And the results are…

I realized I hadn’t posted anything about the RWA conference and the results of the Boroughs novella contest.

First, the conference was great!  I went to high tea at the Ritz Carlton with friends.  I ate at a couple great restaurants, including a terrific Turkish place.  They had lamb; what’s not to love?  I saw old friends and made new ones.  I got lots of books and promotional goodies.  The luncheon speakers were so inspiring, especially Kristan Higgins.  She made us laugh and then she made us cry.  But we all came away loving her.  The Rita and Golden Heart ceremony ran like a well-oiled machine (shout out to my fellow Playfriends Kira Sinclair, Andrea Laurence and Dani Wade!).  Congrats to the winners.  I got to help with the trophies this year.  Now I wonder what the person who hands out the Oscars feels like.

And now for the contest results.  I didn’t win the overall prize, but because YOUR votes got me to the final round, my novella will be published!  I don’t have any info yet about a release date but I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

I did, however, get the most popular votes (thanks again!) and because of that I get to submit a full-length manuscript for consideration.  Woot!

I say I’ll keep you posted, but it won’t be here.  Pretty soon I’ll be launching a new website under my pseudonym.  No one can pronounce or spell my last name, so I dug back through the family tree and found a name I really liked.  I’ll still be Marilyn.  I think it would be too much to learn to answer to a different first name.  But the last name will change.  Just look for an announcement and directions to the new website.

Here’s a photo of me at the Boroughs open house.  The woman on the right is Alanna Lucas, overall winner of the contest.  She writes Regency romance.  On the left is Joan Bird, one of Boroughs’ authors.

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It’s going to be an exciting (and scary) adventure to finally work with my editor and have the professional guidance to make my work shine.  I often wondered if I’d ever be able to say those words — my editor.  I don’t yet know who it will be, but I met them all and I will be happy regardless.

We come to the end

Five weeks ago I started a journey unlike any other.  I’ve entered writing contests before, but the finalists and winners were selected by a panel of judges.  The Boroughs “What’s in a Name” contest had been judged by YOU.  There’s been no feedback except after each round when the authors saw whether or not they advanced to the next round.  We don’t even know who we’re competing against because the only information about each entry is the song title and artist that inspired the story.

Five weeks ago I hoped I could at least make it to round 2.  I had worked on a promotion plan and put it into action as soon as the contest began.  Some things worked well (Facebook and Twitter) and others didn’t (joining the Kenny Chesney Facebook page).  But hey, live and learn, right?

Not only did I make it to round 2, but I made it to the 3rd and final round.  And tonight at midnight Pacific time, the contest ends.  It will be up to the folks at Boroughs to tally the votes and read the name of the winner on Friday night, July 19, at their Open House at the Romance Writers of America conference.  Will I be there?  Absolutely!  Will I be nervous?  You better believe it!  Do I think I can win?  Yes!  I’ve worked consistently to bug the heck out of y’all promote my entry and get your votes.  Will I be disappointed if I don’t win?  That’s another yes, but I have done everything I knew how to do to win.

You have one more chance to vote before midnight and then the curtain drops on this show.  So bop on over to the Boroughs website and cast one last vote for BETTER AS A MEMORY.   And let me take this opportunity to thank each of you for voting and for doing your own promotion on your Facebook feeds.

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P.S.  Yesterday’s winner of a $20 Amazon gift certificate is Linda Rogers.  Congrats, Linda!

TGIF

That stands for Thank Goodness I’ve Friends.  Yeah, it’s a stretch (the acronym, not the friends part) but it serves my purpose.

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I wouldn’t be as far along as I am in my personal life, my writing life and the novella contest were it not for a little help from my friends.  So I want to say a big thank you to my entire circle of friends.  You know who you are.

And also, TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday)!  I have scads of things to do before I leave for the Romance Writers of America conference in Atlanta.  I’m so excited to see friends I only see once a year, or in some cases, once every couple years.  I’m excited about attending workshops and learning more.  And I’m uber excited about the Boroughs Open House on Friday where the novella contest winner will be announced!  I’m sure I’ll be a nervous wreck by then.

