Ten Tips For Rookies- Romance Writers of America Conference

I attended my first ever RWA conference in NYC this year. As a rookie I walked around in a bit of a daze for the duration of the event and missed some things I really wish I hadn’t, but that’s the nature of the beast.

baggage-hat-indoors-1170187

Picture by veerasak Piyawatanakul (Pexels)

The organizers have a first-timers orientation of sorts which was helpful but some very important points were neglected altogether. For all of you who are planning on going to one of these conferences in the future, here are some nuggets of wisdom that may help you get more of an amazing but slightly overwhelming event.

  1. Wear comfortable clothes and comfy shoes even if you look like a bag lady. Sitting for hours and walking from one workshop to another, often in different levels of the hotel can quickly get to you.
  2. Do bring a nice outfit for the awards ceremony or if you plan on attending any of the parties (I didn’t because I’m a terrible introvert who gets too stressed out in social situations involving lots of people).
  3. Bring a rather large empty suitcase or bag. You’ll need it (you’ll see why further down).
  4. Bring snacks that do not require refrigeration if you can. Snacks at these nice hotels will cost you an arm and a leg.
  5. If you’re an introvert like me, see if you can bring a writer friend. I always feel very lonely at events like this because I am a one-on-one socializer who gets totally lost in groups of people I barely know.
  6. Bring a fan and a sweater. Hotel air-conditioning is insane. One moment it feels like Hades, the next you’re in the South Pole.
  7. Don’t skip the Goody Room. There you can grab some free books and a lot of free swag. I use the swag for ideas to create my own swag and it doesn’t take much space in the suitcase.
  8. Don’t miss any of the signings (reason to follow) even if you have to miss a chunk of an awesome workshop. They record the workshops and you can buy them later for a song (if you don’t buy the whole thing that is).
  9. Take breaks. It is as exhausting as it is exhilarating and inspiring.
  10. The most important tip of all. The so called signings are not like the normal ones where the readers buy books and have them signed by the authors. In these signings you get the books for free AND you get them signed by the author. I was like a kid in a candy store. Refer back to #3 and #8. I missed quite a few of these because I didn’t know what they were. I talked to other rookies who did the same. I still came home with over fifty books. YOU DON”T WANT TO MISS THESE.
Book Loot

Picture by Natalina Reis

 

Tales of an Introvert

This is the story of how I managed to sabotage myself thanks to my introvert anxieties.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend SaSS18, a much anticipated and large romance authors’ signing in Norfolk, Virginia. It was a dream come true (I got in because someone had to cancel at the last minute) and I was determined to make this opportunity my foot-in into the circle of wonderful authors who always seemed to be invited for these events.

Frightened and stressed young business woman

Even before the day of the event arrived, my anxieties were already kicking in and by the time I checked in at the hotel I was not feeling so good. It only got worse. When the doors opened to the public I was totally overhwlemed. A nonstop stream of self-defeating mantras flashed in my head:

  • You suck as a writer.
  • Nobody reads your books.
  • People think you’re boring.
  • You’re too fat.
  • No one wants to talk to you.
  • They all think you’re an idiot.
  • You don’t belong here.

Depositphotos_81005242_l-2015

No matter how much I fight these inner voices, they are often too strong for me. And this was the case that weekend. Afraid that I would be the one in a corner alone while everyone else was having fun, I ditched all the fun events, those where I could make an impression by talking and networking with other authors and readers.

Afterward came the self-loathing, anger at myself for once again making myself invisible. Apart from a couple of people, no one will remember that middle-aged woman who barely moved out of her table for the whole signing.

Lonely girl crying with a hand covering her face

Names have already began being picked for next year’s event, and I’m not holding my breath–why would they pick someone they can’t even remember? I’m in about three event pictures out of hundreds and I have no one else to blame but myself. Everyone was sweet and welcoming, but my anxieties did what I had promised myself I wouldn’t allow them to do; they ruined something I had looked forward to so much.

Have your anxieties ever done anything like that to you?

Becoming Visible

I recently bought a children’s book called The Invisible Boy. After skimming through it a few times, I had to buy it. I knew exactly how the boy in the story felt like because I’ve been invisible for most of my life.

As a child and the oldest of three girls (my sister and my cousin), I craved for attention much like most kids do. Not because I was neglected or ignored (I was lucky enough to have a very loving family) but I was always the “cold one” or the “sulky one”. I had a tendency to sulk or be contrary. And I was very quiet. What people didn’t understand was that I was uncomfortable showing affection or letting people know how I felt or voicing my wants and needs. I just didn’t know how, pure and simple. So I sulked, for lack of a better way to express my feelings.

pexels-photo-573271

I was also constantly mad at myself for being scared of everything, of not taking risks, of not eliciting the same type of comments my sister got for being sweet or my cousin for being a dare-devil. I was moody, small, and introverted. Nothing people really paid attention to.

In school I went mostly unnoticed by the teachers (not brilliant or dumb enough) and the other students (too shy, too inside-my-head).

Imagine my pleasure when I found the written word, the power to express my feelings without actually having to speak. It was magic. It didn’t take me long to realize I had finally found my voice.

