So yeah. This will be a long post. You may need to get a sandwich and a drink first. I'll wait. Actually this post ended up being so long I'm only going to cover the first day now, and save day two for later in the week.
This was my third time attending the Chicago North Spring Fling conference. It's been an interesting journey. At my first Spring Fling, I was a n00b. It was 2008, I'd just finished Blood, Smoke and Mirrors and entered it in the Chicago North Fire and Ice contest, and it was a finalist in the paranormal category. My first conference, my first contest success, my first pitch (later followed by my first rejection)...it was overwhelming. The second Spring Fling I brought my best friend Diana with me, and we somewhat famously lost our fan girl minds over Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Because we both ADORE SB Sarah, she's so awesome. Anyway, it was April 2010, and Blood, Smoke and Mirrors was just about to be released in ebook the following May, and I was so excited.
Now, it's 2012, and Blood, Smoke and Mirrors has been out in print for a year, so I was able to sign it at the Spring Fling book signing. Dude. Seriously. But I'll get back to that.
To begin the tale of this year's SF, let me start with my RWA chapter, the Prairie Hearts. Our chapter is small. Very small. But we're also very close and supportive of each other, and I consider them all my writing family. As such I've been encouraging them for years to come with me to the SF, because I knew it would inspire them. There's something very powerful in being surrounded by so many other writers--fellow romance writers, who understand your struggles like nobody else can. So this year I am proud to say that several of the PHs attended, namely myself, BFF Diana, Victoria Smith, R.T. Wolfe, Rebecca, Ramona, and Nancy (who need pen names and web sites). ;)
This was Victoria's first conference, so Diana and I were very, "Come, young padawan, and we shall show you the ways of the Force. And drive you there." Because I have a minivan and I learned to drive on the Eisenhower, so I'm generally fearless about road trips.
We drove up Thursday night but stayed at my parents' place, because a) it was free and b) I knew Mom would feed us breakfast in the morning (which she did). So we arrived at the SF late Friday morning, unfortunately missing Carrie Lofty's workshop but managing to meet up with Romance Diva Sasha Devlin right away. This was awesome in many ways, because Diana and I met her and several other Divas at the last SF, which was my first intro to the Romance Diva community. Through the magic of Twitter and the #SF12 hash tag, Victoria also almost immediately connected with Nicole Tersigni, who is also awesome. She has a Batman tattoo. 'Nuff said.
We also ran into A. Catherine Noon, another Diva that I've met a few times (also, aside, she looked fabulous, very elegant)(also, aside some more, she didn't recognize me, but that was probably due to the fact that she meets way more people than I do, and I also used to have hair that was long and not pink, so I look a tad bit different). But she immediately made me realize that I was not prepared for this conference, because I have no business cards. Also no new rack cards, because they STILL haven't shipped yet. Really no new, clever promo of any kind.
I am made of fail. /headdesk But, that's mostly due to the divorce and recent move of it all, so I will be better prepared for the Lori Foster RAGT, I promise. (Also fail, I'm supposed to be doing edits for Nightfall now. Like right now, this very moment. Oops.) I also forgot to bring Samhain Duckie, so he is absent from my pics. And I forgot the ipod adapter for my car. So. Much. Fail.
Where was I...oh yeah, even more fail, because I did not go with Diana to the Erotica for Beginners workshop run by Tiffany Reisz. I am super bummed by this. Now, the workshop I did go to, Blog Book Tour Tips, was very helpful for those who aren't familiar with blog tours. Problem is, I'm already familiar with them, and I didn't learn much that I didn't already know. Diana, on the other hand, was all "DUDE, this was so awesome, you should have been there because you would love her!"
So, of course, we spent the rest of the SF trying (and mostly failing) to stalk her so that I could meet her too and learn of this awesome. Because apparently we didn't learn anything from the last SF about not stalking people. Though, to our credit, I think we were less crazed about it this time. Mostly. Maybe?
