Saturday, November 19, 2016

A blogger's perspective of the RWA Annual Conference ...


As many of you already know, I am an associate member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA, link). Obviously, I am a fan of romance novels ... and I found it inspiring, stimulating, and engaging to surround myself with creative forces.  Being a member of RWA offers a balance to life as a military spouse and community volunteer.  I attend local meetings of the Washington Romance Writers (WRW, link) and the Maryland Romance Writers (MRW, link).  

I also travel each year to the RWA Annual Conference.  In 2015 in New York, Kim Rocha and I presented a workshop, A Tale of Two Bloggers.  In 2016 in San Diego, I coordinated two workshops - The Joy of Writing and Reporting for Duty.  For 2017, I submitted two more workshops - cross your fingers that they are accepted!

In 2012, my kids came with me from Hawaii to Anaheim -
hubby was moving to Korea!  Kids volunteered in
Aloha shirts at the publishers' book signings.

RWA heads to Orlando for the 2017 Annual  Conference at Disney's Swan and Dolphin Hotel.  The RWA Board recently announced the new schedule (link), including a focus on librarians, bloggers, and readers on Saturday, July 29:

Librarians Day Event 7:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Workshops 8:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Chapter Leadership Breakfast and Town Hall  TBA
Blogger Event (separate, ticketed event) 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Librarian Luncheon (ticketed event) 12:30 – 2:00 p.m.
"Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.

The Librarian Day and book signing previously kicked off the conference on Wednesday.  The move to Saturday, plus the addition of the Blogger Event, expands RWA's reach to consumers - a critical component of a writing career.  I believe librarians, bloggers, and readers are more likely to attend an event on Saturday, especially with the conference in an isolated location such as Disney's Swan and Dolphin Hotel.

Many authors have expressed concern about other changes on Thursday:

PRO Retreat TBA

Workshops 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Golden Heart (Unpublished) Awards Luncheon with Special Guest Emcee 12:15 – 2:00 p.m.

RITA Awards (Published) Ceremony with Special Guest Emcee 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Previous conferences ended with a combined Gold Heart and RITA Awards Ceremony on Saturday night with the glamor of the Oscars. The RWA Board offered an explanation (link),

We want to give more attention to finalists and winners and provide them with more professional opportunities throughout the conference. Rather than merge both ceremonies, the Board felt this was a way to focus on the accomplishments of unpublished and published finalists.

Numerous authors have expressed concerns on Facebook that splitting the ceremonies devalues the Golden Heart; the finalists who do not win will feel awkward for the rest of the conference; and the Board did not coordinate these changes with the members.  Some also question the value of RWA.

Barbara Samuels' six RITAs
Creative Commons (link)

As an associate member, I don't have a horse in this race.  But I still have an opinion which I share with you.  

- The combined awards ceremony on Saturday night was too long.  It ran late.  I have not stayed for any post ceremony party because I had an early flight the next day to get back to reality.

- Those who believe conference goers will not attend the Golden Heart Luncheon because of competing meetings need to lead by example - support your unpublished sisters.  The Golden Heart nominees can live their "princess moment" at the luncheon by dressing up - it's Disney after all!

- Finalists are still "winners" - they are announced long before the conference.  They reference themselves as "finalists" in marketing material even after the conference.  Do not let the date of the ceremony diminish their accomplishments.  Again, if we lead by example by congratulating all finalists throughout the conference, then we embrace our industry's excellence.

And the value of RWA?  As a military veteran, military spouses, community volunteer, and minute taker for a benefits association board, I have seen nothing like RWA.  It empowers independent entrepreneurs who seek to balance the creative process with business success. RWA is what you make of it - the more you contribute, the more you gain from the experience. We can all learn from each other no matter where you are in your publishing career.

Authors have long advocated for RWA to embrace changes in the publishing industry.  Now the board is promoting a change to improve the conference experience.  I encourage authors to give it a try.

Walt Disney World

Finally, let's look at Wednesday, July 26:

Level Up: In-depth workshops specific to taking your career to the next level, 1:00 - 5:30 pm:

Indie Track
Emerging Author Track
Master Classes

First Timers' Orientation 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Tours - TBA.

Tours.  I love tours! Last year, I coordinated the tour of the Navy Base Coronado in San Diego.  And I know a thing or two about Florida ... I grew up in Miami, attended high school in Clearwater, and graduated from the University of Tampa. Author Elle Mason has published an awesome planning guide for staying (and playing) on Walt Disney World on her blog (link).  However, I will be pitching several tours outside WDW - stay tuned next week for things to do beyond Mickey!

Image result for aloha on my mind lucky books
Lucky guards the convention stash ...

Let's giveaway a book from my convention stash. To enter the giveaway,

1. What do you know (or love) about Orlando, Walt Disney World, or Florida?

2. Due to shipping costs, this giveaway is open to US residents (and those with an APO address).  But I welcome comments from all readers and authors!

