Monday, August 2, 2010

The Writer Returneth

And so returns the conquering hero … or at least the tired-but-happy conference newbie (doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, I know).

Yesterday, I returned from my very first RWA National Conference, which was held at Disney World in Orlando. As not only a burgeoning author, but a lifelong reader as well, I could not have enjoyed myself more. Even better than the fun parts, were all the career-enhancing parts that filled my days like answered prayers. Aside from the food poisoning, migraine, an ill-advised karate kick, the occasional pack of roving children, and my very first run from the po-po (okay, it was the hotel security, but still), it was an absolutely fabulous experience.

First off, I am happy to report that I managed not to stalk my favorite author, the talented Ms. Julia Quinn, when I spotted her at the conference. Though I giddily congratulated her for both the Rita win and the Hall of Fame induction (to which she responded—and I quote—“Thank you!”), I did manage to refrain from smelling her hair. Kidding, of course. I would never do something like that. Heh heh heh…Ahem.

Besides Ms. Quinn, I was delighted to meet several other best-selling authors: The divine Susan Elizabeth Phillips (who was so fabulous I promptly went out and ordered her book), the amusing Ms. Jayne Ann Krentz (aka Amanda Quick), and the prolific and entertaining Ms. Nora Roberts, just to name a few. I also had the opportunity to spend time with several authors with whom I was already acquainted, including the generous and talented Ms. Sabrina Jefferies (who gave a fantastic after-party), the fabulous Ms. Claudia Dain, the split-personality Lydia Dare (literally – Tammy Faulkner and Jodie Pearson collaborate to write the Lydia Dare books) the lovely and sweet Ms. Deb Marlowe, the kind-hearted Cindy Holby, and Ms. Debut Author herself Katharine Ashe. There were many more—in particular my HCRW chapter mates—though I won’t list them all.

The beauty of meeting so many other authors, both published and soon-to-be published (wink), is the bliss of finding a kindred spirit. It did my heart good to talk to so many open and friendly women, all sharing the same passion. Whether they were on the New York Times Bestseller list last week, or still trying to catch the eye of an agent, each of them had a certain spark about them, something indefinable that results from writing for the joy of it, for the endless possibilities and for the thrill of sharing a part of themselves with the world.

It is commonly said that writing is a solitary profession, filled with endless hours clacking away at the keyboard, shaking our fists at the universe when the characters are mute, or laughing in an empty room when they take on a life of their own. In a sense, it is true. But every now and again, an event like this comes along that pulls us from our computer chairs (not to mention our pajamas) and drops us into the welcoming arms of fellow comrades. We can share in each other's successes (two requests for me!) and commiserate in the disappointments (the rejection waiting for me in the mail when I returned) in a way only another writer could understand.

Look ma—no pajamas! A dress, makeup, and everything!

From this week, I came away with a sense of enthusiasm and optimism, helped in large part by the kind, encouraging words of the people I met at the conference. In addition to their words of encouragement, the tips and tidbits that I gleaned from the workshops will hopefully help my writing sparkle, leaping off the page in a way that any reader would be woe to put it down.

I’d like to take a moment to congratulate the Golden Heart Nominees of my acquaintance: Clarissa Southwick, Heather Snow, Rochelle Staab, Cat Shield, and Erica O’Rourke (the last two of which took home the top prize). You women are the embodiment of grace and talent, and it was my honor and privilege to shout like a hooligan when your names were called. It is inspiring to witness your success, and it encourages me to be the best writer that I can be.

I also want to give a shout-out to my fellow critique group members who shared the experience with me this week. Amy, Gail, Jerrica, Jodie, Michelle, and Tammy, my life is so much better for knowing each and every one of you. It wasn’t long ago that I disparaged at the lack of girlfriends in my life, and you all, along with the rest of the lovely ladies in our group who were unable to attend, have enriched my life in a way that I could only dream.

The lovely ladies of my crit group

As I prepare to go forth and write the next sensational bestseller (or edit the one I have already written, as the case may be ;-) ), I simply must say that none of this, absolutely none of this, would be possible without the unwavering support of my husband. His hard work enables me to pursue the career of my dreams, and I can hardly believe that I am so lucky as to call him my own.

Alright then. Sounds like I am good to go for my next acceptance speech, lol! Well, in celebration of the golden heart winners, I am finally coughing up my red velvet recipe. What do you mean you don't get the connection? You know, it’s red… like a heart? No? Well, it makes sense to me, and that’s all that matters!