Speaking of our inability to learn, the next workshop we went to was Self-Publishing with Quality by Courtney Milan. Now, Courtney Milan was the author who was having a perfectly nice conversation with Sarah Wendell at the last SF gala when BFF Diana and I bounded up to SB Sarah and were all, "OMG U TWEETED ME U R TEH AWESOMEST I LURVE YOU 4EVAR!" Like giant Golden Retriever puppies. On Red Bull. So I have this fear that she remembers me and is all "oh, it's that girl." Which I'm sure she has no idea who I am, and probably doesn't care or remember, but that doesn't stop my inner voice of guilt from lecturing me on propriety when dealing with people I admire in the writing industry.
Aside speech time: In case you're not aware, though I have no problem communicating through the Internets, I'm actually painfully shy in reality. This is why I blurt things that are occasionally hilarious--I have no filters. Or few filters. I'm also frickin' 6 feet tall and awkward as all get out, so I can come off as intimidating or standoffish when I'm actually scared to death. And I'm the child of gym teachers, so though I have zero athletic talent, I was still raised in a "rub some dirt in it and walk it off" environment. As such, I lack the social skills of normal women, and I spent much of this SF in terror. Because it's scary to talk about my book to strangers. And then I tend to forget to do simple things like thank people for their interest or ask them where they're from and what they write. But I'm learning. Slowly.
Back to the workshop: it was really, really fabulous. She was organized, her PowerPoint presentation was helpful and put together well, and I learned a lot. If you're considering self pubbing, I would recommend getting a recording of this workshop and listening to it (they'll be selling recordings on the site I believe).
After that was the keynote speech by Simone Elkeles. She was very funny, and I immediately liked her. (No, I haven't read any of her stuff. She does YA, which I generally don't read, but if you enjoy it I'd recommend her. If her books are anything like her personality, she's well worth the read, because she was fabulous.)
After this there was dinner. And then, ABJECT TERROR! Because as a participant in the book signing, I was invited to the Bookseller/Librarian Appreciation Reception. See above aside on my social inadequacies. Plus, there were a few librarians and a ton of authors, so we were all circling them like hawks, waiting for our turn to strike. Awkward hawks, all scared of angering the librarians if we butted in to their conversations. I think I only managed to speak with 2 of the librarians, but I had a marvelous conversation about libraries and how I am in love with the stacks of the main library of the University of Illinois.
At one point I tried to escape, but I ran into my chapter member R.T. Wolfe in the hallway, who essentially told me to put on my big girl panties and get back in there, so I did.
I feel I should also mention at this point that in addition to being a big dork who can't function in social groups, I'm also scared of other authors. Example, Carrie Lofty was in the reception, and I wanted to speak with her because she's really cool, and I never got the courage to do it. Because when faced with this sort of situation, I feel like this:
Because I'm not worthy. Or at least I've convinced myself of that.
Oh! I do have a great pic from the reception though:
Sarah M. Anderson. I LOVED her outfit, and she had kickass boots and an equally awesome hat on for the book signing (more about that in the Day Two post). They were both super nice and look how gorgeous they are. :) (ETA: The author on the left is Andrea Dickinson. Thanks, Sarah!)
After the reception ended it was chocolate buffet time. Good stuff, but not as good as last SF. In fact, I have to say, the food was not as good this year. I am disappoint. :(
I did not attend the Hot Night critiques, but Victoria and Nicole did, and I know they had a great time. (And they stayed up too late, because as Sasha kept reminding us, no one is supposed to sleep at conferences. Or do work, which Diana and I did anyway, but I'll get to that in Day Two.) Instead, Diana, Rebecca and I went to the bar and had a drink. Just one, because I live in a college town and am generally stunned by how much drinks cost in the outside world. (I demand cheap liquor!) While drinking, Diana and I continued to stalk Tiffany Reisz on Twitter, announcing our stalkery intentions, which thankfully she seemed to find amusing and not scary.
Then there was sleep, or at least the attempt to sleep. More on Day Two to come later!