Keep those votes coming, folks!  You can click right HERE and vote once a day.

No contest today but I’ll have a big one tomorrow!

P.S.  The winner of the $10 Starbucks card is Sherida Stewart!

What Should I Wear to the RWA Conference?

All over Romancelandia, folks are getting ready for the annual RWA National Conference. Two weeks from today I’ll be on my way to Hotlanta to attend, and for the past months I’ve been worrying about my wardrobe.

Today I’ll be attempting to answer the oft-asked question, “What should I wear to the conference?”

Simply put, you should pack two types of clothing: business or business casual for everyday (the choice of casual or not is a personal preference) and dressy for  the awards ceremony. Simple, huh?

Not really. A lot depends on your pocketbook, your personal taste and style, perhaps the stage of your writing career and what you will be doing at the conference (for example, are you speaking?). Let’s go through each of these in a bit more detail.

Your pocketbook – For some folks, dropping a couple hundred dollars on a suit is nothing. For me, it would be the precursor to bankruptcy. I’m a bargain hunter and a discount shopper. I haunt places like Ross and TJ Maxx. I’m also not above shopping at thrift stores.  I have a black and red dress that’s going to conference and it was only $8 at a thrift store. I also found a pair of genuine Crocs for $5. They’re not going to conference but they are terrific at the pool. But I digress. It’s not impossible to look good on a budget. It just requires a little diligence and patience as you rifle through the racks at an off-price store or watch the sales at your favorite mall anchor store. And it doesn’t hurt that I’m of an age when certain stores give me a 10% discount on a certain day of the week.

Your personal taste and style – Several of my chaptermates load their suitcases with stilettos. My personal taste, foot problems notwithstanding, runs to flats and lower heels. Those chaptermates also wears a lot of really cute dresses. I tend to lean more toward dress trousers with some sort of stylish top and a jacket or sweater. Those chaptermates feel good in their wardrobes, and I feel good in mine. And that’s what it’s all about, folks. Feeling good about yourself and projecting an image of self-confidence and professionalism. Some authors have a personal style that makes them stand out in a crowd. If you see a very attractive woman wearing an uber-stylish business suit and stilettos, it’s probably Hank Phillippi Ryan. Hank not only writes, she’s an investigative reporter for a Boston TV station and has won a gazillion Emmy and Edward R. Murrow awards. She’s about as put-together as they come. I can’t imagine her in what I’m wearing as I write this (elastic waist shorts, a t-shirt from a divorce attorneys’ conference and bare feet), but I’m sure she has her own brand of “writer casual” for home.

The stage of your writing career – Published writers are “on” much more than us unpubbed nobodies. Granted, I want to look good, but at this stage of the game, I don’t have an adoring public watching my every move like Nora does. I’m sure if she showed up at conference in cut-off sweat pants and a ragged t-shirt, the blogosphere would be all ablog about it. But even at the unpublished stage, I want people who DO notice me, to notice someone who’s put together. A couple years ago I actually had someone look at my nametag in the elevator and say, “YOU’RE the Playground Monitor! I love the Writing Playground!” I was flattered. And shocked. And very happy I was dressed nicely.

What you will be doing at conference – Are you just attending workshops or are you perhaps also presenting or moderating one? I’ll be moderating on Friday morning, so I’ll want to look especially nice because I’ll be behind a podium reading into a microphone that’s connected to the all-conference recording system and my voice will be recorded for posterity and OHMYGOSH everyone will be looking at me and gee whiz, should I buy a new outfit for that day? —deep breath— Do you have an editor or agent appointment? You’ll want to look sharp for that too. Your wardrobe won’t make him/her ask for your book, but feeling good about yourself will surely come through in your demeanor. You only have one chance to make a good first impression and you want that editor’s first impression of you to be a positive one.

So based on the aforementioned criteria, what will be in my suitcase? A couple pairs of black trousers and coordinating tops, a jacket to go with these (probably black too), the $8 dress and a black shrug, a $109 sparkly tank and jacket set that I got for $19 to go with dressy black pants for awards night with my fancy shoes and a small evening purse, jewelry for all my outfits, shoes for everyday, undies, pajamas and blah, blah, blah.

