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!
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).