Posted On August 11, 2010 by Print This Post

What I Learned at the RWA Conference

When I first stepped into the airy lobby of the Swan and Dolphin hotel late Monday afternoon, the first thing that caught my eye was the grand scale of everything within. Towering columns, beautiful tile, plush couches, walls painted in festive colors.

And the ginormous water fountain sitting in the middle of the lobby.

The fountain, sporting four vertical dolphins–or dolphinfish (aka mahi-mahi), as clarified by our limo driver Ricky–provided the only source of sound in the lobby. It was a strange, eerie silence. Almost as if the hotel had evacuated all their guests–except us.

Fast-forward to Wednesday afternoon and the quiet lobby now bustles with activity. The moment I emerged from the elevator, I heard an incredible hum of female voices in the distance.

Welcome to the 30th annual Romance Writers of America conference! I took a deep breath, knowing it might be the last time I had the opportunity.

As I maneuvered through the crowd of beige Sourcebooks tote bags, I could feel the crowd’s energy, feel my own building excitement upon seeing familiar, dear faces of friends and beloved authors.

An immediate sense of community, of belonging blanketed me and I knew this was where I belonged. Even now, two weeks later, the feeling remains.

Okay, enough of the warm and fuzzy stuff. What did I learn?

Tracey and Heather Long

  • I learned Romance University is widely admired. Every time I sat down for a meal or attended a workshop, someone made a point to tell me how much they appreciated the content RU offers. I had many “proud mama” moments because of this.
  • I learned that networking both on-line and in-person is both vital to an author’s career and absolutely necessary for one’s personal growth.
  • I leaned one can be guided around Disney World, without a clue to one’s location at any given time, and still have mega fun.
  • I learned a writer should dig deep into her own life experiences and apply them to her fiction writing in order to grab and hold a reader’s attention.
  • I learned one could get lost in the Dolphin hotel.
  • I learned that despite having a business relationship an author’s agent and editor would hug her in welcome. 🙂
  • I learned Sourcebooks, Inc.–from the publisher to the editor to the marketing manager to the lead publicist to the editorial assistant–is an incredibly supportive and caring publishing house.
  • I learned Donald Maass is as brilliant as I thought.
  • I learned microtension is line by line, moment by moment tension and a must if you want to be a New York Times bestselling author.
  • I learned Adrienne shoots better laser guns than I.

    RITA & Golden Heart Awards Dinner Line-up

  • I learned Sourcebooks believes marketing and selling the book is the publisher’s job, not the author’s.
  • I learned Kelsey has better fashion sense than I.
  • I learned the six magic words every author should know are keep the reader in the story.
  • I learned you can create a flawed heroine, but you must keep her heart pure.
  • I learned Theresa’s awesome at brainstorming a plot.
  • I learned I don’t want to eat chicken three meals in row, even if it’s covered in different colored sauces.
  • And finally, I learned I have a fabulous support network. Ladies who care about me and my success. I learned–a long time ago–that I couldn’t have gotten this far without my buds.

Can’t wait until the 2011 conference. Watch out New York!

* * *

RU Crew, what did you learn at this year’s conference? Readers, did you get a chance to meet your favorite author?

Stay tuned for Friday’s lecture with four time RITA® award winner Jennifer Greene where she’ll define the difference between an author’s voice and her style.

Tracey’s bio:
Tracey Devlyn writes historical romance with a dash of danger. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Windy City, Hearts Through History, The Beau Monde and Kiss of Death Romance Writers of America chapters. Tracey’s also a co-founder for Romance University, a group blog dedicated empowering writers, entertaining readers, and understanding men.

Tracey’s represented by literary agent Donald Maass Literary Agency and Sourcebooks, Inc. will publish her first release, A LADY’S REVENGE, in the fall of 2011.

Tracey lives in the Midwest with her once-in-a-lifetime husband and their alpha puppy.

Please visit or for more details.