What about after-hours attire, you ask? In past years I’ve taken clothes to change into after the workshops are over and brought them home unworn. I may tuck in a pair of capris just in case. Gym clothes and a swimsuit? Are you kidding? I took a swimsuit to my first conference and never used it either. Just remember, though, if you do change into something more comfortable or are tempted to “just run to the ice machine in a t-shirt without a bra,” you also might just run into the agent you pitched to earlier in the day. I’m just sayin’.

This will be my 9th national conference, and you’d think by now I would have it down pat. Oh no. I’m still agonizing over clothes. It’s not so much about the perfect dress as it is about the dress that doesn’t elicit an “UGH” when I look in the mirror. And who knew there were a dozen shades of black? I have so many debits and credits to and from Ross that I’m afraid my bank might be thinking I’m laundering money or something.

One last thing.  Make sure it fits – try on clothes with the appropriate undergarments BEFORE conference.  Wear it a while to make sure it’s comfortable.  Because never ever underestimate the importance of comfort.

Got any clothing tips for me?

P.S.  Did you vote for BETTER AS A MEMORY TODAY?

RWA Conference Tips – Part 1

I posted conference tips on the Writing Playground blog when we were still active, but it’s information for conference that’s timeless.  So I wanted to share it here for any of you who are going for the first time.

I enjoy the RWA conference.  I just don’t like all the stress of getting ready to go. You have to pay your registration fee right after Christmas. Then, most years you monitor airline fares and pounce the moment you see a great deal. You have an email loop with you and the others in your chapter who are going too so you can all obsess over baggage fees and how to get enough clothes for a week into one suitcase — especially when you have to have not only business casual but sightseeing clothes and formal wear as well.  You have to all get together at least once for a pre-conference fashion show to make sure you have things matched up right, have all the right accessories, loaned someone the top that matches their new skirt just perfectly and given each wardrobe the Good Friend Seal of Approval.

This year RWA is practically in my backyard.  It’s in Atlanta, a mere 4 hour drive from here.  So no airline tickets.  No baggage restrictions (though I’m sure the friend I’m riding with will appreciate me not carrying everything I own).

But once I’ve pared the clothing down to bare minimums, squeezed it all into the bag along with shoes, toiletries, jewelry, et cetera, traveled to the conference city, negotiated that city’s transportation system (if necessary) and checked into the hotel, the stress falls away (mostly) and I’m ready to learn and see old friends and make new ones too.

And then there are the workshops.  I’ve poured over the listings and decided which ones I want to attend.  I’m even moderating one of them.  On Friday night, I’ll be attending the Boroughs Publishing Group Open House and hopefully I’ll hear my name called as the winner of the What’s in a Name novella contest ( VOTEFORBETTERASAMEMORYATWWW.BOROUGHSPUBLISHINGGROUP.COM).  Saturday night is the RITA awards ceremony and that’s always loads of fun.  You get to dress  up and see people win golden statues.  It’s our version of the Oscars.

Anyway, I thought I’d borrow from a previous blog and offer a few tips I’ve gleaned from both past experience and some of my ever-so-helpful writing friends from around the world.

* Volunteer because it’s a great opportunity to meet other writers. And you’ll be giving back to the organization that gives us so much.  AND, in past years volunteering has put your name in a drawing to get your registration fee paid for next year’s conference.  I don’t know if that’s the case this year, but even if it’s not, volunteer because it’s the thing to do.

* Wear comfy shoes.   This is especially important for me after my foot fracture 18 months ago.  I have two new pairs of shoes that will accommodate my orthotics (that makes me sound sooooooo old), but are also attractive (or as attractive as orthopedic shoes can be).  I have no choice.  It’s this or pain.  So I plan to have lots of cool necklaces and earrings so folks will all be looking at that and not my feet.  Also take some Band-Aide or Dr. Scholl friction stick and gel shoe pads to help shoes keep from rubbing and to add extra cushioning.  If you’ve purchased new shoes for conference, WEAR THEM AHEAD OF TIME to see how they fit, where they might rub, etc.

