Posts tagged with: RWA Nationals

The Rubies Take Manhattan!!

We’re all home and rested (sort of) after the whirlwind of the Romance Writers of America’s National Conference in New York City. We learned a lot, hugged a lot of far-flung friends, talked a lot about the industry and the future of our organization, ate a lot of awesome food, navigated lots of crowded city sidewalks, picked up lots of great new books, cursed the insane elevator system a lot, and maybe even squeezed in a Broadway show or two. 

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some inspiration and valuable bits of knowledge we picked up along the way, and we’ll also be discussing RWA’s new replacement for the Golden Heart. 

For today, though, we’re just sharing a few pictures from our big Manhattan adventure!

Bright Lights, Big City!! The conference hotel was right on Broadway in the heart of Times Square. The moment you walked into the street, you were in a neon canyon, night or day. The theater showing Hamilton was right there, as was the big Barry Manilow show, Tootsie, revivals of Chicago and Oklahoma, and a drag version of The Golden Girls . And if you were hungry, the iconic Sabrett’s hotdog wagons were always ready with some steamy NYC goodness. 



The Rubies managed a few meet-ups (between book signings and agent meetings and conference presentations and publisher parties), some of us braving the subway for a luscious pasta-and-wine dinner at Enoteca Otto, followed by a stroll through romantic Washington Square Park. 




We were proud as punch to watch Ruby Darynda Jones not only be the keynote speaker at the Golden Network Retreat, but serve as charming host of the (very last ever??? really???) Golden Heart Ceremony, where nearly every speech included statements about how the possibility of entering Golden Heart had inspired the writer to complete their very first novel, or keep writing new and better books in the face of self-doubt or early publishing rejection. (Sigh.)

We were thrilled to meet the 2019 Golden Heart Finalists, the Omegas, seen here gathering for the paparazzi just before the ceremony began. 



Rubies got gussied up for late-night galas thrown by major publishers: here’s Lindsey Brookes with Angi Morgan and friends at the Harlequin party, and Liz Talley with her agent Michelle Grajkowski at the Montlake event. Rubies sure do clean up nice!!



As always, Nationals meant plenty of glamour, intense and inspiring conversation, tasty cocktails, fun author swag (like these Romance Writer’s Tears from C. R. Grissom), cheering for award winners, like RITA winner M. Malone (seen here on the truly-Jumbo Jumbotron at the end of her acceptance speech), many new ideas to ponder, and more free reading material than can fit in a suitcase. 

We’re already looking forward to 2020 in San Francisco!!!

We hope to see you all there!!

Perfect Pitch

With the RWA National conference just down the road, some of you may be quaking at the idea of pitching your manuscripts to agents or editors. But I say, no worries. Just follow the method I successfully used at over twenty national and regional conferences. With a nod of acknowledgement to the great Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, here’s my advice on creating a perfect ten sentence (or less) pitch.

First, relax. If agents and editors are taking appointments at a national conference, they’re looking for manuscripts to publish. When you’re introduced, present them with your business card with the name of your book, its genre, and word count on the back. (Normally, there will only be enough time to pitch one book per session.)

Second, relax and prepare by jotting down your thoughts on a 3×5 card—or on a phone or iPad. I usually preferred to wing it, only referring to my notes as needed. But I’ve heard editors say it’s fine for presenters to read their pitch, if it will improve the confidence and coherence level.

The main points to include in your presentation:

-The name of your book, the genre, the setting, and the completed length. If it’s part of a series, mention that, too.

-Your high concept or one or two-line description of your story. This one can be hard to pin down, but it should showcase what makes your book unique and special. Snakes on a plane. Dinosaurs run amok in a theme park. Young girl blown into a magical land battles witches and monkeys as she tries to get home.

-Provide a two or three-word description of your heroine (her dominant impression, i.e.: royal rebel, gutsy librarian) followed by her goal, motivation, and conflict. Example: A confused teenager must find a way to leave a magical kingdom in order to get home to her ailing aunt. A wicked witch prevents her departure.

