Monday, April 26, 2010

Spring Fling: So Much Awesome

This past weekend I attended the Chicago North Spring Fling Writers' Conference, and I had an awesome time. Before I tell the tale, here's the moral of the story (in case some of you are the type who likes to read the last page of the book first just to make sure it ends well): Writing is, for the most part, pretty solitary. It's just you and your computer/legal pad/notebook as you write your story. Groups like the Romance Writers of America are great for networking, but you have to put in the work and join local or online chapters, take workshops, or attend conferences. Otherwise all you're getting is a really expensive magazine once a month. Conferences like the Spring Fling are great opportunities to meet other authors and just hang out, trade stories, and get advice; pitch to an agent or editor; take writing workshops from published authors; and get signed books. (I love signed books.) So, if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend attending one.

Now, on to the story!

For those of you who've been playing along, you've already heard the tale of my first Spring Fling in 2008 in Part 8 is Great. This time around I recruited my BFF Diana to come with me, and we drove up Friday morning. We checked in to the hotel and then to the conference, and then I met Samhain editor Lindsey Faber for lunch. Lindsey isn't my editor, but she is my friend Chandra Ryan's editor, and we had a very nice lunch. She'd just gotten back from breakfast and shopping with Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, which is probably my favorite blog on the entire Intarwebs, prompting my first fangirl moment of the weekend. Normally I'm pretty good about being cool around writers I love, but no, not this time, as I'll discuss later...

The first workshop we went to was Laurie Brown's "Deep POV", and it was very interesting. Sadly I'd left my notebook upstairs, but Diana took great notes which I will cheat off of later. Next was the Q&A with Cherry Adair and Julia Quinn, the headliners of the conference. Now, I must admit, I haven't read them (yet). But I hadn't read the headliners of the last conference either until after attending it. I think Cherry Adair has made a new fan for life, because OH MY GOD was that woman awesome. (Julia Quinn is also awesome, but of a different flavor.) The audience was very entertained by them both.

Next was dinner, and the food was good, blah blah blah. What was really important IMHO about dinner was that it was BFF Diana's first glimpse of the social awesome of attending a writers' conference. We sat down and our table filled up with strangers, but we all introduced ourselves and started discussing our writing, other writers' groups, things we'd learned about writing, everything. It was like having a mini chapter meeting over pasta and salad. Everyone at the Spring Fling is so friendly and engaging, it's just amazing. And supportive. Every time I mentioned my book I got a big smile and a congrats.

After dinner we went to the Agent/Editor Q&A. They shared a few "don't do this" stories about weird queries they'd received. I think the author who called and read his manuscript to the editor's voicemail was my favorite. Finally we arrived at everyone's favorite part of the conference--the chocolate reception. Dude. Dude. Chocolate as far as the eye could see... It was a thing of beauty. And it was here that we met the group that became our conference buddies, some very cool women who'd met through the Romance Divas site. (aside: I tried to sign up for the forums yesterday and my confirmation email never arrived. Sadness. I'm not a spammer, I swear!) Names will be withheld to protect the innocent, but they were a really, really fun group. And Lindsey came by and gave me some Samhain swag, including my absolute favorite thing, a Samhain devil duckie. Samhain duckie will be featured in my Storyteller series, fighting an army of evil marshmallow peeps, so stay tuned.

After breakfast the next morning I attended Sarah Wendell's workshop on online marketing. It was very informative, and as a result I now have my own Facebook "like" page (because of course FB must change with the seasons and it's no longer a fan page). Now, as I mentioned earlier, I'm a big SBTB fan. Huge. Perhaps even crazed. Like a stalker I'd been trying to spot her since I arrived at Spring Fling, partially because as I said, crazy fangirl, and because a few weeks ago when the DABWAHA ended I won a set of signed Larissa Ione books and a Demonica series coffee mug and tote bag (woot!). When I emailed SB Sarah my address, I mentioned that I was looking forward to her workshop at the SF, and she replied with "I'm now happy to have someone to look forward to meeting!". At which point, something popped in my brain because omg SB Sarah said she's looking forward to meeting me, squee! Yeah. So of course after the workshop I walked up and mentioned that I'm the one who won, and we chatted briefly about how the series is awesome ('cause it is). And BFF Diana, who missed the first part of the workshop because she was pitching to Lindsey, handed Sarah a hall pass signed by Lindsey excusing Diana from missing part of class, which cracked Sarah up because hey, that's funny. ;)

Then we went to...sigh, helpful kitty is now napping on my schedule, one moment. Aha! Carrie Lofy's "Beyond Research/POV" workshop, which was not only very cool but also included short writing exercises, one of which I got to read aloud and received props for. Then was lunch, with Julia Quinn as the speaker. She had several "top 4" lists of things related to writing, and I really wish I'd written some of them down, because they were good. One of them that I remember is to make a "to do" list, because it'll give you a feeling of accomplishment, even if it's only accomplishing buying light bulbs. After lunch BFF Diana went to Julia Quinn's workshop on dialogue (more notes I can copy later), but I went to the Samhain spotlight instead, so I could represent. (I'm a Samhain author, ask me how!) I helped carry the box o' Samhain luggage tags, so clearly I was useful. ;)

