Parties at RWA are different than RT in that they tend to be invitation only affairs. What tends to get me invited to parties are two-fold 1) The Librarian Thing and 2) The Blogging For 10+ Years Thing. RWA is all about making connections, and every year I attend the conference I seem to make a couple of news ones. This is great for me, no matter what hat I'm wearing at that moment.
I had three party invites this year, and managed to make the circuit to all of them. The trick to keeping my voice from slipping past Kathleen Turner directly to croaking frog was alternating cocktails with water. So by Saturday afternoon my voice was still in OK shape. A personal best!
My workshop with Melissa Jolly and Sarah M. Anderson was Picture Them In Their Underwear: Expanding Your Audience With Speaking Engagements. Our attendance was pretty decent, considering it was Saturday afternoon before the RITAs and post-party circuit Friday night. Rosie and LB Gregg, bless their hearts, also sat in to listen to me blather on. It was a good experience, and gave me an idea for maybe pitching a workshop for next year. We shall see if I follow through with that.
After the workshop I made my way to the annual sugar-coma that is the Megan Frampton and Carolyn Jewel Donut Party. I had managed to not see Carolyn at all by this point, and Megan only a couple of times, so it was nice to catch up with both of them plus get my sugar fix.
Saturday night was RITA night, and I always like to attend to see pretty dresses, pretty shoes, and hear speeches that will make me weepy. I'm such a girl. Also, Bertrice Small was this year's Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Regardless of how you personally feel about her work, Small is more than deserving of her place in genre history and I thought Eloisa James did a really lovely job of introducing her (sadly, Small was unable to attend the conference, but she recorded a video message that played and Thea Devine accepted the award on her behalf). This would also be when my voice finally went. Poof! Gone. So sitting at home today typing this I'm about one half-step up from croaking frog. Should be fun to get back to work tomorrow.
RWA always leaves me feeling inspired, like I could climb a mountain or slay a dragon. It makes me wish I read faster too. It also makes me take a good, long look at my blogging. I'll admit it, this year I thought "I could be doing more. I could take on a review staff. I could punch up my content. I could leave small behind and strive to increase my 'influence'."
And then I had Rosie smack me. Hard.
There's a lot to think about when you start blogging, but really the one take-away is "What do you want." And Wendy, she doesn't want to deal with a staff of reviewers. Why? Because no matter what middling or stellar content I manage to cough up in this space, it's my voice. And really the only thing this blog has ever had going for it (be that for good or ill) is my voice. It's what brings readers here or sends them off in droves. It's my niche. Why would I want to monkey around with my niche?
So I do what I can do. I make the space my own. I also follow some rules I came up with for myself when I started to attend public gatherings like RWA. So far it's kept me from tucking my skirt into my panties then leaving the restroom (I hope at any rate, you'd all tell me right?)
1) Assume nobody knows who the heck you are (Rosie: Everybody knows you Wendy. Wendy: No. No they don't. I'm a legend in my own mind.)
2) Be polite to everybody. Even if it kills you.
3) Be professional. This is doubly important for me because yes, I blog - but I'm also a librarian. I'm "industry." How I behave is going to be a direct reflection on my employer. Also I want people to take me seriously. People are less inclined to take you seriously if you behave like an idiot. Uh, says Wendy who may have fangirl'ed all over Lorraine Heath regarding Always to Remember. Dear Ms. Heath: Really I'm not a stalker.
4) Never assume. I never name names directly on this blog detailing conversations I've had at conference without asking that person first. That said, I've never had an "ugly American" encounter at RWA - so it's not like you all are missing out on juicy gossip. Sorry to disappoint.
5) I've given many a "critical" review in my day, and yet I've never experienced the "cut direct." I have theories about this (the "librarian thing" insulates me somewhat), but I really do think it's because I follow rules 1-4. I rarely actually talk about reviewing at RWA other than to squee over something I read recently or to say something like, "Well I read an obscene amount of category romance....." The only time I've ever talked "bad reviews" is when the author brings it up directly to me. And then I've yet to have what I would deem an unprofessional exchange. I guess I'm lucky in that way. The vast majority of writers I've met accept that reviews, good or bad, are the cost of doing business.
It's hard to say for certain, but so far these "rules" have worked well for me and I think I've followed them fairly well. At least well enough that people still talk to me and I haven't been escorted out by security. RWA has allowed me to build relationships over the years, with authors, readers, bloggers, publicists, editors, and agents. I value these relationships. They help me do what I do. Of course, you know, it's kind of a two-way street. Hopefully they're getting something out of having a relationship with me.
Rosie and I, bless the saints, took a later flight home on Sunday and by late afternoon I was blissfully unpacked (basically upending the suitcase directly into laundry basket), with a pizza ordered for dinner. Another RWA in the books. Now, back to Real Life.....