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27 Responses to “What I Learned at the RWA Conference”

  1. Tracey –

    I learned:

    Three bathrooms are wonderful for four women :).
    Women nibble at parties.
    Children under age six should not go to Disney :).
    Romance writers truly want to help one another and are very generous with their time.
    Networking is critical and should be ongoing for any writer.
    RU is touching more people than I thought.
    The publishing world is changing faster than I can change my clothes.
    Theresa is a vegetarian.
    Adrienne drinks Riesling.
    Tracey apparently takes much better notes than I!

    Great post, Tracey!

    Posted by KelseyBrowning | August 11, 2010, 1:41 am
  2. I learned that writers are a tremendously supportive and fascinating array of personalities, strengths and wisdom. I loved every moment of my very first Nationals and I cannot wait for New York.

    Although I am totally down with your thoughts about the chicken.

    Posted by Heather Long | August 11, 2010, 6:43 am
  3. I just learned reading this that the “fish” in the statues are dolphinfish. The whole time I was there, I wondered why they didn’t use dolphins. Actually, I’m still wondering. They’re lovely and it would make more sense.

    But beyond that, I learned that butterbeer is 900 calories . . . but it’s worth it. And I got the chance to meet many favorite writers, plus the RU ladies. It was a great conference!

    Posted by Edie Ramer | August 11, 2010, 7:16 am
  4. I learned I can still stay up late giggling with the girls and not mind having to get up early.

    I learned that having a career plan written down (not just in my head) is a must.

    I learned Kelsey is probably more twisted than I am and that Tracey offers the sanity in our little group.

    I learned that Theresa Stevens is a genius when it comes to characterization.

    I learned that all-day brainstorming sessions are incredibly productive and that we need to do them twice a year.

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | August 11, 2010, 7:51 am
  5. Wow! Sounds like a must-do!

    I learned one must copy and paste like a madwoman when one receives 36 text messages in a row from Florida. =)

    lol….sounds like it was a perfect time…(except the chicken)



    Posted by Carrie Spencer | August 11, 2010, 8:22 am
  6. I learned I have friends who will willingly act “zany” in a crowded room so I am not alone. 😀

    I learned I needed to make some changes to my career plan, but more, I realized I needed to follow it through a little better.

    Posted by Nikki Duncan | August 11, 2010, 9:54 am
  7. Hey Nikki,

    Being zany was a nice change! Loved doing the skit with you (and the others) at Margie Lawson’s workshop.

    Thanks for stopping by.


    Posted by TraceyDevlyn | August 11, 2010, 10:39 am
  8. Hey Tracey, Nationals was a lot of fun. Loved your long list of things you learned. I learned a lot too:

    I learned that making mistakes when you first start out is normal.
    I learned that Nora Roberts is not as scary as I thought.
    I learned that I could still pull all nighters.
    I learned that a lot of my fave authors are great people to hang out with.
    I learned that some of my fave authors can sing too.
    I learned to relax and enjoy myself.
    I learned that I belong somewhere.
    I learned that I can do it, especially with the support of my writer friends and groups like RWA and my local chapter.
    I learned that I needed the energy that permeated the air to keep me going.
    I learned that I am always learning.

    Thank you for the post. Sorry I didn’t get to meet you and the rest of the RU gang that represented in Orlando. Maybe next year in NYC!!!

    Peace and love,
    Paula R.

    Posted by Paula R. | August 11, 2010, 10:54 am
  9. Hi All!

    I learned that the women of RU are a friendly and welcoming group!
    I learned that I can go into a conference of 2,000 women not knowing anyone feel comfortable (for the most part) and come out with friends.
    I learned I need to end each chapter with a hook.
    I learned so much I can’t sum it up here!

    My favorite words from one NYT Bestseller : Dare to suck!

    (Look forward to meeting you someday soon Carrie!)

    Posted by Wendy Marcus | August 11, 2010, 12:12 pm
  10. Great post, Tracey.

    I learned that next year I need to get my a## to nationals!

    Oh and Congratulations on the contest win!


    Posted by Sonali | August 12, 2010, 10:46 am
  11. Tracey, I learned that your mind works like lightning! 😀

    Posted by Theresa Stevens | August 16, 2010, 8:48 pm


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