Writer.Chef.Romantic.

RWA 2012 Conference Highlights

In Writer on August 5, 2012 at 9:34 am

Holy whirlwind, Batman! I’ve been home from the Romance Writers of America conference in Anaheim, CA for almost a week and yesterday was the first day I felt awake. Perhaps two cross-country trips, a blog tour and a release party were too much for this wee writer in one summer. I am knackered! Hazy. And completely limbo-ed. Yet through the jet lag fog, I remember glorious moments.

An actual, bona fide FAN came to find me at the Readers for Life Literacy Autographing! I captured her in a photo and I hope to keep her forever!

Alex in captivity!

There were over 400 authors signing donated books. I was signing Luscious and giving away Scrumptious cupcake cookies and Luscious bunch of grapes cookies. Since I was giving a cookie with each book purchase, I didn’t think I needed to have my name actually on the cookie. But I was wrong because I was also handing out cookies to random people just to be nice. (I love giving away cookies!) New York Times Bestselling Author Cherry Adair came over to yell at me. She told me when you have a giveaway as awesome as this:

you PUT YOUR NAME ON IT! Why? Because they might eat the cookie later, and you want them to have some way of remembering your book. Duh! I told her she was absolutely right and thanked her. She told me it was more fun when people argued with her. I will remember that lesson and the generous, hilarious woman who imparted it.

Another splendid moment at the literacy signing: my friend Kimberly Kincaid stopped by to tell me she just sold her foodie romances in a 3-book deal to Kensington! My excited shriek was so loud I think they heard me at the other end of the ballroom. Completely fabulous! I can’t wait until her books come out.

Let’s pretend I have my arms wrapped around Amy Denim like a boa constrictor because that’s how nice it was to make a new foodie friend!

The next morning, I was sitting in Jane Porter’s “Pacing the Short Contemporary” workshop and overheard someone behind me talking about how she writes about chefs. Being the nosy type, I turned around and said, “I write about chefs, too!” We did a verbal fist bump and bonded with another woman sitting nearby who had chocolate in her book title. I turned back around to mind my own business (and find a pen) but couldn’t resist adding, “Louisa Edwards writes about chefs, too,” just in case she didn’t know about Louisa and wanted to add another author to her culinary romance love list. Then she said, “Yes! I love her! And Amanda Usen writes about chefs, too!” Jaw drop. Happy tears. I responded, “I’M AMANDA USEN!” She not only made my day by having heard of my books, she invited me to join her and her awesome Colorado Romance Writer friends at dinner before the Rita awards ceremony.

Most surreal moment: I was signing books at the Sourcebooks spotlight when my editor came up to me with John Charles, the Booklist reviewer who reviewed Luscious. I actually got to shake the hand of the man who said:

Usen expertly blends engaging characters with a swoon-worthy Italian setting right out of Under the Tuscan Sun (1996) and an abundance of delectably described Italian dishes to create an irresistible literary treat for fans of sizzling hot contemporary romances.

and thank him for his review in person. So wonderful!

You’ll have to imagine the stripper pole because I couldn’t get it in the picture!

Sourcebooks took their authors to Newport Beach for dinner at Mastro’s Ocean Club. Here’s a shot of us having a champagne toast on the limo bus! The food was fabulous and the beachfront setting was unforgettable. Since I had been dogged by a migraine for most of the conference, I thought a lemon and elderflower martini would be a safer choice than wine. Umm…hmm. I’ll rethink that choice in the future. My head felt fiiiiiiiine, but drinking an entire glass of vodka before dinner holds other dangers. Luckily, I was sitting next to my publicist, so if I said anything too nutty, she’s honor-bound to keep it quiet. I hope!

Since I was a romance reader long before I became a writer, some of my favorite moments involved being a squeeing fangirl. I volunteered to moderate Barbara O’Neal and Robin LaFevers workshop “Beyond the Hero’s Journey: Exploring Other Archetypes for Women.” I love Barbara O’Neal’s books – and the books she writes as Barbara Samuel – SO MUCH. She writes amazing characters, great food, gripping, emotional stories that won’t let me go. Probably ever. So I moderated her workshop just to be in the presence of the woman who wrote The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue and No Place Like Home. I cheered in the audience last year when she won a Rita for The Lost Recipe For Happiness. This year she won her third Rita for a Novel With Strong Romantic Elements for How to Bake a Perfect Life and was inducted into the RWA Hall of Fame. It was awesome. Go, Barbara, go!

Another Rita win that thrilled me was Thea Harrison’s Dragon Bound. When Joyce Lamb asked me for a great beach read for the USA Today Happy Ever After blog, