Networking at the NECRWA conference

I know I’m supposed to put myself out there at a conference and make contacts, but I suck at networking. I’m completely shy and weird and it takes me a long time to become comfortable with people. Still, I had a blast at the New England Chapter’s RWA conference. I even managed to stick my head out of my shell a couple of times to discover (once again) that romance authors really are some of the most warm and welcoming people around.

This was my first writer’s conference outside of nationals and I will definitely make a point of going again next year! I really need to bring a camera and take more pictures.


  • I sat at the same table as historical author Terri Brisbin for dinner on Friday so I got to thank her personally for the Golden Heart ® call and congratulate her on her Rita ® nomination.
  • Met up with some Romance Divas with the biggest hearts in the world. I was only able to capture two of them on my camera phone, but you can tell what lovely people they are by their smiles.


    Divas Gwen Hayes and Chrissy Olinger

  • Danced the night away with a bunch of women I’d never met.
  • I pitched to an agent and received a request for a partial. But more important than that, I received great feedback on the marketability of Butterfly Swords. She told me point blank that it was going to be tough and she’d have to be completely wowed by the writing for me to have a ghost of a chance. And you know, I appreciated that and wouldn’t expect any less!
  • Lisa Gardner’s workshop on “Conquering the Dreaded Synopsis” is even better in person than online. Even though I’ve read and re-read her online materials so many times, this workshop helped organize what I knew or thought I knew.

    Key points:
  1. avoid “anti-hooks” in a query letter — controversial topics that may immediately turn agents/editors off
  2. In a query, focus on marketable elements
  3. In a synopsis, don’t feel the need to explain the story through plot elements. Instead, the gold standard is to focus on what will make the editor fall in love with your characters.

  • Jessica Faust’s workshop “Hooking Them In” is a gem. She focuses in on the essentials of a pitch or a blurb with a keep it simple approach.

    Key points:
  1. The blurb should contain what sets your story apart and should go outside the romance because the romance is a given.
  2. Stick to heroine, hero & conflict just like a shortened version of a back cover blurb.
  3. She took a couple of sample pitches and told us what worked and what didn’t. It really gave an idea of what editors/agents were looking for in a pitch.

Butterfly Swords finals in "Chase the Dream"

It was 6:00 am Wednesday. I woke up and groggily turned on my laptop. I had a workout I had to rush to at 6:30, but for some reason I thought I’d check out Rachelle Chase’s blog…just to see.


My words! The opening for Butterfly Swords. I couldn’t smile wide enough. I started e-mailing people and gushing. I compared it to a couple of my writing buddies as the “I’m on TV” feeling. My writing is on the Internet.  Okay, I know it’s easy to post something to the Internet…look I’m doing it right now.  But it was so cool to be recognized…and of course I’m jittery about the amazing agents and editors that Ms. Chase has gathered for the panel.

You can keep on entering every week for this contest. (It’s still open by the way!) So I had entered every week for four weeks, alternating between “Butterfly Swords” and “Silk and Seduction”. I was kind of worried she would be darn tired of seeing that thing again, but the rules allow it so there had to be a reason, right?

Persistence paid off! And though this was the same story that finaled in “Hook, Line & Sinker”, I had revamped the entire opening based on other contest feedback. I switched it to start in the heroine’s POV and in a more action packed spot. It had to mean something that more than one judge would point out that the opening was just okay compared to the rest of the entry. So even if people love your writing – pay special attention to the comments you get repeatedly!

So, come by and browse the finalists. Get your 1000 words together to enter. It’s free and you may final or win the mini-crit. One of my chapter-mates finalled two years ago and that’s how she got the editor request that led to her first sale.  And you can learn a lot by reading the openings that finalled or won the mini-crits. Rachelle Chase and Leigh Michaels are really making an effort to comment constructively and provide a learning opportunity.

Oh yeah, and if you honestly feel “Butterfly Swords” was the most compelling, come by and vote for it from March 4 to March 11.  🙂

Excerpt from Butterfly Swords