-Then, a two or three-word description of your hero (his dominant impression) followed by his goal, motivation, and conflict. Example: An innocent fugitive tries to find a one-armed man in order to avoid prosecution for the murder of his wife. A determined federal marshal relentlessly pursues him across the country.

-If your book is a mystery, suspense, or fantasy, you may need a sentence or two about your antagonist or make-believe world, but be judicious. DO NOT present a lengthy cast of characters or unnecessary descriptions of them.

-Present one sentence each about the black moment and the ultimate resolution. (The hot-air balloon accidentally lifts off, leaving a heartbroken Dorothy behind. A good witch helps her realize she already possesses the power to return home.)

-Confirm how the story ends. (Self-contained happily-ever-after? Happy-for-now? A cliff-hanger for a serial?)

If there’s time remaining, the agent or editor may have questions for you. Be prepared with a few questions you may want to ask them or some personal information that may be relate to your book. (It’s set on a ranch in Wyoming and you’re a veterinarian in that state? Pertinent. The heroine has twins and you have twins? Relevant. The hero has red hair and so does your husband? Pointless.)

Important tip: If they have requested material (as they should), make sure to get the contact information on correctly submitting the material.

When the buzzer sounds, smile, shake hands, thank them for their time, and it’s over.

As simple as that. Good luck with your presentation!

Look for Jacie’s latest release, FACE THE MUSIC, available on all e-platforms.

Bio: Jacie Floyd writes contemporary romance, romantic comedy, and emotionally-rich stories about strong women and bold men. While polishing her craft as an unpublished author, she was honored to be named a six-time Golden Heart Finalist and two-time Golden Heart winner by RWA. She has self-published seven books and a novella since 2014. Her eighth book, FACE THE MUSIC, from the Good Riders series, debuted in May.

She loves hearing from readers and writers and invites you to contact her at,,, or


Stretch Your Wings: Top Ten Tips for Introverts at Conferences

Before I began attending writers’ conferences, I thought of myself as an extrovert.

Dressed for battle in gray wool and white silk, I fearlessly strode into my first conference ready to conquer the romance-writing world. I’d thought of writing as a profession, and by that time, I was awfully good at being professional. I was ready to kick ass and take names on my way to the top.

But instead of businesspeople giving each other firm handshakes and exchanging business cards, I saw women running into each others’ arms and huddling in tight little groups, dishing gossip and reminiscing like long-lost friends.

Which they were, of course. They weren’t competitors. They weren’t colleagues.

They were friends.

Panic tightened my throat as my stomach lurched. I realized my error, for this wasn’t a work conference.

This was high school!

What’s next for the Golden Heart?

In November, RWA released the new schedule for the 2017 RWA Nationals Conference in Orlando. The biggest and most-talked-about change is the separation of the Awards ceremony into two events. The Golden Heart Awards ceremony will be held on Thursday (July 26) during the luncheon, with the RITA Awards ceremony being held that evening.

There has been a lot of discussion around cyberspace since the news released. The Rubies have talked about it too, and since we’re the GH class of 2009, we have plenty of thoughts about this change–positive, negative, and curious.


It’s been almosgh-2009t two weeks since the new schedule was announced. Now that we’ve had time to reflect on what’s been said, let’s revisit what it means to move the Golden Heart ceremony to the Thursday luncheon.

I’ll start off the discussion with my reaction, which is optimistic. I love the idea that we’ve moved the Literacy Signing to Saturday so that we’ll conclude the conference by meeting our readers. That’s a big positive.


And we won’t lose the factors that I value most about being a GH finalist. Those benefits include:

  1. Meeting the other finalists. Seven-plus years after meeting the Rubies, we remain friends and the very best kind of support network.
  2. Finding the courage to put our book(s) out there. Whether “out there” means agents, editors, or readers, finaling in a prestigious competition reminds you that your peers have judged your book among the best. It’s a big boost to your confidence.
  3. Feeling like royalty at RWA conferences. The Golden Heart pin is recognizable. You can be in the elevator, in the hallways, in a workshop, or at a meal–and you will be congratulated!

