Just returned from a week-long stint at the Romance Writer’s of America conference in Anaheim. Tossed my suitcase in the room and headed over to the Convention Center to unpack and haul books for the Literacy Signing. Did we haul books! The next day I volunteered for the Librarian’s Day Goodie Room–where publishers and authors woo librarians with free books of all types and sizes. How can I describe the faces of bliss as the librarians chatted with authors over free books? Transcendent joy comes close.

What does my husband think I do at these conferences? Argue the merits of sans serif fonts? Does he imagine that we meet like hermits dragged from solitude into the light of day? I have been afraid to ask. Hubby is an orthopedic surgeon. At his conferences they discuss life and death issues and often practice new operating tools and techniques on cadavers. Oh, wake up and smell the formaldehyde. Eeeew.

A group of my colleagues in the Kiss of Death Chapter (writers of suspense, mystery and thrillers), took a tour with the LAPD. As AJ Brower summed it up, “Men in uniform, on horseback with guns.” She then bragged about her high-speed thrill ride on a training track with one of the merry men in blue. Many of the women on that tour bought tiny silver handcuff pins to commemorate their day. Next year I’m booking an earlier flight!

Day two hubby called to ask if I was okay and if I felt the earthquake.

Earthquake? No, dear.

And what about the riot nearby?

Uh, what riot?

With concern in his voice, he asked if I ventured outside at all.

No, dear. Having a great time. I could almost hear him shake his head. All his sweet concern was wasted on me as I enjoyed the estrogen storm of two thousand women at conference. The community of writers is a diverse, welcoming, generous group of professionals. Okay, generous until the publishers host book signings and give away free books–then it’s more like a shoe sale at Macy’s.

While all the attendees wear name badges, many add pins to them for bling. Pins to identify their chapter. Pins to identify winners of the Golden Heart and RITA awards, pins to show leadership positions, pins that promote books, and goofy pins as well. The name badges also sport colored ribbons to denote status–Speaker, Librarian, Book Seller, First Timer, RITA Finalist, Golden Heart Finalist, volunteer, and so on. Perhaps the oddest combination of ribbons was on my Tampa Area Romance Author colleague Karen Fleming, whose namebadge was flagged with First Timer and Golden Heart Finalist. There is something almost wrong about that combination, however, that could be jealousy talking.

Karen Fleming accepting her Golden Heart Award.

Karen Fleming accepting her Golden Heart Award.

The highlight of the week was the awards ceremony for the RITA and Golden Heart Awards. The RITA Award is for published books of 2011 and the Golden Heart is for unpublished works. Two of my friends were finalists in the inspirational category of the Golden Heart Contest. Karen Fleming won and her friend, critique partner, and co-finalist Carol Post cheered her on. Author Karen Rose congratulated her with a hug. I thought we’d have to take Karen Fleming down with a tranquilizer gun to get her back to her room before her early flight home, but dancing wore her out.

After a week of late nights and early mornings, I’m back home awaiting three boxes of books to be delivered via FEDEX. I am an admitted book addict. Will share the loot with my book club pals and friends. The joy of reading is what writing is all about. One day I hope readers will be eager to settle into their beach chairs and sofas to be swept away in one of my stories. I strive to write the kind of story I long to read.

Back to the desk I go, like a hermit.

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