A Week of Romance | #RWA15

About a month ago the Romance Writers of America Conference was held in New York City, and although I wasn't registered for the conference I was able to attend several romance events that week since I'm just a short subway commute away. Even though it's so much time after the fact (typical Cris), it was such an amazing, inspiring experience that I really just wanted to share some thoughts and photos with you all. Let me preface this post by warning you that most of the pictures I took that week turned out either blurry, dark or I forgot to take pictures all together, so try to keep your visual expectations in check. Plus, I constantly switched from my camera to my phone so the quality of the shots will differ from one to the next. Prepare yourself for a wild ride.

I started off the parade of socializing on Tuesday, July 21st at an event hosted by TheLi.st called Why Are We Just Now Noticing Romance Novels? It consisted of two panels - the first was moderated by the incomparable Maya Rodale on the topic of 'Romance Novels as a Feminist Trope Through the Centuries'. It was amazing to hear what these strong female authors thought about the genre and what romance novels really say about us as women.

The second panel was moderated by the hilarious and sassy Feminista Jones and focused more on the sexy side of romance and why we need more diversity in our novels. It was so interesting to hear women of all different backgrounds and writing styles talk about what they love about romance and where they want to see the genre heading.

The event was held at the Fueled Collective, which is an incredibly impressive office space. It's the kind of environment I'd love to work in. I tried my best to take photos but they all turned out pretty badly.

I had met Maya Rodale the month before at the RWA NYC Romance Festival and she actually remembered me when I approached her at the event. She could tell I didn't really know anyone there and was so sweet about introducing me to people and letting me hang out with her until I felt more comfortable. I've loved her writing for years but it's those little things that just make her all the more amazing! She's the kind of author I've always looked at and thought "she seems like the kind of person you'd like to have a drink with" and that week I was luckily enough to have that happen. The after party was held at this amazing, underground bar called Pravda, which managed to be laid back and yet incredibly swanky. Unfortunately I was too preoccupied to take pictures but it's a gorgeous bar that's definitely worth checking out.

On Wednesday, July 22nd I went to the RWA Literacy Autographing, which is free and open to the public and the perfect chance to meet some of your favorite romance authors. The signing is a 2-hour even where hundreds of authors are all herded into one room to meet fans and sign books to raise money for literacy.

It's was a pretty daunting experience at times and could be a bit of a madhouse but was absolutely worth it! I got to meet so many authors who I've reviewed and loved for years and shockingly even had some of them know who I was. Suffice it to say, lots of fangirling and selfie-taking ensued.

I got to meet T.J. Kline, who is just the sweetest, funniest woman and an amazing author. Seriously, that woman writes some sexy cowboys. We had a nice long chat about what's coming next in her Healing Harts series and what she's planning after that. Lots of exciting things coming our way, readers. Plus, she knew who I was which made me just a bit giddy. All the squee!

With Maya Rodale

I feel like I'm probably spending this whole post talking about how amazingly sweet Maya Rodale is but she actually brought me a gift - two of her early novels which were the only ones I hadn't read (THE HEIR AND THE SPARE & THE ROGUE AND THE RIVAL). Her charming husband was also there and we had a little chat while I was waiting in line to talk to Maya. They're just the cutest couple!

Here are a few random snaps you would have already seen if you follow me on Instagram. Jennifer Bernard gave me this adorable foam baseball from her new Love Between the Bases series, the first book of which I reviewed on the blog. I'm such a huge fan of her books (sigh...sexy firemen) and she's definitely one to check out if you want to get into contemporary romance. 

I also shared this selfie on my way to RWA to show off the beautiful necklace Avon Books sent me for being an Avon Addict. The quote is actually by Julia Quinn and says "I can imagine no greater bliss than to lie about reading novels all day." It's like it was made just for me! If you would like your own literary quote necklace check out Chick Lit Designs on Etsy.

