What a tremendous trip! I haven’t been to New York City for five years and it was the same crazy, busy, mad rush of people as always.

Times Square

Times Square

But NYC is amazing – so much to do, see and experience. And while our trip was focused on the RWA Conference, it was important to take some time to explore the city and see something of this incredible place. More about that later.

Elevators at the Marriott Marquis

Elevators at the Marriott Marquis

The Marriott Marquis was situated in the middle of Times Square, and was the perfect location for the conference. The first thing I have to mention, before I start talking about the conference itself, were the hotel elevators! They were amazing. Attached to a long tube in the middle of the hotel, you entered your floor number on a keypad, waited for the system to assign you to an elevator. Once the door opened, you entered and waited for the ride to begin. If you were lucky enough to get an outside elevator, you could watch the ground floors drop away as you zoomed upwards. This picture is taken facing the elevators from the middle of the hotel above the main restaurant – a huge building

I met up with Cheryl Charles, Dylan Newton and Anna Small each day for breakfast, and in some cases during a workshop or at lunch It was great to compare notes and discuss how things were going. A fun group to go to NYC with – or any place for that matter! Thanks for making it a great trip ladies!

Cheryl, Dylan, Anna, Me

Cheryl, Dylan, Anna, Me

I attended the PRO-Retreat this year. The retreat was conducted almost like a speed-dating session. You moved from table to table and stayed only 30 minutes at each table. Once you selected a table, you spent your time listening to one of the speakers assigned to discuss a specific topic. One of my stops was at Catherine Bybee’s table since her topic was social media. I had taken an RWA course last year on the same subject conducted by Catherine and it was really great.

Catherine Bybee

Catherine Bybee

She’s a hoot – very funny and knowledgeable about Twitter, Facebook, etc.

The best takeaway from her conversation with us was, “You’re not on Social Media to sell a book. You’re on Social Media to sell yourself!” This is really important, because so many authors constantly push their books, but readers get so tired of that. What readers love is to get to know the authors. That’s how you build reader loyalty. This was a great takeaway message – thank you Catherine!

Catherine also taught us how to do selfies and look half way decent in the process. Just hold the camera at a 45 degree angle and look up slightly. The wrinkles, dark lines, bags – whatever your trouble spot might be – seem to go away! Yay, Catherine!

Breakfast with Terry McLaughlin

Breakfast with Terry McLaughlin

Another exciting thing that happened at the PRO-Retreat was that I won breakfast with the past RWA President, Terry McLaughlin. How cool was that. I got to sit at one of the head tables at breakfast (woot!woot!) and to the left of the stage. The guest speaker that day was Julia Quinn, and she was awesome. Terry and I chatted about writing, editing, self-publishing, etc. and she sent me a list of professional editors. If anyone is interested in self-publishing and wants to check out editors, let me know and I’ll forward the list.

I attended quite a few of the workshops, and in particular, enjoyed “Synopsis as a Selling Tool”.  One thing mentioned in this workshop, was that so often we treat the synopsis almost as a book report. That needs to stop if we want to sell our stories. The key takeaways from that workshop were as follows:

  1. The back cover blurb and the synopsis should be similar in style,
  2. If you have a Hero and Heroine, the POV synopsis needs to be from both, but exclude extraneous characters,
  3. Start with the character’s journey and highlight plot points that describe their emotional journey/transformation,
  4. Use dynamic language, not a lot of passive voice, and finally,
  5. Always, always double space your synopsis. Use 1″ margins. It should look just like your manuscript. Remember that most agents/editors are reading your synopsis on their smart phones so make it easy for them to see.

