Tuesday, July 5, 2011

RWA 2011 Recap: Writer, Know Thyself

I have returned from the Romance Writers of America National Conference and I am full of gushy admiration for my awesomesauce publisher, Samhain, after they took such good care of me at both signings, the speakers who were all fabulous and inspiring, and a giddy delight that may or may not be related to a case of mistaken identity. You ready for the stories? Cuz I'm about ta hit ya with 'em. (Pictures'll be coming tomorrow... as soon as I can figure out how to get them off my new phone.)

The theme of this conference could have been Writer, Know Thyself. Or at least that's what I took away from it. Maybe it was the message I needed to hear amid all the others. Jennifer Crusie, in a fabulous workshop entitled "Everything I Know About Publishing I Learned from Wonderwoman" (yes, I am wearing my secret decoder ring as I type this), told us that we have to know who we are, because if we don't there are people lining up in this business to tell us. If we don't have a vision, we can't get mad at someone else for filling in the blanks, so know your vision! Sherrilyn Kenyon, in her moving keynote speech, proclaimed she would rather be a first rate version of herself than a second rate version of anyone else. And Susan Elizabeth Phillips, in her craft chat, advised all the hopefuls in the room to put her advice through the "stomach test". If it made your stomach twist, then it wasn't right for you.

I loved that truth, that all writers are different, that we all need to cultivate our own awesomeness rather than getting caught up in the latest trends and waves. I've never tried to be anyone but myself, but every now and then its nice to be reminded that we don't have to be someone else's version of fabulous to succeed.

And speaking of someone else's version of fabulous... I had more than a few fangirl moments at conference when I saw authors I worship to a startling degree.

I am still, apparently, completely incapable of being cool and suave (or even semi-human) when I meet authors whose work I adore. I spaz out gracelessly and make everyone uncomfortable with my fangirl frothing. I did, however, have three fabulous goddesses still deign to talk to me whilst I was mid-spaz.

On the Wednesday luncheon, who should happen to sit at my table? Joanna Bourne. Yes, that Joanna Bourne. When she introduced herself I nearly swallowed my tongue and gasped, “Omigodiloveyourbooks.” At which point she was the picture of poise, smiling and thanking me. AND THEN after lunch was over she made a point of coming over and saying she’d appreciated my kind words about her books and chatting so graciously with me and fellow fangirl Sara Ramsey. We talked about being small towners in the big city, moose and coyotes, and her genius grandchildren (good genes). That conversation alone would have made my conference…

But wait, there’s more! On Saturday when I was sitting in La Guardia, waiting for my plane, who should sit next to me and say I look familiar, but Celeste (Holy Crap No Way!) Bradley. Seriously, how often do you get to chat with TWO of your autobuy authors in one week? We talked about pets and the similarities between Albuquerque and Alaska (more than you might think!) and generally passed the time until our flight. (And I didn’t hyperventilate once! Though I did mention with freakish regularity how amazing her books are.)

You think that’s all? Oh no. Ooooh no. On Friday afternoon, at the Samhain signing, I’m happily scrawling my June Hancock all over books. (And if you got one of those books, please forgive the inverted letters in my dedications. I’m not full on dyslexic, but I have trouble keeping letters in the right order when I’m writing things by hand. And I’m pretty sure I spelled laughter with an “f” a couple times. So that was a speshul moment.) So I’m at the signing, right? And this familiar-looking redhead comes up to my table and I glance at her nametag and literally hide behind my hands because I can feel my face turning bright red. Jacquelyn Frank. I LOVE Jacquelyn Frank. Her books rock my little socks right off my feet. So I tell her I love her work (and COMPLETELY lose my cool… cuz I’m normally so cool and composed, right? Heh. Right. I said, “I’m high energy” to my roommate about halfway through the conference – while talking about working relationships and chemistry with editors & agents – and the fabulous Sara Ramsey laughed at me while pretending to be stunned by my revelation. So yes… I have a slight tendency to bounce. Even in four inch heels… Dude the Harlequin party was so fun! And I also tend to flit off onto tangents whenever I see something shiny… and people probably think I’m ignoring them because I have a hard time maintaining eye contact when things are shiny or moving nearby… but it’s not ADD, cuz I’ve never been tested and if you aren’t tested then you don’t have it, right?).

So JACQUELYN (OHMYFLYINGMONKEYS) FRANK is standing in front of my table and she says she knows who I am.

At this point, I must ruthlessly suppress my desire to tell her that she is mixing me up with someone else and she is Wrong, I am not this cool person she thinks I am. I am still, I confess, CONVINCED that she thought I was Vivi Anna. She couldn’t have mixed me up with Vivian Arend because my darling Viv was sitting right across from me at the signing. But seriously, I think she thought I was the other Vivi (whose books are also awesome). And it is a totally understandable mistake (and one that would make the world feel like it makes sense to me. Jacquelyn Frank is too awesome to know who I am. It’s a world gone mad, I tell you!).

But the thing is, I was kind of recognized a lot (or a lot for me at least) at conference this time. One reader got her picture taken with me (my first!), one dedicated reader had printed out a poster-sized print of the Serengeti Sunrise cover art for me to sign (how cool is that?!), and others stopped me with kind words about my blogging here or at the Ruby site and clearly knew who I was. But still, even when I can’t immediately argue that they are mixing me up with that Other Better Vivi (i.e. Vivian Arend or Vivi Anna), I STILL feel like there is this other, much cooler Vivi Andrews out there that these people admire. It couldn’t be ME.

It’s not a self esteem thing – I have a VERY healthy self image. It’s more like the disjointed feeling I get when I meet people who read my books. Like the readers are really just a figment of my imagination until they are standing in front of me and I don’t know how to react when my imaginary readers are suddenly real. (Yes, my beloved blog buddies, you are all inside my head and if we meet in person, I will be weird and awkward at first because your existence will be shocking to me. Just embrace the crazy.)

But even believing in my heart that Jacquelyn Frank didn’t REALLY know who I was, I still called my mom after the signing to tell her about it. She was duly impressed… then asked, “Who’s Jacquelyn Frank?” At which point there may have been some horrified yelps of “You call yourself a romance reader?” which I would now like to publicly apologize for. Sorry, Mom! (Go buy Jacob right now. Go go go. Commence addiction.)

And if you haven’t read Joanna Bourne, I recommend starting with Spymaster’s Lady. And Celeste Bradley’s Liar’s Club books are always a FABULOUS place to begin your Bradley addiction. (The first is called The Pretender.)

Speaking of books I love, I’m thinking of adding a recommendations & “if you liked…” section to the website. What do you think? Good plan? Like If you liked the Karmic Consultants, you’ll love Stephanie Rowe’s Date Me Baby One More Time, Molly Harper’s How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf, and Mary Hughes’ Bite My Fire. Sound good?


Jen B. said...

I like the idea of recommendations. I am always looking for books to read.

Vivi Andrews said...

Sweet. Recommendations are a go! :) Thanks, Jen.