The literacy autographing was honestly such an amazing experience and I'm so happy that I was able to make it. I don't have that many romance reader friends so it's easy to feel like I'm a bit of an outsider because of my passion. Being surrounded by so many readers and writers who feel the way I do about the genre and who have read so many of the same things as me was like a warm-fuzzy hug of acceptance. And having writers that you love and admire take you seriously and ask for your thoughts or even -gasp- praise you feels like something out of a dream. 

That night I also went to dinner with two of my fellow Avon Addicts, Kerrie and Rachael, and author Mackenzie Crowne and it was such a fun experience just chatting about our favorite tropes and authors. 

On Thursday, July 23rd I was invited to the Avon Book Cocktail Party at the Standard Hotel High Line Lounge. It was a gorgeous location with an amazing view of the High Line and the Hudson. 

The party was jam-packed with authors, editors and lil ol' me. Talk about intimidating. T.J. Kline spotted me right and made me feel much more at home, as did my fellow addicts. 

*With Kerrie

*With Codi Gary

I was introduced to Codi Gary, who is an amazing contemporary romance author, and she let me tag along with her. We drank some dangerously tasty raspberry cocktails and chatted and laughed. She introduced me to some lovely ladies including Sara Jane Stone (another superb contemporary romance author) who is actually a fellow New Yorker. We had a really interesting conversation about PTSD and Veteran romances and how there's really a lack of representation of female Veterans and their struggles. If you're interested in the topic her novel, HERO BY NIGHT, is an absolute must-read. I also met some lovely authors with whom I was unacquainted including Valerie Bowman. Valerie is such a sweetheart and I can't wait to dig in to some of her historical romances. 

The party was such an amazing, ridiculously cool experience and I can't thank Avon enough for letting me be a part of it. Unfortunately I got a wee bit tipsy due to the delicious drinks and an empty stomach. I also didn't make as many rounds and network as much as I probably should have but I had such a fun time and had lengthy, engrossing conversations with the authors I did meet which I think made more of an impression. At least it did on me. I had such a fantastic evening and literally couldn't keep a stupid grin off my face on the subway ride home. Seriously, I think people might have thought there was something wrong with me.

Although I didn't have any events planned for Friday, July 24th, I ended up tweeting Codi Gary and T.J. Kline and asking if they had anything planned for that night. We made plans to meet up for drinks that evening like the friends which we were somehow magically becoming. I would have never dared to think that could actually happen before that week. It's a little crazy how much of a confidence boost I got from RWA and how much more self-assured I became in my opinions and value as a blogger. Anyway, I digress. We met up at their hotel bar and were joined by Ellie Macdonald and Anne L. Parks. We laughed, talked romance, evaluated slang, ogled some cover models and downed some oddly chocolate-free chocolate cake shots. They're all such hilarious, kind women and it was a bit surreal getting to just hang with them. 

With Codi & T.J.

Codi, T.J. and I stayed up late chatting and they even made me send them a text to make sure I got home okay. Seriously, I haven't met two more impressive women in a very long time. Getting to know them along with the other fantastic women named and photographed above was really the highlight of my year. It's not even just about the experience of meeting authors whose work you've read and adored, but of finding a world filled with kindred spirits. There's often a very real stigma that romance readers have to overcome and misconceptions and labels that you deal with from friends, colleagues and even strangers. But honestly, romance readers and writers are some of the funniest, most intelligent and thoughtful people you will ever meet and it's really a privilege to count myself among them. 

I knew this post was going to be an intensive one to put together but even after a month of procrastination and some lackluster photos I still wanted to do it because it was such an important week for me. I feel like I respect myself as a blogger so much more and have a very different view of who romance writers really are. They're not these mythical figures anymore. They're real women - strong, witty, sassy women - who worry about what to wear and binge on Netflix just like the rest of us. And I love it! I apologize for all the peppy adjectives and droning on and on but you were thoroughly warned. 

Were you able to attend the RWA Conference? Is there a romance author you're just dying to meet? Let me know in the comments below.

Photos labeled with an * were provided by Kerrie Conwell-Strong.