3. Comments for the giveaway is open through Sunday, November 27, 10 pm in Baltimore. I'll post the winner on Monday, November 28.


Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

Here's what I know about Walt Disney World - the Shades of Green (link) began as Disney's Golf Resort across from the Polynesian Hotel.  It was then sold to become an Armed Forces Recreation Center.  Any ID card holder - military or civilian, active or retired - can make a reservation and use its facilities.  My family has stayed several times at the Shades of Green!

Shades of Green


  1. I'm most excited about the Wednesday level up tracks. I feel like that kind of "next step" progression was missing at RWA16, and sorely needed. It will mean that I may miss a tour (I really enjoyed the tour you organized in San Diego!), but not everyone is looking to level up, so that seems like the best time to schedule those in, as a smaller, more focused set of tracks.

    I hear that the Golden Heart people are upset. I've never entered the GHs, so like you, I don't have a vested interest. But lunch last year was very well attended. I'm sure it will be even better attended when there are awards on the line.

    1. Looking forward to seeing you again at RT and RWA! I am planning pre conference tours (small group or bus load - whatever works) to St Augustine, Cape Canaveral, and the Navy SEAL Museum.

  2. Oh lost my post. Very informative. I hope to attend one some day. I've been to Florida at least half a dozen times and always enjoyed myself. In 2014 my daughter got married in Disney and it was magical.

    1. Congrats on your daughter getting married ... and being magical! Where did she get married?

  3. I love Florida!!!!!!!!! I have family in Jacksonville......been to Disney once....more than enough for me.

    1. No more Mickey for me! The few times we stayed at Shades of Green, we enjoyed the weather, pool, and riding around on the Monorail.

  4. I live in the Tampa Bay area. One really lovely place to visit in the Orlando area is the Morse Museum in Winter Park, which houses a beautiful collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany artwork: jewelry, paintings, stained glass, housewares, even parts of Tiffany's own house. And Winter Park itself has a lovely downtown with restaurants and shops.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation! Will I see you at RWA?

    2. I'm planning to be there! It will be my first (and, thankfully, right in my backyard!).

  5. Haven't had a chance to visit Orlando or Disney World. Only been to Miami a couple of times and remember enjoying the delicious Cuban food.

  6. Kim, thanks for the in-depth break down of the RWA conference! I'm looking forward to attending and hope to see you there! :-)

  7. Great perspective, Kim. I so agree with you that a finalist is a winner. :-)

  8. The new schedule makes it impossible for online special interest chapters to hold mini conferences as many of them have for years. Having a full day of historical workshops is what makes the expense of the conference worth it to me. Our needs were completely ignored here. We weren't even consulted, and they knew full well this would be a problem.

    I was already skipping Orlando as I had an extremely bad experience there last time, but if this isn't resolved before Denver, I may not ever attend another National (and if I'm not attending the annual conference, I may well look for a more relevant organization to invest my time and money in).

  9. I've been to Disney World four times (but not in many years) but none of the other places around Orlando. It would be fun to get there again and see more sights.

  10. Liked Disney world boating , seafood
    Sun beaches

  11. My husband's mom moved with the boys to Orlando in 1963 after his dad died. At that time it was a relatively small town near McCoy AFB. Their house was next to a farm pasture. Today, the pasture is long gone, Florida Mall is nearby, and McCoy no longer exists. We went to Disney the month it opened and have returned many times with our children and grandchildren, a benefit of knowing people who work there. We still go down every year to visit friends and family, but the area has grown way too big for our liking.

  12. No first hand knowledge, but a few things from TV, books and movies. I know Florida can be hot & steamy.

  13. I am not fond of Florida. I do not mind visiting for short periods of time, but I do not want to live there. Much to my husband's dismay

  14. Friends of mine recently moved to Orlando and we'll be visiting in February.

  15. I lived in Florida a couple of times when I was a young woman. Have been to DW twice, once through Make A Wish when my then 7 year old had Cancer and a few years later. It is a bit much. But in a magical way.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  16. I lived in Florida a couple of times when I was a young woman. Have been to DW twice, once through Make A Wish when my then 7 year old had Cancer and a few years later. It is a bit much. But in a magical way.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  17. We moved to Georgia when I was 10. We'd go to Disney World every couple years. We got to visit Epcot the year it opened. Since, I'm now in Texas we were only able to take our kids there once as they were growing up. By that time there were a lot more parks in the Disney family, and the Magic Kingdom and Epcot had changed a lot.

  18. We love Disney World. even though I am from Memphis, my family goes to Disney World every year and has for over 32 years. We have made over 35 trips. We are Disney Vacation club member which is Disney for timeshare. I am looking forward to RWA being at my favorite vacation destination.

  19. We have visited Florida a few times and have found it to be a fun state to visit. Liked driving down the Keys, visiting St. Augustine, Daytona 500 race, Kennedy Space Center, Harry Potter world at Universal Studios, to name a few