Did any of you go to the conference? What did you think? If not, who would be the author you would most like to meet? Also, if you met me for the first time at conference, I would love if you would drop me a line!

PS - Yes, the cupcakes were a rousing success - I gave every last one away within the first hour of the literary signing!

Red Velvet

This recipe is modified from the one found Here at Pinch My Salt (a great blog, btw)

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)
2 oz. red food coloring
1 Tablespoon sour cream

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place liners in 24 cupcake pans.

2. Sift together the (pre-sifted) cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside.

3. In a small bowl, mix food coloring and cocoa powder and sour cream to form a thin paste without lumps; set aside.

4. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about four to five minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and the red cocoa paste, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go. Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beat well, then beat in half of the buttermilk. Beat in another third of flour mixture, then second half of buttermilk. End with the last third of the flour mixture, beat until well combined, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.

5. In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda. Yes, it will fizz! Add it to the cake batter and stir well to combine. Working quickly, pour/scoop batter into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and distribute evenly in the pans and place in the preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

6. Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.

Frost with cream cheese icing (or buttercream if you prefer).


  1. Hey, no mention of the great and wonderful roommate? Don't look behind the curtain. Trust me, you don't want to see the poofy hair.

    You know...I don't like red velvet cake. Fortunately, I'm from the North and can be excused for this oversight. I mean there are so many other things that can get me run out of the South. For example, my opinion of how green-beans should be cooked.

    [And no green-beans should not be cooked for hours in fatback and made to taste yucky and mushy.]

  2. I'm sorry -- I almost can't write this because I am so utterly dumfounded that there is a soul in this world that doesn't like red velvet cake. Blasphemy!
    I'm sooo happy you had such a wonderful time, you are absolutely glowing in those pictures:) And yes, you have the greatest hubby ever. Except mine;) Congrats on a wonderful trip, you jet setting writer, you!

  3. Aren't there any dudes who write romance novels? I'm sensing a career switch...

  4. Great post Erin! Maybe I will join y'all next year as an RWA conference virgin. ;)

  5. I will take Beth's red velvet cupcake anytime!

    What a wonderful way to sum up your experience at Nationals. I think I would pass out if I met Lisa Kleypas. I swear, I don't know how she writes such great historicals and contemporaries!

    I wish you had smelled Julia's hair. You could have determined the shampoo she used by scent and we could all go out to buy some. Thus ensuring our success as future writers...or at least smell like a successful one.

    Here's looking forward to next year in NEW YORK CITY!!!


  6. Beth! The epitome of the perfect roommate - especially when you were so quiet when I was miserable with the blasted migraine! However, I do believe you have lost all you 'awesome points' by speaking blasphemy of red velvet. Best watch out for lightening bolts today! ;)

    Kara and Ryan, you guys are pretty hard to top, but I think Kirk and I do a pretty good job, lol! Ryan, I met a grand total of 3 male romance writers, one of which used a female pen name. So, yes, get thee to a computer! :)

  7. Sarah, I will happily hand my 'conference virgin' title to you next year :) I hope that you can make it! Although, I am still grumpy about it being in NYC ...

  8. Marquita, I am stoked to hear you plan on going next year too! You are too funny - smell like a successful writer, indeed ;)
    As for Lisa Kleypas, I didn't find out she was there until the last day :( Maybe next year we can go to her signing together... I promise to catch you before you hit the floor!

  9. Hopefully I'll get to be a conference virgin next year, but who knows at this point? We'll see.

    And I LOVE red velvet cake. Yum.

  10. Oh, Catherine, I hope you can make it - I would love to finally meet you!

  11. Erin, I remember my first time going to Nationals. What a fun time it was, but what I remembered most (that will always be in my memory) is meeting my online friends. That meant more to me than anything! I also met Julia Quinn...and got my pic take with her. (grins)

    Thanks for the recipe!!


  12. Yes, Phyllis, putting a real person to the online friend was a great part of the experience. They were all just as wonderful as their online personas. Thanks for stopping by; maybe next time I will be able to meet you, too!
    And I believe you are going to have to send me that picture of you and JQ ... a little photoshopping may be in order ;)

  13. Erin, Thank you for all the kind words. I count meeting you as one of the highlights of the conference. But I think I forgot to ask you for a mint cupcake recipe...

