How To Cure the I-Didn’t-Attend-RWA#13 Blues

(Or How the Hot Sun + One Idea = An Impromptu Mini-Conference)


A few days before RWA#13, Chris Campillo grabbed a weed-whacker and attacked her yard in the hopes of forgetting all the texts, photos, emails, and tweets about shoes and packing for the national conference in Atlanta. As the temperature soared to 106°F, her brain sizzled with an idea––a wonderfully brilliant idea. Well, that and symptoms of heatstroke. After cooling off, Chris sent an email on the ARWA loop. The overwhelming positive response from chapter mates boiled over into an impromptu mini-conference with five fantastic events.

Day 1:  Breakfast Session 6:30-8:30 a.m. in private room at local restaurant

I couldn’t attend this session, so I borrowed Chris’s photos and not-quite-awake notes. She thought seven people attended. (Thanks, Chris, and BTW you counted correctly.)

Four writers asked for help, so there was plenty of time for everyone’s input on two query letters, one set of opening pages, and a five paragraph synopsis. Oh, yeah, there was socializing and coffee drinking, too. Lots of coffee drinking.




Day 2:  Brainstorming Lunch at Apple

Being a Mac person, I had a hard time refraining from fangirl moments at this event. Thanks to Traci A. for hosting and to Caffè Macs for an inexpensive, healthy, and delicious food selection. After eating, socializing, and Chris’s warning to moisturize, the eleven of us formed two smaller groups. We shared resources and brainstormed solutions, plots, and titles. What a great way to learn more about each other, our writing, and beauty tips!

mini5mini4Day 3:  Digital Darlings Happy Hour at local restaurant

Luckily this regular event was already on the chapter calendar. According to Sharon L. the discussion included who was writing what, the pros/cons of digital publishing vs. self-publishing, information about different publishers, who had upcoming releases, popular e-book lengths, and promotional ad ROI (Rate of Investment). And yes, I had to Google that acronym to find out what it meant. Thanks to Rebecca for organizing, Sharon L. for taking notes and photos, and Alexa and Jackie for responding to my emails!


Day 4:  The 2013 RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony Celebration

We had a follow-along at Susye’s mother’s house while she was out of town. Sort of like being a teenager again except more mature and no boys. Everyone enjoyed the tasty potluck, liquid refreshments, and fast-paced conversation. Not all attendees are in the next photo. If you’re the first person to leave a comment with all the correct names, I’ll have a gift for you at the next chapter meeting.


Since Jane’s eye surgery interfered with her RWA#13 travel plans, she was our Guest of Honor. Thanks to Chris for loaning a tiara and to Traci A. for getting the flowers. Doesn’t Jane look fabulous?


With tweets and phone calls to and from chapter mates, we rooted for Jane and fellow Golden Heart finalists, Katie and Kristin. When Laura received the RITA for Romantic Suspense novel, the group clapped and shouted. During the excruciating wait for the YA RITA award, we viewed photos from the ceremony in Atlanta and unanimously agreed Emily looked absolutely gorgeous in her colorful dress. We screamed so loud when she won the RITA for Young Adult novel, I’m surprised the neighbors didn’t call the police. Hmm! Maybe we were acting like teenagers after all.

We’re so proud of our ARWA Golden Heart finalists and RITA winners––Jane, Kristin, Katie, Laura, and Emily.

Thanks to Elaine for organizing the potluck and to Susye for hosting and not freaking out when I accidentally absconded with a piece of her mother’s silver. I swear there was no alcohol involved, and I’ll return the spoon this week.

Day 5:  ARWA Critique Group at local coffeehouse

This event concluded our mini-conference. The group critiqued pages from Evelyn’s sci-fi and Mary’s erotica romance manuscripts. Thanks to Ana for texting information and posting photos and to Sharon L. for organizing the monthly critiques!


What an amazing chapter we have! As Chris said, “Wow! In my moments of weed-whacking, I never envisioned we’d all get excited.” We have her to thank for replacing our I-Didn’t-Attend-RWA#13 Blues with a productive and fun-filled impromptu mini-conference. Will there be a sequel next year? We’re not sure, because most ARWA members will attend RWA#14 in San Antonio, which is about 75 miles away.

In the meantime we’re having a RWA#13 debriefing at our August meeting. I highly recommend that other chapters do the same and sponsor mini-conferences for their members who can’t attend national conferences. Just remember to moisturize and don’t let anyone take the silver.

Please leave a comment below.

19th Century Women Travelers: Packing


As my fellow romance writers packed for RWA#13 in Atlanta this week, I wondered what Victorian women travelers took on their trips. Nellie Bly wore a two-piece suit with an overcoat and a cap and carried one small bag containing writing and toiletry necessities.


In contrast, experienced 19th century traveler and writer, Lillias Campbell Davidson, had a list of must-haves such as eau de toilette, smelling salts, a small flask of brandy, and an ivory glove stretcher.


In Hints to Lady Traveller: At Home and Abroad (1889), Miss Davidson also

suggested foot-warmers, well-stuffed feather cushions, a medicine chest, and travel rugs. Since she ventured into more remote areas, she insisted on bringing one item my fellow romance writers should be glad they didn’t have to pack. A portable bathtub.


I don’t travel quite as lightly as Nellie Bly, but I only use one rolling carry-on and a tote bag.

How many bags do you take on trips?

In Search of the Perfect Victorian Afternoon Tea Part 2

Last month I visited the Empress Hotel in Victoria, B.C. Although the hotel was named in honor of Queen Victoria, the portrait above the tearoom fireplace is of her daughter, Princess Louise, whose husband was the Governor General of Canada. As I researched the 19th century and Princess Louise, who is a secondary character in my manuscript, I continued my pursuit of the perfect Victorian afternoon tea.


Haley Whitehall, one of my critique partners, and I were escorted to plush cushioned chairs at a large round table in the corner near the fireplace. Enjoying the beautiful Victoria harbor view, we sipped our tea and ate fresh fruit with Empress cream.


Next we devoured an array of sandwiches from the three-tiered silver tray. My favorites were the smoked salmon with herb cream cheese pinwheel and the cucumber with saffron loaf. The rest of the selection included cognac pork on sun dried tomato bread, free-range egg salad croissant, and mango with curried chicken on dark rye.


After testing the consistency of the clotted cream, I applied generous dollops to a fresh baked raisin scone and took a bite. Absolutely scrumptious!


For the last course we sampled a variety of desserts. I loved the lemon curd meringue tart and dainty cappuccino chocolate teacup. The delicious Devil’s chocolate pistachio Battenberg reminded me of the chess-like banter between my hero and heroine, but I was too full to consume the rose-petal shortbread and Parisian macaroons. Don’t worry. I savored them later.


Before we departed for the Royal B.C. Museum, the waiter presented each of us with a complimentary box of tea. Thanks to the Empress Hotel I can claim I visited the same place as Edward, Prince of Wales, and King George VI. Makes me wonder what complimentary gifts they received.

What’s your favorite place, sandwich, scone, or dessert for afternoon tea?


Earlier post:

Video of the Empress Hotel including tearoom:

Independence Day


Happy Fourth of July!

     ~ Jillian Lark