Friday, August 27, 2010


By Beatriz Chantrill Williams

It's Dallas in late July 2007, and I'm sweating through my suit jacket as I await the shuttle bus that's supposed to take me to the annual Romance Writers of America national convention. It's not just the shimmering Texas heat, either: I couldn't be more of an outsider here. I've just joined the organization on the recommendation of a sci-fi editor friend of mine, who assured me that anyone starting out in women's fiction needs to take out an RWA membership, pronto. I've never been to Dallas, I don't know a single soul, and I haven't read a romance novel in 15 years. I'm even staying at the overflow hotel across town, for goodness' sake. I'm nobody.

Flash forward to late July 2010, and I'm still sweating through my suit jacket, but the scene has changed. It's Orlando, and I'm whizzing under the Disney World entrance arch with a suitcase full of business casual and a BlackBerry full of meetings and appointments. I'm looking forward to my second RWA conference so much, I can feel my belly muscles strain, urging the taxi onward.

What's the difference? You, my friends: the marvelous sisterhood (with a few proud and stalwart brothers!) that is RWA. In the three years since my first national conference, I've joined two local chapters and learned masses about the craft and business of writing novels. I've completed a couple of manuscripts, found an agent and sold a novel, and I owe it all to the warm welcome, the priceless networks, the nonstop education that the women and men of RWA extend to fellow writers across a dizzying range of subgenres and special interests.

So this time, as I walk through the lobby of the Dolphin Hotel, I recognize countless name badges, whether from email loops or books read or people met. This time I dodge half the workshop slots to dine with my agent and her other fantastic clients, to sit down with my paperback editor for the first time, to meet face-to-face the many writers and bloggers I've encountered online. Instead of slouching up to my room at eight o'clock, I head for the pool or the bar, sipping chocolate martinis with chapter mates and new best friends. On Friday night, I tiptoe into my first publisher party, where the fangirl moments come so fast and furious it almost starts to feel... normal.

But every Cinderella eventually hears the clock strike midnight. At the awards gala on Saturday, I lose track of my buddies in the lobby crowd, and find myself herded into the massive ballroom without (gasp!) a tablemate. It's 2007 all over again, and after all the glamour and fellowship of the last few days I'm back sitting through a three-hour ceremony with a bunch of strangers. All of sudden, my dress feels wrong, the goddess ponytail that InStyle magazine assured me would set the summer ablaze seems silly, and I'm dead certain my mascara is smudging.

And then I pass by a familiar face. It's our own Lauren Willig, just sitting down to dinner, and with a big smile and a friendly laugh she welcomes me back into the sisterhood. By the time I head up my room that night, I'm convinced that there must be some pixie dust in these books we write, because it's no small miracle that a profession so notoriously rife with competition and neurosis could produce so many helping hands.♥

Beatriz Chantrill Williams is thrilled that the next RWA national convention takes place in New York in only ten and a half months. Her first novel, OVERSEAS, will be published by G.P. Putnam's Sons just in time.


  1. What a great blog post! I am sorry sorry I missed the conference this year, but I loved hearing your fairy tale story.

  2. Fabulous blog post. And so totally TRUE!

  3. I agree 100%. RWA and its chapters are great for networking, support, friendships, etc. But, credit goes to you for getting so much done in such a short time!

  4. What a delightful blog post. My first ever RWA Conference was 1997, also in Orlando. I'd just joined the organization the month before and had met only two members of my then local chapter, Washington DC. I spent most of the conference pretending to read the pb novel I'd packed. Mostly I peaked over top of it at the Real Authors and tried not to mind sitting alone. And because I didn't understand that the Saturday Night Awards ceremony was a gala indeed, I hadn't packed accordingly. My silk print business dress was all wrong indeed. As I stood watching Big Name authors stroll by in sequins and satin, I begged God to let me blend into the wall.

    Pixie dust, indeed. Fast forward a decade-- plus. When pumpkins turn into carriages, they do so in a big, fast way.

    Enjoy the journey, Beatriz, in a gilded coach-and-four of course.

  5. Thanks everyone! The journey wouldn't be nearly as much fun or rewarding without such talented company. And next year's conference will be even more fun, with Nationals in our hometown -- I expect to see ALL your faces there!