Posted On June 14, 2017 by Print This Post

Romance Writers of America National Conference by Pat Haggerty

Every year, Romance Writers of America puts on an annual conference. More than 2000 writers, publishers, agents, editors, and other industry professionals descend on some unsuspecting city for days of workshops, editor/agent appointments, awards, etc. This year’s conference takes place in Orlando, FL on July 26-29, and here’s what you should know.

 Why you should go

If you are a writer, especially if you write romance, then you can’t imagine the type affirmation that comes from being in a single location with hundreds, if not thousands of other writers – who get it. They know the joys of writing, and the pains, and they are as excited to see you as you will be to see them. This isn’t like telling your non-writing friends about plot holes or HEA’s, while their eyes glaze over and they make you explain terms like HEA (Happily Ever After). This is people in the know, many of whom have vast amounts of knowledge that they are more than ready to share.

Once you discover that these really are your people, you’ll need to try and figure out how you are going to fit in all the fantastic workshops that you want to attend, and yes, there will be times you’ll wish you could be in two places at once. All day, every conference day, RWA Nationals offers dozens of workshops on everything from marketing, to pitching, to GMC. No matter what stage you’ve attained as an author, there will be workshops designed to help you reach your next goal or milestone.

And don’t ever underestimate the importance of the connections that you can cultivate while attending the conference. You’ll run into agents and famous authors who will be more than happy to share experiences and advice with you. More formally, you’ll have the opportunity to schedule meetings with editors and agents, attend publisher open houses, and yes, ride in the elevator with people who might just buy your next book.

What to know about attending

When you arrive, there will be a conference check-in area, typically organized by last name, and you’ll want to pick up your welcome bag. In it will be a schedule, a lot of swag, your name tag, and any ribbons your registration generated. Take the ribbons (First Timer, Volunteer, Award Nominee, etc.), and stick them to each other creating a stack, and then stick the stack to the bottom of your name lanyard. You should keep your name lanyard around your neck at all times while attending conference events.

Oh, and find a little time to spend with the schedule so you’ll be ready before the workshops start. In past years, RWA has released an app for your phone or tablet with an electronic schedule, and either on paper or in the electronic version, it’s a good idea to plan your daily schedule out in advance.

This year’s conference is set at the Dolphin and Swan Hotels, Disney World, in Orlando, FL. Outside it’s going to be hot and humid. Did you hear me say humid? I’m talking clothes stuck to your body with sweat faster than you can walk to your car:

The workshops themselves will be held in the conference center so think freezing rooms with elbow to elbow seating. Some workshops are so full that you’ll be standing or even sitting on the floor. Dress in comfortable, easy to layer (frying outside, freezing in) clothes, and wear comfortable shoes. There will be copious amounts of walking to get from workshop to workshop to lunch to your room, etc. If you have editor/agent appointments, make sure you bring special clothes for them. There are two major award events: The Golden Heart and Industry Professional Award Lunch Thursday noon, and the Rita Awards Thursday night. You’ll want to put on your Sunday best for the Rita’s especially. Don’t expect dinner at the Rita’s, eat before you go.

Meals (mostly) are not served as part of the conference so be prepared to hunt and forage on your own.

A special note on this year’s conference: It’s at Disney World! If the family is joining you, you can get discounted tickets for Disney World from the RWA website. They even have a twilight ticket if you’re going to try and get in some Disney time after your conference day:

It all sounds great, what’s the catch?

If there’s one thing I don’t like about RWA Nationals, it’s the cost. The Conference fee, the hotel fee, the travel fees, it all adds up to make this an expensive event. Oh, it’s worth it, but this will not be a cheap night out with your writing friends 🙂

General information:

This year’s RWA Nationals:


Hotel and Travel (remember, this is Disney so there are tons of hotels in the area):


Future RWA Nationals dates and locations (maybe I’ll see you in a year or two):

If you attend, look for me. I’m the big guy in the cowboy hat 🙂


So….RU Writers….are you going? Do tell!


Bio: After four years in the USMC, Patrick Haggerty studied Actuarial Science and Computers at Georgia State University. He has spent the past 15+ years developing and delivering technical training courses for Learning Tree International. On the side he has a successful consulting practice doing web application development for clients ranging from the United State Marines to Delta Airlines.

Seven years ago, stuck reading a mediocre book in yet another hotel, Patrick decided to try his hand at fiction. He may not be published, but these days you are much more likely to find him spending his evenings writing romance, than code. Patrick is an active member of RWA, RWAustralia, RW New Zealand, and is VP of Membership for Gulf Coast Romance Writers of America, and VP of OIRWA.

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11 Responses to “Romance Writers of America National Conference by Pat Haggerty”

  1. I wouldn’t miss it! I have been attending them for the past few years and as my writing career/skills progress, the experience changes. I still plan to soak up as much craft knowledge as I can from the workshops but this year networking will also be important. I get to wear my ‘Debut Author’ ribbon, spend time with my agent and attend my first publisher (Harlequin) party.

    Posted by Carrie Nichols | June 14, 2017, 8:20 am
  2. Morning Pat!

    It’s always been a dream of mine to go, but alas, not this year yet. Someday I’ll drag Jen and Becke, and then look out world! =)

    Thanks for the great run down, I hope a lot of our crew get to go!


    Posted by Carrie Peters | June 14, 2017, 9:20 am
  3. I love the information you’ve provided, Pat. One of these years I’ll get there.

    Does RWA repeat the venues where they have the conventions? I’d love to do Orlando in the future.


    Posted by Jennifer Perkins | June 14, 2017, 12:16 pm
    • They do, but it takes them a while. They like to repeat areas of the country, for sure. Last time it was in the south east was probably 4 yrs ago when it was in Atlanta. It will get back to Disney eventually. It’s a really popular location 🙂


      Posted by Pat Haggerty | June 16, 2017, 2:02 pm
  4. Hola Pat!

    Every year there’s a lot of chatter on social media among attendees about what to wear for Nationals. Do you have any tips on fashion and accessorizing for a successful conference? 🙂

    Thanks for another informative post.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | June 14, 2017, 6:19 pm
    • Ha, like I said, one of the real considerations for me is the temp. The hotel and conference center likes to keep things so cold, but outside it’s typically burning hot. I’d layer and bring a light jacket or something. Something easy to take off and that you won’t mind hauling around.

      It also rains a lot this time of year. The rain is sporadic and is more likely to pour and then clear rather than just drizzle. I’d bring an umbrella if it’s easy to transport. If not, you can buy one there or get one of the ponchos or something.


      Posted by Pat Haggerty | June 16, 2017, 2:27 pm


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