  14. Clarissa, it was an absolute pleasure to meet you and be able to spend time with you :)

    As for those cupcakes, I think the chocolate cupcake recipe is awesome with buttercream icing that substitutes mint extract for the vanilla. Start with 1/2 a teaspoon of the mint, and add by 1/2 tsp. intervals until the icing is to your minty preference. Color with a drop of green food coloring and garnish with an Andes candy - yum!!

  15. You were spending your time in Orlando at one of my favorite places and I was spending my time from Sunday-Wednesday with Shelby at her Dance Camp. I wouldn't have traded the memories I have for anything in the world, but man I love Disney. I can't wait to try these cupcakes. Thank you for sharing your trip and your pictures. You looked beautiful!

  16. It was so much fun spending time with you in Orlando, Erin. Now, since you've outed "Lydia" as having a split personality - which one of us is writing this comment?

  17. OH, i bet that was soooo fun! Did you get to go to Disney too while you were there? Be a shame to be so close to Mickey and not at leasr=t say Hi.... ;)

    Oh, and best friend from college came to visit a couple weeks ago and we tried out your Campfire Cupcake recipe. I took a pic to show you. They look pathetic (i'll take responsibility!) but man, they sure tasted good!

  18. That was a wonderful recap of your conference.

    The first time I went to a romance writer's conference I felt like I'd finally found my own "tribe". These people understood how exciting it was to see a rockstar author in the wild (and they commiserated over losing the power of coherent speech in the author's presence). They also knew the joy of discussing characters as if they were real people and not having to feel embarrassed by that. It's inspiring to share those moments with other like-minded folks.

    I'm still fighting off envy that I wasn't at this year's conference, so I definitely have to go next year, since NYC is relatively close. I hope I get to meet you then. :) (I'm already picking out which cupcakes you should bring! LOL)

  19. Thanks for the compliment, Rhonda :) It was a lovely location (if you could get past the ridiculous heat!) though I never made it further than downtown Disney for dinner one night. Still, the pool at the resort was pretty awesome, and the hotel itself was great.
    I think you came out pretty darn well with the wonderful memories from Shelby's camp :)

  20. I'm going with Jodie-Lydia, for the sole reason that I don't see Tammy posting on the blog, LOL! Regardless, I had a fantastic time with both of you :)

    Shelley, I never made it to any of the parks (way too hot and icky, plus too much to do), but we still had a great trip. I am stoked to hear that the Campfire Cupcakes turned out yummy for you!!

  21. I'm so glad you enjoyed the recap, Donna :) Those conferences truly are a great way to meet our 'tribes'. I hope that you can make it next year too, and yes, I do take cupcake requests in advance ;) Thanks for stopping by to say hello!

  22. sounds like a great time. I think most of the authors I would like to meet are dead, oh well. I must say though, I know that feeling of losing words upon meeting someone even remotely famous. I remember meeting the playwright Neil Simon in college and just stammering like an idiot. Good times:)

  23. Yaaaaaaaay! Love this post! It was so fun getting to meet you and your cupcakes! LOL! I'm already excited for next year! (You will be in NY, right???) I'll take you on a tour of our favorite cupcake joints if you come a day early :)

    Oh, and I LOVE red velvet cake!! Yum! But I do have to say this to Beth: Since red velvet cake was invented in the north (the Waldorf Astoria, to be exact), you're not welcome up here, either. LOL! Just joshin', of course :)

  24. Hi, Erin! It was a pleasure to meet you in the pitch line! (I'm the pastry chef who writes unpublished foodie romance.) I'm so sad I missed your cupcakes because I was stuck on the shuttle doing circles around the airport. They look beautiful in the pictures. I admire you for carrying them all the way to the conference - I know just what is involved with transpo like that. I plan to be in NY next year, too. Your blog is inspiring, and your voice is fab. I'm looking forward to checking out the archives now that I've gotten my requests sent off! Whew!

  25. I'm so glad you stopped by, Amanda! Thank you for the kind words :) It was a delight to meet you, another kindred spirit in not only writing but the culinary arts as well. Good luck with those requests - I expect to hear about it when you get good news!

  26. Those cupcakes were AMAZING!!! It was so great to meet you at RWA and thank you so much for that incredible cupcake!!

  27. Thanks so much, Shirley! It was a delight to meet you as well - you are on my list of authors to read :) Here's to great books and yummy cupcakes!