Then came the book signing, and my friend Karrin joined us. She's not an author, but is an avid reader and may also be one of my best PR people, because she's demanding that her friends buy my book. ;) The signing is also where the ZOMG DID THAT JUST HAPPEN???!!! portion of my story begins. Diana and I had brought our copies of Beyond Heaving Bosoms with us for Sarah to sign, and we spotted her pretty much immediately when we walked through the door and were all "Here! Sign our bosoms!" (if we'd brought a Sharpie, she might've signed our actual bosoms too). And I, like a drooling fangirl, mentioned that I'd learned about Mr. Sam Hain through the SBTB site (true), and now I'm a Samhain author. She seemed pretty happy about that, because how cool is it to hear that you were the matchmaker who introduced an author to their publisher. Then BFF Diana elbowed me and reminded me to show Sarah my rack card with my book info on it, because during the workshop Sarah'd mentioned that she loves book covers and my book cover is gorgeous. She was suitably impressed, and asked me to email her a reminder when my book comes out. (Score!) So we walked away to get more books signed, and while I was standing in the Julia Quinn line I heard someone yell "Robyn!" and I turned and it was Sarah (omg she said my name!) and she asked what my Twitter handle was. Because she was tweeting about me. Me! At which point, the portion of my brain preventing me from completely geeking out just failed, like a bluescreen in Windows. I walked around a pillar so I was out of her line of sight and did a happy dance with Diana. We got more signed books--a lot more, Diana and Karrin had to cut me off--and then we went up to the room. Now, we hadn't gotten Intarwebs access from the hotel because it was stupid expensive ($10 for one day? who do you think you are? Comcast?), but my husband has web access with his phone so I was pretty much yelling "check it! check it now! omg!" at him. And he didn't have a Twitter app, so we had to download it first, while my brain is becoming more and more damage and I'm all grinning like an idiot and bouncing around the hotel room like Tigger on Red Bull. Finally I was able to read it, and then I pretty much spent the entire time between the signing and dinner grinning.

Dinner! Was delicious, though no one at our table could figure out the mystery flavor of the sorbet for dessert. Apparently it was the flavor of enchantment, and enchantment must taste something like cake mix powder. Cherry Adair spoke during the dinner and continued to be completely made of awesome and hysterical. Two words: camel sex. Done! After the dinner portion was done our conference buddies wanted to go to the bar, and I was all in favor of that because the beer selection at the dinner itself was, well, sucktastic. But Diana paused, and suggested that we go thank SB Sarah for the tweet, even though she was talking to author Courtney Milan and we didn't want to interrupt. But, as I said, I was brain damaged at that point and so I said "Yes, let's go!" So we did. And Diana led off with "I wanted to thank you for mentioning Robyn because she's been grinning all day now," to which she replied "Oh I mentioned you on the site too. I linked to your site, because the coming soon Samhain links break when your book comes out, is that okay?"


I'm sure I said "yes." I have vague memory of it. Everything past the words "I mentioned you on the site" is hazy in my brain. Because OMG MY NAME IS IN A SBTB POST! (It's below the cut, fyi.) I literally almost fell over when she said it. After that, I have other vague memories of gushing about how I've been a fan of the site for years (about 3 I figured out later) and I read it every day and I think she's so awesome. And I know at some point she introduced us to Courtney Milan--who was very nice but I haven't read her (yet)--and for some reason I thought it was a good idea to give her a rack card too, possibly because Sarah mentioned that my gorgeous cover is gorgeous but I'd pretty much turned into a wriggling Golden Retriever puppy at that point so who knows. I also know at some point after that Diana and I stepped away for some reason, probably looking for Lindsey so I could squee at her and say goodbye. But I couldn't find Lindsey so we went to the bar so I could drink heavily. And I did.

So that's pretty much my Spring Fling story. It is made of WIN! My parents met us for breakfast the next morning, and when I met them in the lobby I turned around and spotted Sarah sitting in a chair, on the phone, but this time I managed to resist the urge to point her out to my parents and be all "that's her! she's awesome! she said my name!" and instead calmly walked past her.

Thursday I'll be discussing rules of magic as my Storyteller post, so be there or be square.


Diana said...

"...and L-shaped!"

Actually, I have a handout for Julia Quinn's session, so I can just photocopy it for you. Remind me to do so.

Sarah said...

This entry cracks me up like whoa. Thank you for being so nice and so excited to meet me. I'm now so excited for you. So we'll squee at the next bar we're both at, k? K.

Anonymous said...

I loved Spring Fling, too, and am with you on the SB Sarah love--wasn't she awesome? As was Cherry and the Camel Sex story and Julia and chocolate and everything else.

And congrats on your upcoming release--how exciting!

Pamala Knight said...

Add me to the new Robyn fangirls because that entry--it was awesome covered in milk chocolate. I'm glad you enjoyed the conference.

JayceeKaycee said...

Loved the conference and love your post about it. We attended many of the same sessions- how did we miss each other?- and I agree with you about everything. What an awesomely fantastic conference. I am still smiling. Anyway, it's nice to "meet" you here.

December said...

*snort* L shaped...
Great meeting you this weekend!

Hmm - I wonder what the scoop is on RDivas.
I was looking for you in there.

Pat said...

We knew you would be a writer or an actress ever since you made us act out your stories at age 3. All we can say is "Brilliant"!

Ma & D

iamtherobyn said...

Thanks for the comments everyone. :) I'm still grinning, I can't help it.

Tatiana Caldwell said...

Hi there Robyn! I don't know if you remember me from Spring Fling (I was the good, innocent, well-behaved one *clears throat*) but this is a great post about the conference. I also just wanted to say that it was a pleasure to meet you!

morseren said...

Ok, I am totally convinced that next year I *must* go to Spring Fling. It will be at the top of my list are completely responsible:)