Monday, April 07, 2014

The 30th WRW Retreat

I spent this weekend at the 30th Annual Washington Romance Writers (WRW) retreat, and it was amazing.  Much of it is a happy blur of brain epiphanies, great speeches, wonderful conversations, and time with old and new friends.  But I will attempt to do it some justice. 
Liliana Hart gave a great kickoff speech which involved a spring break story about some high surf and a lost bikini top, ending with the idea that we are all stuck on our own rocks, worried that no one will come help us. 
I also got the chance to sit at dinner with the lovely Tara Janzen and tell her how much I loved the Steele Street series. I mentioned to her my love for NaNoWriMo since fast drafting suits my writing process and the discussion on our end of the table about how fast drafters vs. careful crafters is not necessarily linked to the panster vs. plotter part of you.  Pantsers can still be working without a net plot-wise as they carefully polish each sentence, and careful plotters, might hit the keyboard and not come up for air until the first draft is done. 
The agent/editor free for all was interesting to me mostly because I found people more willing to say, yeah things are changing, this will continue to be so.  One editor mentioned she predicts (and I agree) that someone is going to figure out something around curated content.  Discoverability on the net is such a challenge, this makes sense to me.  I think people are trying various things, it's mostly a question of what sticks. 
Kathy Gilles Seidel gave a workshop on how to think about the moments and themes for your story's central couple that had us all thinking hard.  Lunchtime had awards for the Marlene contest and volunteers.  Tara Janzen gave a workshop on keeping your pacing fast.  I also took a brain break and hung out with some fellow crafters.  We talked about the relationship between yarn crafts and writing. 
We did American Author, where editors and an agent gave their first impressions of the first 250 words of several pieces.  It was fascinating partly because when you hear so many together you start to see the traps we fall into in starts and the potential issues with that.  At dinner, Robin Perini talked about her journey to being published and to just never give up. 
There was Romance Jeopardy, which as always was terribly unfair, even though my team managed to do quite well.  Our team member even managed to be one of the people who recognized the clue about her own books.  The costumes (on others, I ended up opting for packing efficiency, yes, that its my story) were wonderful.  And then we might have closed down the bar and hung out to a wee hour in the lobby. 
This did impact my commitment to morning yoga (sorry, shall work on that) but I did get to a great workshop on writer's tools and then hopped over to listen to the rest of the Romance sociologists talk on their study of the romance community, in particular how the community and it's members approach the stigma and how that impacts some of ways the community works internally. 
And then the wonderful Cathy Maxwell spoke, introduced as is often the case at the retreat by the equally wonderful Tim who said he's introduced Cathy enough, this time we would take a moment to appreciate the wonderful members of WRW.  As part of that, he told the story of his first WRW where in a workshop he asked a question to an agent on the panel who said she would never represent a manuscript written by a man.  (Which is problematic and let's hope that agent has since learned more about some of the wonderful men writing romance.) Tim felt understandable dejected but as the workshop concluded every other person in the room came to tell him not to listen to that agent.  And that was how he knew he had found a writer tribe. 
And Cathy worried that she couldn't follow that, but as always she spoke beautifully about how these retreats and conferences remind us to stay open and that's how we write the books that people read in the hospital, or share with their sick or grieving relative. 
The reason I've turned into such a conference junkie is that these things fill me up - with ideas, with fun, with friends new and old, and schmoopy though it is with love.