Processed with VSCO with e5 preset

I wrote many stories, some shorts, some long, some never finished. I wrote a million letters to poor unsuspecting friends who probably thought I had lost my mind. The girl that never shared opinions or feelings could not stop talking now in her newly found language.

My love for the written word was so strong I mastered it in several different languages by the time I was out of high school and I eventually became a published author in a language other than my native one.

Writing is who I am. When I write I’m not so invisible anymore.

An Introvert In The Crowd

My New Year’s resolution was to be more outgoing and challenge myself to attend lots and lots of writing-related events.

Let me explain why this is important and difficult to me. I’ve always been an introvert. I love people and I do like socializing, but when that involves crowds bigger than two or three it all becomes too stressful for me. Even in small groups, socializing always requires at least a few hours (a few days being ideal) of decompressing and quietness afterwards. I lack the self-confidence that would allow me to feel comfortable hanging out with people I don’t necessarily know very well. My anxiety makes me question everything I say or do constantly (it’s exhausting) and if I decide to just be silent–which I do more often than not–then I chide myself for being unsocial and unnoticeable. Such is the life of a true introvert; we don’t want to be noticed but also don’t want to vanish into the background–and we envy those who always seem to so effortlessly steal the limelight.

funny-introvert-comics-52-574432b5eda51__700
I have challenged myself all my life in this arena. As a young woman I chose a profession that wouldn’t give me the option of NOT being around people and speak in public. I was a tour guide, in charge of large groups of people. I not only had to “herd” them from one place to another but also deliver long, detailed speeches about the places we were visiting, often in more than one language. I loved it, but everyday I had to go home and bury my head in the sand for a while.

speaker-2148213_1920
Before that, I worked in a ClubMed-type resort where I had to crawl out of bed super early and–oh the horrors–sit and make small talk with the guests during breakfast (in French). I also had to get on stage every night and perform some kind of skit–sometimes a lip-synced musical, a mime, or a comedy skit. So out of my comfort zone.

stage-1015653_1920

I’m used to being always uncomfortable in social situations–doesn’t mean I have to like it–but I now fear it is hurting my writing career. So I challenged myself again and booked myself into various writing-related events. I just came back from RT Atlanta, one of the biggest romance writers and readers convention in the US.  I had a lot of fun meeting and getting to know my publisher and all the ladies that work for her–editors and writers. What an amazing team I’m part of.  I’ve been back for three days and my neck and shoulders are still recovering from the tension of meeting new people.

eye-2274884_1280

 

Yesterday I attended an outdoors book sale where I met two other romance writers and in spite of my lack of confidence I actually interacted with the public and even sold a couple books.

In August I’m sitting on my second panel of the year. It’s not an easy thing for me to do even if I will be talking about one of my favorite things in writing–world building–but I’m hoping to put myself “out there”, make myself recognizable and network.

I have signed up for meetings, workshops, book signings…I’m doing the branding, marketing “thing”. It’s exhausting and gratifying all at once. Take my word for it; it’s not easy being an introvert in a very extrovert world.social battery

How many introverts out there? Do you ever challenge yourself? Share your experiences with us.I’d love to hear from you.

 

Challenging My Introvert-Self

If you follow me you probably know by now that I’m an introvert. I love people, but I need my quiet and alone time. I love meeting with my friends but if I meet with more than a couple at time, I need a day or two to recuperate. It physically drains me.

I don’t go to concerts (unless it’s a classical music one and  I can sit in the dark while listening to it) even though I love music because I can’t handle the crowds, the noise, the constant movement…I hate being like that sometimes!

morning-1035090_1920

Now that I am a bona fide published writer I discovered that I must try and do what does not come naturally to me if I want to make an impact with potential readers and/or potential publishers. It’s not the first time that I’m called to challenge my introvert-self. My first career, a tour guide in Portugal, required me to speak to a bus full of people (in different languages) on a regular basis. So, my new year’s resolution for 2017 was to put myself out there.

My first chance is coming up this Saturday as I will speak in public to a room full of people (hopefully it won’t be empty) as part of  a three-author panel at the Virginia Festival of the Book. My partners in crime have a lot more experience than I do.One is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction and winner of a RITA award (not to mention she’s a Harvard graduate) and the other is a full PAN member of the Romance Writers of America which requires the author to have sold quite a few books. I am neither.

VABokFestHeroines

I am a second language learner who has always loved to read and write. I have a couple degrees in two countries and I have sold very few books in spite of having three out. Needless to say I’m a freaking nervous wreck.

In May I will be travelling to Atlanta for the great RT Book Lovers Convention where I will meet my amazing publisher and a bunch of other authors. I’m so excited to meet them all but very nervous as well.

And to further challenge myself I just applied to be a speaker at another big writers’event in September (not sure my proposal will be accepted but…hey!). Apparently I’m a sucker for punishment, lol.

Moral of the story? Not sure there is one but, if you’re an introvert like me, know that you can do it. It’s not easy and you may not sleep the week preceding the event (yeah, I’m pretty exhausted) but you CAN do it! Introverts of the world unite…even if in a different place and by yourselves (paraphrased from a FB post I saw a while back. Sorry I can’t remember the author’s name).

FotB_2017_Natalina