The negative most frequently mentioned is the possibility that the Golden Heart will become less special. I hope that doesn’t prove to be true. I hope the RWA community won’t allow it to be true.

Join the Rubies today as we discuss the new schedule and the separation of the GH and RITA ceremonies. Leave a comment and let us know what you think.


Wise Words from Beverly Jenkins at RWA

getPart-1At RWA Nationals, I had the great pleasure of meeting the amazing Beverly Jenkins.

I got to sit at her table at the Golden Network retreat (where she gave an awesome talk about developing well-rounded and surprising characters), and saw her in the Love Between the Covers documentary and the post-screening discussion. (Bonus: the cover of her first romance for Avon was emblazoned on the elevator I took up and down from my room!)

Beverly Jenkins is hilariously frank and brilliant and generous of spirit; spending even a short time in her presence was one of the most inspiring parts of the conference for me.

bev jenkins rwaOn the morning of July 14, she also gave a very moving keynote speech, which drew a historical connection between women’s personal narratives of surviving slavery, and the 19th century romantic novels of Pauline Hopkins, both of which were about “telling our own stories” and claiming a space for the rich emotional personhood of African American women, in the face of the larger culture’s constant efforts to deny that personhood. Both kinds of narratives were expressions of “people looking for their HEA as individuals and as a race,” telling of “men walking plantation to plantation looking for wives who had been sold away,” and showing African-American women “still courted and adored by our men.”

She also reminded us firmly that “African-American is not a genre,” and that love stories about people of color should be enjoyed and embraced by all fans of romance, and should always be shelved with the whole wide range of romance novels. (“It’s about discoverability,” she said. “How are romance readers going to find them if they’re not there?”)

If you weren’t lucky enough to hear her keynote speech in person, I hope you’re able to listen to it on the conference recordings.  

She finished her talk with a list of advice to writers. As she said herself at the start of her speech, “Coming here recharges me, refuels me, and fills my heart,” and she wanted to send us all home stronger than when we arrived.

Here are a few pieces of it, which I was hastily typing into my phone with my thumbs as she spoke (so apologies if I got anything wrong, or missed some of the best nuggets):

-“The only thing you as a writer can control is what you write.”

-“Don’t stop writing.”

-“Romancelandia’s table is very large…there’s enough light, silverware, tables and chairs for everyone.”

-“You can write with children in your life: find the time, make the time. Tell the damn kids this is your work.”

-“Build yourself an online community.”

-“You can’t have someone else’s blessings.”

-“When folks ask if you’ve done all the naughty things you write about in your books, tell them,’HELL YEAH!'”

-“Treat your readers like the precious jewels that they are.”

-“Don’t hate your editor…she’s there to make the book better.”

-“When you get that fat contract, don’t gloat: Karma is only a bitch if you are.”

-“Don’t be afraid to kill people who annoy you in your books.” (She said when a friend was going through a bad divorce, she made the evil ex a character who was picked up by a tornado and dropped on a pick axe.  😈 )

-“Embrace the ecstasy of writing.”

-“Read read read read read.”

-“Put your ego in your pocket and sit on it.”

-“Write scared.”

-“You are the master of inspiration, not its slave.”

-“Build a lifestyle that nurtures and supports your writing.”

-“Don’t just start stories, finish them.”


RWA Nationals Recap – workshop highlights

We’ve been back from RWA Nationals for a week now. As always, the advice is beginning to sift into I can use that or Not for me.

NIGHT SONG cover on elevator door

NIGHT SONG cover on elevator door

I’d like to recap some of my favorite (or most memorable) bits of advice from conference workshops.   If you attended, please share your favorite advice in the comments.


