Wisconsin Romance Writer’s of America Conference

Each year WisRWA (Wisconsin Romance Writer’s of America), holds a conference in various cities throughout the state.  This year it was in Wausau – only two hours from here.  Our local group, Chippewa Valley Romance Writers, was in charge of the raffle which raises money for literacy.  Since 1998 our state organization has donated over $21,000 to literacy groups throughout the state.  While it was a lot of work gathering things for baskets, organizing the baskets then having the raffle on Saturday, it is satisfying knowing we are helping people learn to read.  I haven’t yet heard how much we raised this year.

This conference was different from the Romantic Times one I attended in Chicago in April.  While RT has thousands of attendees, WisRWA had 94, giving us all a better opportunity to meet and talk with people who understand our need to write.  It was also easier to run into friends.  WisRWA ran from Friday night to Sunday noon, instead of six days.  We had three speakers, instead of many, many workshops, giving us the opportunity to talk with and ask questions of multi-published authors. 

Both conferences had editors and agents attending to take pitches from us aspiring romance authors.  RT had a ballroom full, we had four – much more intimate and not so intimidating (sort of).  Friday night there was to be an agent/editor forum where we could ask questions about what they were looking for, how to submit, etc.  Unfortunately, due to bad air conncections, three of the four arrived late.  In fact, two of them were stuck in Detroit Friday night and didn’t arrive until mid-Saturday morning.  One poor woman then had to leave by 3:00 in the afternoon.  I’m not sure how she managed to get in all her appointments.

This brings me to something I did at this conference that I’ve never done before.  I’ve pitched in hallways, elevators, at lunch and breakfast at these conferences.  Very spur of the moment.  This year I decided to sign up for an appointment to pitch.  Needed to be a little more prepared and was I?  Well, since I was so busy with the raffle stuff and helping the organizer of the conference where I could (she’s three weeks away from delivering her third child), I was able to only jot down a few notes.  My apppointment was scheduled for 8:50 Saturday morning. 

Friday night I was lucky enough to meet the editor, (Diana) and have supper with her and some other writers.  That made things a little more relaxed Saturday morning.  In fact – after my ramblings about my book (anyway they seemed like ramblings to me), she asked to see sixty pages of my manuscript.  Man-oh-man, if I could still do a cartwheel – and do one while walking down a flight of stairs – I would have.  The rest of the day, I would have moments of pure joy, in between working.  I still get giddy when I think about it.  One step closer to publication in romance?  I hope so.

At our conference, we have something called “WisRWA Has Talent,” where you submit the first page of your manuscript and the editors and agents cold-read it just like they do when they receive a manuscript at their offices.  While they are reading it, someone reads a copyout loud to the audience.  This year I decided to enter.  (I must have had a brave moment when I sent in my registration.)  Anyway, I entered the first page of the manuscript I pitched to Diana.  The readings are done randomly so you don’t know when (or if) yours will be read.  I was more nervous over this than pitching.  What if Diana didn’t like it and approached me later and told me to forget sending the sixty pages?  At one point I thought I would have to run up to the room for another dose of deoderant. 

Mine hadn’t been read yet when I had to leave the room to put books on tables for a drawing during lunch.  I came back into the room right after the had finished with mine.  One of my friends from my group took notes.  They liked it!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Whew!!!!  Now I needed more deoderant from my excitement.

Saturday night, I was asked by our president to have supper with her, the editors and agents and other women who worked at the conference.  (I actually represented my group who worked just as hard as I did on the raffle.  I just happen to be our area contact person, so I was picked to go).  I ended up driving to the restaurant and guess who was in my van – Diana. We spent the meal talking about our families.  After returning to the hotel, we invited her to have some drinks in the bar where my group was going to discuss our goals (among many, many other things).  When we finally got around to our goals.  I said, “Hmm, let’s see.  I think one of my goals will be to get sixty pages sent off to some editor.”  Diana looked at me and said:  “I have so much work to do when I get back, please don’t rush it.”  What a lady!

All-in-all, it was a wonderful conference.  I even won a basket in the raffle – and not one we put together.  I didn’t bother to put tickets in those baskets because I swore I didn’t want any of those items back in my house again – ever.  Now I just have to finish putting everything away and organize all the notes, books and papers I brought back.  But the first thing I have to do is tack Diana’s business card (on which she wrote”60 pages”) on my bulleting board where I can see it – and not lose it.  So…back to work.

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