odds for succeeding actuaally are. None of them did. Instead, they all emphasized over and over again that it's mostly a matter of finding the right person who'll love and fight for your story, more about timing and perseverance than about luck. And whether they were just saying that to be nice or not doesn't matter, because I believed them!

The other thing that struck me was just how many of the writers I met turned out to be published. I'd guess that at least a third or maybe even three-fifths of the authors I met were wearing the red "PAN" badges. Maybe that should have depressed me. After all, if there are thaat many published authors, how can there be room left for the unwashed and unpublished folks like me? But somehow, I had the opposite reaction. Look how many people are published! Maybe it's not quite as impossible as it somehow seems when I can go to a conference like this and meet not tens of them, but hundreds of them, most of whom I've never even heard of.

I think the fact that I didn't recognize the names of the vast majority of published authors I met made me realize what a small sliver of the romance publishing industry I actually pay attention to. I didn't meet many published authors of historical romances that I'd never heard of (though I shared a bus and then a cab ride with Pamela Clare, whose Colonial-set Surrender was up for a RITA in long historical; I admit, I'd never heard of her or the book, though I plan to buy it now that I know about it), but even so, I got a warm, fuzzy feeling from the fact that so many people are published. They were first-time authors once, too, after all. Everyone who's published had to make a first sale. Had to convince an agent, an editor, or both that her work was worth taking a chance on. And so many of them did, it boggles my mind a little!

So it's not impossible, my friends. Difficult as hell, yes. But not such a long-shot as to be wholly outside the realm of possibility. And I have to admit, before the conference, I was leaning toward the "beyond the realm of possibility" side of the equation.

Of course, I also had a blast because I spent most of my time with the Mavens (and this was actually the first time I've met Erica in person, and she's every bit as much fun in real life as she is online!) and a whole bunch of other folks I've known only online since Avon's FanLit contest last year but had never met in person. I hope nobody takes the order of the following list as significant in any way, because it's not, but I so enjoyed hanging out with Beverley, TessaD, Courtney, India, Sara, Santa (who doesn't seem to have a blog or website!), Chris, Cynthia, Amanda (of Romance Vagabonds), and J. Perry Stone (who I'm not sure was a FanLitter but I know I've run into at Squawk and elsewhere online). I also had a ton of fun on Saturday night with some of Lacey's friends from last year's conference, including Shannon Greenland, Tara Greenbaum, and Delilah Ahrendt (who was up for a Golden Heart in long historical this year) and her husband. So much fun, in fact, that I darned near forgot to go to bed (and when I did, failed to sleep!).

Meeting Tessa Woodward and Esi Sogah from Avon after the Golden Heart and RITA ceremony was also quite a kick. Turns out, they're just real people like the rest of us ;->.

So, all in all, it was just a fabulous experience. There's still lots more industry dish and insight to share, but I'm way too exhausted at this point to ananlyze much of anything past the fun parts and the amazing amount of joy and support I felt. I was surrounded by a bunch of people who love romance--reading it and writing it. And that, my friends, is what's priceless!

YOUR TURN: Did you make it to Dallas? What did you come away with? What was your best (or worst) moment? (And no, Darcy, this doesn't mean you get to tell the cockroach story a second time!) And if you didn't make it, have I convinced you to come hang out in San Francisco with us next year?


Beverley Kendall said...

I completely enjoyed hanging out with you too. And for anyone who has never met Jacqueline her posted picture doesn't do her justice (we talked about this). Hopefully she will post a new picture. She looks much younger!!!

Best moment? Meeting everyone (Fanlit gang, the authors, getting tons of free books, meeting people I'd never met before. It was all good.) Worst moment. Realizing again how hard it is to be punished. But I walked away with more determination than ever to get published. Lightbulb moment? I really think I found my VOICE.

Darcy Burke said...

Great recap, Jacq. And I'm sure you realize I've told that cockroach story at least a gajillion times. And the roach just keeps getting bigger and bigger...

Isabel said...

I'm running late for dinner, but just wanted to say hello and say that I'm definitely looking forward to meeting you all next year in SF. I have butterflies in my tummy just thinking of that conference, but I'm thrilled that I'll have a chance to meet all of you in person.


lacey kaye said...

I feel like a bad friend. I didn't find a blog for Delilah, although I didn't spend a lot of time looking, either.


Yes, it rocked! I loved meeting everyone, too, and all the new people. I just LOVED Shannon's hair. Can't get enough of that a second year in a row. Last year? Great. This year? Fabtastic. So unfair!

I'm not coherent now. Loving my new Dallas-inspired opening...(the conference, not the tv show ;-)

Carey Baldwin said...

And you, Jacq, were a huge part of that positive energy. I expected good things from conference, but it went so far beyond, and I KNOW a large part of that was the way everyone from the groups you mentioned supported each other. See you in SF!

Tessa Dare said...

I had a fabulous time in Dallas, and meeting all the Mavens was a true delight! Can't wait for next year ...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Ugg, the other post messed up.

Anyhow, what I said:
It was wonderful meeting so many people at conference. My most favorite moment was having a lovely dinner with a group of very good friends. It's great to have people you can enjoy yourself with!

Lady Leigh said...

Great post- I wish I could have been there! Pamela Clair is in my RWA chapter. Natasha Kern is her agent as she just loooves Pamela. Anyone take any pics to post?

Jackie Barbosa said...

So glad everyone else had such a positive experience, too. Honestly, I'll be jazzed for weeks!

Santa said...

One of the best parts of this conference was matching names to so many faces I've met through Avon BB, Squawk Radio, FanLit, Romance Vagabonds, Vano and so many other blogs and BBs I lurk and post on.

M'hat's always off to you folks who keep blogs. More power to you! I enjoy the conversations more than anything else.

But I must confess it would be cool to have my name appear in blue instead of plain old black!

Here's to San Francisco and many, many more PAN folks milling around. I felt the same way that you did about getting put down instead of the lifting up that was going on throughout this conference.

Manda Collins said...

Hi Jacqui, I enjoyed meeting you too! And like you I was blown away by all the positive energy at the conference. It was great fun and inspiring to see so many writers together in one place. And it really was impressive that so many fanlitters made it to the conference. I know I owe my renewed press to get pubbed to Fanlit...

I don't get around the blogosphere very much (because if I let myself I could spend all my time commenting on cool blogs) but you guys are great fun and I'm glad to have faces to put to the names now!

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Manuscript Mavens