Shanna cover

SHANNA cover on elevator door

On being a prolific writer: The panelists were asked what was the fastest they’d ever written a full-length novel. The winner? Seven days. 70,000 words at 10,000 per day. The ladies on the panel said that they averaged about 6 books per year. All I can say is Wow.

Here’s a good bit of advice for those of us who get too easily distracted by social media: Use social media as a reward.  For instance, I can spend an hour on social media after I write 2000 words.



RWA (and ruby) Diane Kelly

RWA President Diane Kelly

Hottest new trends: Chick lit is back, although it’s called women’s fiction now. Shorter lengths are in. Small town (especially in the south) is still strong–as well as shapeshifters / werewolves in paranormal. Mass market appears to be trending down.  (I hope this is true for me, since I write short baby-chick lit set in small Southern towns 🙂


Discoverability on Amazon: I went to this workshop, and it was somewhat helpful. The speaker emphasized the value of participating in KDP Select. He mentioned a new KDP pricing tool that allows you to see how your price point compares to similar books. (I’ve tried it out, and I’ll let you know if it has a positive effect.) And he continued to remind us of the important of having good metadata. An interesting data point that he threw out was about hybrid authors: as a group, hybrids make more money on Amazon than either indie-only or traditional-only, and most of that revenue still comes from their traditionally-published books.

Elizabeth Essex

Elizabeth Essex

RWA / Stanford Survey: A PhD candidate at Stanford ran a survey among RWA members and had a 43% response rate. (That’s amazing.) She’s still analyzing the data, but she shared a few conclusions that she’s planning to use in her dissertation.  And that is… the “pay it forward” environment among romance writers is a huge contributor to our success. Other genres (sci-fi, mystery, etc) are more competitive and individualistic–and consequently, in her opinion, experience a much greater divide between the haves and have-nots.


So all of our emphasis on giving back–let’s keep it going, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it helps us as an industry.

Rita Finalist Lizzie Shane

Rita Finalist Lizzie Shane


Okay, that’s some of what I heard.  If you attended Nationals last week, which workshops pulled you in and what advice has resonated with you? Tell us in the comments!



Possibility of Somewhere by Julia Day

Elizabeth Langston spends her days writing software and her nights writing stories. Writing as Julia Day, her first YA contemporary romance, The Possibility of Somewhere, will be available in September.  To learn more about Elizabeth, check out her YA paranormal website or her YA contemporary site for Julia Day.

We’re at Nationals!!!

silviaI haven’t been to the RWA National Conference since 2012, so I’m really, really excited to finally be back for San Diego!!!

My little sister, Eileen Emerson, is a Golden Heart Finalist, so that gave me the excuse I needed to justify the expense.

We got here yesterday as the hotel was busy transitioning from the All-Star Game crowd to romance writers (Comic-Con will follow immediately after us). So we got to see burly tattooed guys putting up massive posters of Sylvia Day. The elevator door wraps this year are in honor of Avon’s 75th anniversary, so they’ve got huge covers of Kathleen Woodiwiss’s Shana and the like, which takes me back to my teen years in a powerful way.

kristanThings are just starting to get rolling today….I don’t have any glamorous pictures to share of the lobby or the view from my room– which has a lovely view of the water….if I stand right next to the bedside table and don’t move more than six inches from there. But I HAVE nearly collided with Kristan Higgins outside the elevators FIVE DIFFERENT TIMES!!! (I’m pretty sure this was as meaningful an experience for Kristan as it was for me, and she and I will be buddies really, really soon. Right, Kristan?? Right????) My sister even got a sneaky paparazzi snap of her while she was heading out to dinner with Susan Elizabeth Phillips, who we also saw standing in line at Starbucks. Other shameless but silent fan-girling has occurred over Courtney Milan, Jill Shalvis, Catherine Bybee, and Sherry Thomas, and we’re hoping to be standing within twenty feet of Nora Roberts any time now.) AND we got seated at Beverly Jenkins’ table at the Golden Network Retreat today–and she was lovely to talk to, and gave a fabulous talk about the essential elements of story. Alyssa Day talked about the need to be “FIERCE” in our writing lives, and Damon Suede and Heidi Cullinan gave a fabulous presentation on developing your brand (check out their new book YOUR A GAME.) So inspiring!!!

swagThe Swag Room was extra-fun this year: we got our conference bag empty, and got to go in and choose whatever items we wanted, including California-appropriate beach towels, and lots of awesome books!!!

