Saturday, July 9, 2011

It's usually better in retrospect

I'm pretty sure I had withdrawal, because I was walking around the conference with my netbook looking for a clear spot where I could use the phone or get internet without being disconnected. It took almost forty minutes to upload my last post, and I fidgeted the entire time. I'm not used to dial-up speeds and it totally gave me flashbacks to when I hated using the computer. My roomies bought hard-wired internet in the room. Considering there were over twenty-five hundred of us, all with computers, all with increasingly frantic needs to get on-line, it's no wonder we overloaded the system. There was a whole day when nothing worked at all. One connection bar in New York city? All it took was a passing breeze and I couldn't place a phone call or check email to save my life.

The hotel was the normal RWA Marriott. Hugely overpriced, seriously overcrowded and packed with people who'd never attended a conference before and were overwhelmed. Nationals isn't someplace you want to go if you don't have friends, or white-hot determination. Every time I'd turn a corner and see someone tucked into a corner reading, I had this incredible urge to yell, "Get up! Get moving--this thing is costing you an arm and a leg. Take advantage of it now, while you still can." You can read at home or on the plane. RWA only lasts for a few days.

I didn't have a lot of money, and suspect most people didn't because by the end of the conference I saw a lot of people hitting the free water hard. The closest food option was Junior's
Two sandwiches cost me and a roomie more than forty three dollars, not including tip. Glad I yelp, because once I got my bearings I found a couple of cheap bagel places and some food trucks within walking distance.

Kati rolls--omg, sheer heaven.

Hot, greasy, chewy--three bucks, and a everything bagel with a gigantic scoop of the world's most fabulous vegetable cream cheese--three fifty. By the fourth day, after Teresa and Laurie had eaten their way through Ruby Foo's, I was craving some chinese and found a hole in the wall with genuine NY style chinese. Chicken wings and noodles with a drink. Fried halibut and noodles. Fried hot dog with noodles. It reminded me of Hawaii.

The conference had chicken...

...and polenta. Although what it didn't have was iced tea or desert. More chicken.
Thank God for rolls, because I felt like I was on a diet or something.

I tried to go to the autographing, but couldn't get through the crowds. I remember sitting on the floor with the signing about six hours before they opened the doors, eating a kati roll and talking to Gina Ardito--God, what a small world--and these girls come up and ask if "that" is the ballroom where Sherrilyn Kenyon will be signing. They wanted to sit in front of the doors, even though they were still wheeling in books and bottles of water, so I suggested (since I'd heard the public was being restricted to the ground floor) they cruise the lobby bar. It's where everyone hangs out and a good chance for them to see their idol ahead of time.

Afterwards I found out the line stretched outside, down the street and didn't stop coming for hours. Everyone who was there told me it was pandemonium, and I agree. I couldn't even get close. Usually I cruise into the autographing after the mad rush goes through the doors. It's quiet, and I hang out and talk to people I know. This was just insane.

I did go to a few publisher signings (closed to the public), because my roommate Laurie had collected over two hundred books and my competitive streak was killing me. But the lines were long there, too.
I hit the book blogger event Harlequin put on, because I'm a blogger and I'm always curious. Back in '06 they were just focusing on their e-platform and I remember thinking they were way ahead of the curve--and that they had delicious sandwiches. Fast forward five years and I wanted to see how far they'd gotten. They're right that book bloggers are the gatekeepers. Now that everyone has a say, magazines just aren't as important as they used to be. I wonder though--how people maintain credibility if it's known they're getting free books? I blog books, but only if I love them. If you have lots of books, does that make your rating system suspect? I mean, not every book is a 3 or 4 star. Some are godawful 1's or 2's. Cred is important. Once you abuse someone's trust, most people won't give you another chance. To this day I can't read an RT review without going, "yeah, right." Although shame on me, it took at least ten rotten buys before I stopped trusting them.

Back in the early days they were right on top of everything and their rankings meant something. Now...I dunno. Over at RD I get to see a lot of people freak out over bad reviews, and there's always someone being talked about for attacking reviewers. Taking down Amazon reviews, taking down goodreads reviews? No wonder most of the people at the Harlequin tea went by user names.

The woman in the daisy print is Harlequin's digital person, Malle Vallik, still going strong after all this time. Got to admire her. And the sandwiches were still good.

I cruised the goody room. Every year RWA says not to bring paper goods, but it was pretty much all paper goods.

 Except for Nancy Berland's wonderful magnets (I'm collecting them)
 some pins and a few notebooks.

 Sidney Ayers had one of the more inventive promo items. I'd taken one and was explaining how unique they were (personalized charms and mini magnets that weren't from Vistaprint) to Teresa when the woman behind me said "Thank you."

Duh, I'd walked right into the person who'd made them. Luckily she was a good sport and agreed to do a workshop with Romance Divas. Charms for bookmarks are expensive, and personalized charms are through the roof. Cheap promo? I'm so there.

 I didn't do many of the speeches this year. I think a lot of people skipped out on them because the conference room was fairly empty. I took pictures though, and so did other people.

I got to listen to my absolute favorite speaker ever--Michael Hauge, and it astounds me that the room wasn't wall to wall people like it usually is. He had a lot of new insights and I was thrilled.
And I took a picture of the Algonquin. Just because I was passing by. Funny how I always thought it was somewhere else.
I usually enjoy Nationals, but this was crazy-insane. Maybe I just know people now, or maybe I've just relaxed enough to take it one thing at a time, but if I can make it--I'll be in Anaheim. I want to do it again.


Pamala Knight said...

Hi Jodi!

I never got a chance to say THANK YOU for all your help at the pitch appointments. It was my first time pitching and thanks to you, my fill in appt. led to a request for my full manuscript.

I chaired my Chicago North chapter's Spring Fling conference last year and know exactly how important the volunteers are. RWA and the writing community are lucky to have your help, whether it's marshalling the troops at conference or providing excellent advice through your workshops (my friend Nina LOVES you and your workshops), so again thanks for all you do.


jodi said...

Damnit, you've got me blushing. Thanks Pamala! I'm glad you got a request (for a full!!! That's so incredibly rare) and I really hope you get an offer.

And please, tell your friend Ninab (I can't help it--I'm such a username person) thank you! :) I enjoyed having her in my Transformational Arc and Organic Structure workshops.

You've both got to come to Press F1 for Help (the free workshop I'm doing for the Savvy Summer Symposium)