Another great workshop was “Susan and Jayne’s Excellent Adventure: In Which We Tell You 10 Things We Learned the Hard Way…”. There are more than 10, since two people were talking, but here is what I noted:

  1. Discover your own process and don’t be influenced so much by others. Don’t get upset if others are doing something different. Do it your way.
  2. Show no fear! … to anyone in the business, such as publishers, editors,etc. Always behave as if you’re on top of the world and in control.
  3. Develop a thick skin. Don’t buy into the negativity that is bound to come your way.
  4. Follow your core story. Your core story are the themes, values, conflicts that you bring from your life to your own books.
  5. It’s all about Voice! (We’ve all heard that before, but it’s so true)
  6. Give yourself permission to write a bad page. Go back and fix it later.
  7. Don’t burn bridges (with other authors, agents or editors – it will come back to haunt you)
  8. Be careful in choosing critique partners. Take the advice that you want and discard the rest. Don’t let them rewrite your core story.
  9. Be careful about writing too much backstory in the first chapter. Many of us tend to “front-load”.
  10. Take time to exercise your body! Schedule time for this! Move every 30 minutes. It stimulates your brain
  11. And finally, read widely and outside your genre.

I’d also like to share my experience Pitching to an Editor from Grand Central. I thought I was ready. I had my notes in hand. I hate to memorize because I’m a terrible actor and when I memorize I tend to recite in a sing-song voice. Yuck. So I had all of the important points I wanted to share in the space of two minutes – leaving the other eight minutes for discussion – neatly typed.

I walked up to Dana Hamilton of Grand Central, shook her hand, handed her my business card and she looked at the paper in my other hand and said… “put that paper away.” I was startled and stammered (seriously, I did!), “Wh-wh-what? These are my notes.” She continued, looking me straight in the eye and said, “No notes. Let’s just talk. Tell me about your book.” OMG! I wasn’t prepared to just TALK! I know I babbled a lot at the beginning, probably didn’t impress her with my conversational ability (which was non-existent in those first four minutes) and managed to explain my novel. The bad news was I showed FEAR! After having just been to that workshop and being told to never show fear. Crap! The good news was she asked for my full manuscript for ‘Trying for Par’. Phew! So – the takeaway from this misadventure is – always be prepared for anything! Don’t assume your pitch is going to go the way you planned it.

Chocolate Ritas

Chocolate Ritas

Finally, I attended the Rita Award Ceremony. Lesson learned here – never arrive late. We ended up sitting against the wall and had to peer around columns to see the show, but it was fabulous. Great music, wonderful presentations. Felt like I was at the Oscars. The bonus was that we found the Chocolate Rita’s after the show and managed to grab a couple! I was told by someone to take two. One to freeze for good luck in the future and the other to eat. Of course!

And last – if you ever go to a convention like this, be prepared to take time out and have fun. My husband came with me, and on Saturday afternoon, we went to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. One reason we were late for the Rita’s, but don’t tell anyone!

Bob and Bruce

Bob and Bruce

I have to leave you with this great picture of my husband and the wax likeness of Bruce Willis. Don’t they make a handsome couple?

Thanks for letting me share – see you at the next meeting.

Mikki Cober

Mikki Cober

Blog Editor at SSRA
Mikki Cober was born and raised in Connecticut, just a train ride away from New York City. Her favorite past times growing up were reading gothic romances and mysteries. Mikki spent a lot of time with Julia, her BFF, writing romantic suspense novels and short stories, creating mock radio shows, and designing comic books. They spent many a summer day floating in a rowboat loaded with notebooks, pens, blankets and a transistor radio on the nearby river. The creative juices really flowed when the sun reflected gold off the water, the sky was a cloudless turquoise, and CCR rocked on the airwaves.

After college, Mikki put aside her writing for a while, focused on a career with a systems engineering firm, got married and had two wonderful children. Both are now grown and part of the workforce (halleluiah!) All that time, she felt the tug of a good story, and the desire to put thoughts to paper. After everyone else’s life was coming together, she once again began laying out romantic suspense plots that include love, murder and mystery.

Mikki loves to travel, and many of her current and completed works take the reader around the country to various locations like Washington D.C., Coastal Alabama, Alaska and Sarasota Florida.She currently resides in Citrus County Florida, is enjoying the warm gulf breezes, and sneaks away from the laptop a couple of times a week to play golf.
Mikki Cober

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