Other pics below include dinner with the 2016 Golden Heart Finalists, the Mermaids, and my blinged-out conference badge. At this moment, I’m heading out to dinner with the Rubies!!!! So, great day all around. More pictures to come!!

badgemermaid dinner


you a gam

Meet Golden Heart Finalist Mia Sosa!

Yay! We’ve got an other Dragonfly with us today: 2015 Golden Heart Finalist Mia Sosa, whose book AT HER SERVICE is nominated for Short Contemporary Romance.

Although she’ll never give up her “resting New Yorker face,” Mia now calls Maryland her home. For more years than she’d like to admit, she practiced law in the nation’s capital, representing broadcasters, television production companies and newspapers in a variety of media matters. Now that Mia no longer braves the treacherous commute to D.C., she has ample time to hone her craft and plot stories about smart women and the complicated men who love them. Okay, let’s be real here: She wears PJs all day and watches more reality television than a network television censor—all in the name of research, of course.

She and her husband have two wonderful daughters who very much want their mother to write middle grade books. (Sorry, sweeties, it’s not going to happen!)

Here’s the blurb for AT HER SERVICE:

Ethan Hill’s penchant for fast driving lands him in a Washington, D.C. courtroom, where a judge orders him to perform community service. His objectives are simple: get in, get out, and move on—without revealing his true identity. But Ethan isn’t prepared for Graciela (“Gracie”) Ramirez, the captivating beauty who runs the community center where he’s obligated to serve.

Gracie is tempted by the secretive man who’s making a positive impact on her clients, but she has to focus on getting funding for her non-profit or its doors will close. What will she do when she discovers the man causing her sleepless nights is the CEO of the company that could save her charity?

 Fabulous premise—I love all the delicious power dynamics!

 Okay, everybody: let me set out a tray with virtual coffee and crullers (calorie-free! no gluten!) and let’s all gather around for a few questions with Mia!

As a special treat, Mia is offering one lucky commenter a “#WeNeedDiverseRomance” t-shirt, just in time for RWA 2015! (campaign made possible by author K.M. Jackson) The winner must select the color and size before June 8. More details here:


mia sosa author photoWelcome, Mia!! Delightful to have you with us! Can you start out by telling us a little more about your Golden Heart finaling book, AT HER SERVICE, and the process of writing it?

I wrote the first draft over the course of two months. In August 2014, I decided I would write a 20k novella as a way to practice my craft. By then, I’d completed my first single-title manuscript, and it was doing well in chapter contests, but I knew I had so much more to learn. The consistent advice to my question, “What next?” was “Keep writing,” so that’s exactly what I did. Somewhere along the way, I learned about Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write Contest, and before I knew it, that 20k novella was over 50k words. It didn’t gain any traction in the SYTYCW contest, but I entered it into the Golden Heart, and I’m so glad I did!

As a woman of color, I’m super excited that my Golden Heart finaling manuscript features a Latina heroine and a multicultural cast of secondary characters. There are so many fantastic writers highlighting and embracing the need for diverse romance, and I’m delighted and proud to be among them.


Meet Golden Heart Finalist Kimberly Buckner!

Today we have the pleasure of welcoming Kimberly Buckner, 2015 Golden Heart Finalist in Contemporary Romance with CALL ME MRS. WHITLOCK.