* Take a jacket or shawl to wear in the conference rooms. They keep the temps at a level comfortable for a man in a wool-blend business suit, which means a woman in a sleeveless dress will have blue lips and goosebumps before you can spell Antarctica.

* The workshop schedule is online at the RWA site. Take an afternoon or evening and go through it. Make a chart with Word or Excel for every day you’re at the conference. Write down the workshops you want to attend. Add the get-togethers with various groups of friends you only see once a year. With a schedule, the whole affair seems a little less overwhelming, especially if this is your first conference.  And remember that most workshops are taped (the schedule will indicate this) so if you have to choose, go with the untaped one.  You can always get the conference CDs and hear the taped one later.

* Do not, I repeat, DO NOT do as I did at my first conference and try to attend a workshop during every slot of every day. By Friday night I felt as if I’d slammed into a concrete wall. I had major brain overload. Select the workshops you really want to attend, and if it’s a popular one, arrive early to assure you get a seat. Then when there’s an hour where no workshop really calls to you, visit the Executive Conference Room (ECR)  AKA the hotel bar or the hotel coffee shop and rest.  The RWA conference has been described as 2000 introverts all pretending to be extroverts for 3 days.  That’s pretty much true.  And if you’re not careful, all that pretending will suck the life right out of you.  Even if you are careful, you’re likely to come home exhausted and feeling like every brain cell died, but you’ll recover and will benefit from the conference experience.

* If you are targeting a particular publisher, be sure to attend their spotlight session. You’ll get a world of information straight from the horse’s mouth.

* Speaking of mouths, be careful what comes out of yours. You never know who may be at the back of the elevator car. It could be the editor who has your manuscript or her best friend. Be especially careful not to enjoy the ECR too much because loose lips sink ships — and writing careers too. When I first wrote this blog years ago, I spoke of not becoming next week’s blog fodder.  But with Twitter and the wide availability of smartphones, you’ll be Twitter fodder (would that be Twodder?) in SECONDS!  And it’ll be retweeted until every person in the universe knows what you did.  There.  Have I scared you enough???

* If you see someone who looks lost or scared, walk up to them and say, “Hi, my name is _______ and I’m from ________. Is this your first conference? What do you write?” Invite them to sit with you at lunch. Introduce them to your friends. A big part of this business is networking, and just saying hello may lead to something big.  I cannot overemphasize the importance of networking.  If you don’t already have business cards, get some.  With the fast shipping option, you could get them by conference from VistaPrint.  Or you can print your own from your computer.  All you need on the card is your name and contact info so the person you give it to can get in touch with you.

* One of my writing friends is really big on goals — even at conference. She doesn’t leave home without a goal in mind. I try to do this too and come up with something that is tangible and can be measured, such as networking with five new people or learning about several publishing houses you were not familiar with before the conference.

* I always take a new bottle of over-the-counter pain reliever. I carry it with me everywhere for my own aches and pains or for the editor in the elevator who complains of a splitting headache. This is a great way to make a new friend too.  And remember to drink plenty of water.  It’s easy to get dehydrated and that will lead to a headache.  You don’t want that to spoil any of the conference for you.

* Remember to take your camera and remember to use it so you can take home memories of the week. I have photos of myself with favorite authors and love to go back and look at conferences from years past. Remember the charging cable too!  That’s me and Janet Evanovich at the 2009 conference in Washington, DC.

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* If you take your cell phone, be sure to TURN IT OFF during workshops. Put in on vibrate and stick it in your pocket. You’ll know when someone calls but it won’t disturb the speaker (unless you shriek when it vibrates). And remember the charging cord for it too.

* The conference hotel has a Starbucks in it.  I enjoy an afternoon cup of tea, so I plan to pre-load a Starbucks card and take it with me.  Then all I have to do is order my tea and hand them my Starbucks card.  It just simplifies things for me a little.  You may want to do the same if you’re a coffee, frappe, tea or whatever lover.

* Leave your favorite perfume at home. Many folks have allergies, and even if they don’t, fifteen women all wearing different perfume in an elevator can be olfactory overload.

Did I forget anything?