My Romance Writers of America (RWA)® conference 2015, from A to Z

Jul 31, 2015 | 1 comment |

As some of you know, I was in New York City last week for the 35th RWA® conference. This annual event is the biggest gathering of romance writers in the world. As a first-time attendee and 2015 Golden Heart® finalist, it was an exciting, overwhelming and never-to-be-forgotten experience.

Here’s my conference, from A to Z.


Several thousand authors from every corner of the globe, writing all genres of romance from sweet to sizzling.


Books in the conference registration pack. Books at breakfast to accompany talks by the keynote speakers. Book giveaways at publisher signings and in the Goody Room. And books at the literacy signing where hundreds of authors and readers raised money for literacy charities.

In four days, my to-be-read pile grew exponentially.

Confusion…and clarity

Thanks to a session by RITA® award-winning author Laura Drake, my confusion about loglines and how to write them turned to clarity. Not only do I know why one of my loglines doesn’t work, I also know how to fix it.


A highlight of the conference was meeting my Golden Heart® 2015 sisters, the Dragonflies, and wearing our class pin with pride.


An RWA conference is big, and as a first timer, all that energy and enthusiasm for writing and reading romance both astounded and moved me.


Writers ‘get’ other writers, and I was blessed to connect with friends old and new.


I collected author swag from bookmarks to buttons, from charms to chocolate, and even won a prize draw for a heart-themed table centrepiece.


The lovely authors and editors I met at Harlequin’s open house for their Heartwarming line. More books there too, including a signed copy of the latest release by Twitter friend, Carol Ross.


Hearing how bestselling authors have struggled, yet persevered on the road to success, inspired and motivated me.


New York Times bestselling author and RITA® award winner, Jill Shalvis. Jill’s books are on my keeper shelf so meeting her and getting a signed copy of her latest book, was a special thrill.


Another New York times bestselling author and RITA® award winner, Kristan Higgins. Kristan’s books are also favourites and attending her insightful and inspiring talks, and meeting her at a book signing, were other conference highlights.


With workshops on writing craft, career, industry and the writer’s life, I packed months of learning into a few days.


For when my creative muse is missing in action, I got tips to find it. I already make a playlist for each book, but I’d never thought of how a scented candle could trigger my brain to recognize writing time.


The conference and New York City were loud, 24-7. Conversations, parties and emergency sirens were the soundtrack to my days.


I heard about industry trends, and made connections which will help me identify future career opportunities.


Romance is big business, and coming from the UK, the conference opened my eyes to the vast scale of North American publishing.


All the authors I met were on a quest to perfect their craft, grow their industry knowledge, and take one more step forward on their career path.

Retreats…and a reception

As a member of the RWA PRO® community, and the Golden Network, the RWA chapter for Golden Heart® finalists, I was eligible to attend their retreats. Retreat topics were career-focused, and perfect for this stage of my writing journey.

The reception for RITA® and Golden Heart® finalists was a chance to celebrate with other nominees and the RWA board, and included a spectacular view of the New York skyline.


Out of several thousand conference attendees, it was serendipity I sat beside UK author and Romantic Novelists’ Association member Fiona Harper at one of the breakfast keynotes.

Times Square

The conference was held at the Marriott Times Square hotel, and being in the pulsing, tourist heart of New York City added to conference excitement.

Underpants (knickers for my UK readers)

In a workshop about motif and metaphor in storytelling, the fabulous, New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Crusie, explained how a pair of women’s underpants became a motif in one of her books, and added sub-text and symbolism to the narrative.

That analogy gave me a lightbulb moment about how I could use cheesecake in my work in progress.


The word used by one of the keynote speakers to describe what publishing sometimes seems like to authors.


The increased weight of my suitcase after the conference, thanks to the books and assorted goodies I brought home.

X to symbolize a kiss

Kisses with my Golden Heart® Dragonfly sisters to celebrate the category winners on awards night.


Yellow taxis are synonymous with New York City, and have been immortalized in the many films and television programs set there. When I got into my first yellow cab at LaGuardia airport on my arrival, I knew I was really in the ‘Big Apple.’


The zen-like feeling I had at various points during the conference. I was a writer, and I was with my tribe.

1 Comment

  1. Sue Bavin

    Wow! I’m impressed that you filled the entire alphabet, Jen. You clearly had a marvellous time – and how amazing that you were seated next to an RNA member. I notice this was at a breakfast keynote – they have talks over breakfast?! I’m glad you had such a fulfilling and inspiring time. Good luck with the TBR pile!


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