Kimberly writes contemporary loves stories set in the South. She’s active in RWA as a PRO member, and has used what she learned to teach at local writers’ meetings and conferences. In addition to the Golden Heart final, Kimberly won the 2014 Maggie for Single Title Romance, and the 2015 Emily for Contemporary Long Romance. After fourteen fabulous years below the Mason-Dixon, she currently lives in Denver.

Here’s a quick blurb for her Golden Heart book, CALL ME MRS. WHITLOCK:

Della was wicked close to her dream of opening a wellness studio, when her boyfriend disappeared with all her money. With no leads and no help from the police, she must go to his small southern town and convince his friends and family she’s his wife so they’ll help her track the goob down.

Jude, a reluctant new fire chief, knows he’s the last person to be called a hero, but will do whatever he can to protect the people he loves. Even if it means keeping an eye on the mysterious woman who shows up claiming to be married to his AWOL former best friend. Della wants something, but clearly doesn’t plan to stay forever, which should be fine. And yet, the longer she’s around, the less willing he is to see her leave. But Jude can’t let himself fall for Damien’s wife. Not again.

As Della and Jude become closer, it’s hard to deny their growing attraction. If she comes clean, will he help her find Jude? Or lead the party to drive her out of town?

Fabulous!! I have a soft spot for protective, dutiful, conflicted firemen, so I’d be first in line to buy this!

Kimberly’s going to take over the blog today with some hard-won wisdom about making conference pitches. She’s got some oh-so-painful (and hilarious) stories to share!

Take it away, Kimberly!


kimberly buckner author picOnce Upon A Pitch: Lessons from the Front Lines

One inescapable and vital part of the writers’ conference is the dreaded pitch session. It lands on the fun scale somewhere between visiting the DMV and getting a pap smear. But, if we hope to get an agent and/or publisher, it’s an important tool. The hard part is the nerves. You’re taking a piece of art in which you’ve invested countless hours, and trying to convey the story in mere moments, preferably in a pithy, fresh way. The pressure can be ridiculous.

There are a lot of resources on pitching tips, and they’re really good. But through my experiences, I’ve learned some things they don’t usually tell you. In sharing two of these, I hope you might walk into your next writers’ conference better prepared than I was.

My flight to conference left at the—not even butt-crack of dawn. More like the dimples above the butt-crack of dawn. After a night of waking up every twenty minutes, terrified I’d slept through my alarm, I donned my stretchy travel clothes, and shuffled to the airport sans makeup and with hair resembling an old push broom. My plan was to check in, make myself presentable, then come back down.

A first look: RWA conference from a newbie’s perspective

One of the best times of the year for a romance writer is July and the national RWA conference. I’ve been several times myself, but this year I got the pleasure of rooming with a newbie to conference. I’d been looking forward to this quite a bit because my roommate (and close friend) has down moments in her writing (just like all of us) that she occasionally struggles with, making her doubt both herself and her abilities. (She’s brilliant, btw, and one day will put us all to shame.) But what I had not gotten to see with her before was her experiencing anything remotely like what I knew nationals could do to a person. Motivation, fangirl moments, just the wow of being a part of it all and coming home with scores of ideas and need-to-learns and need-to-reads. It’s a great experience, and I have to say that reliving the first time through my friend’s eyes was inspirational for me. It was one of the best parts of my conference this year, to know that she got to be there and have that wow (and for me to see her having it!).

Therefore, I bring her here to the Rubies and friends today so that she can share a bit of her experience. Everyone…please welcome my friend and zombie lover, Gretchen Stull!!!

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The Latest Comments

  • Autumn Jordon: You’re very welcome. I learned a lot.
  • Bev Pettersen: Such a helpful post, Thanks Autumn. And also thanks to Vivi, Rae and Judy!
  • Autumn Jordon: Everyone of these cover designers is so talented. I wish I had their eye for detail.
  • Autumn Jordon: I totally agree, Kate. I think it takes a certain eye to make an awesome cover.
  • Autumn Jordon: They did a amazing job answering my questions, didn’t they. I also learned a lot.