In October I attended the New Jersey Romance Writers conference along with over 200 other writers or people connected to writing romance. And as always, when I walked into the hotel I felt as though I had entered another world.
Yes, a writers’ conference is serious business. There are a multitude of workshops on every conceivable aspect of writing. There are discussions about the direction of the market and whether e-books are really replacing print and whether bookstores are obsolete. There are workshops on everything from how to write a love scene to how to build a website. And all of those things are very useful.
But for me, one of the best parts of the conference is hanging out with other people who hear voices in their heads and who can space out unexpectedly because they’re telling themselves a story about someone they’ve just spoken to for two seconds.
While I was volunteering at the registration desk, two gentlemen dressed in jeans and t-shirts approached our table to ask: “what’s this all about?’ They told us an amazing story about being undercover with the TSA, working a nearby political rally to protect Donald Trump, who was speaking the next day.
Being the polite and lovely women we are, we peppered them with questions about their lives and their jobs. We even took their picture. A good time was had by all.
But then they walked away, and the real fun began.
“An undercover TSA agent who announces that he’s undercover? Does the TSA guard candidates? Wouldn’t that be the Secret Service?”
One woman remarked on the faint odor of alcohol emanating from one of the gentlemen. Within five minutes we had concocted an entire background for these two guys. They might have been, at best, roadies working on the sound system for the Trump affair, staying at our hotel, and intrigued by the thought of a bunch of women who write romance, and perhaps looking for a little companionship.
We analyzed their cover stories, their clothing, their motives, and just about anything else we could think of.
And no one thought what we were doing was odd until one of the women commented that this had to go in a book, which gave us all a good laugh.
Most of the women at that table had never met before, but one of the wonders of being with a group of writers is how comfortable and natural it felt to indulge in such flights of fancy.
So even with the stress of agent/editor appointments, with volunteer jobs required to make the conference run smoothly, with unease over the marketplace, the overall feeling was one of celebration of our shared passion for writing and our celebrations of one another’s accomplishments.
Of course, it also helps to be in a hotel where someone else makes the bed in the morning and where you don’t have to cook! Fantasy land!
I won’t even comment on how many days it took to set things to rights after returning home from three nights away. It was worth it to get that infusion of enthusiasm and inspiration from being among my tribe for too short a time.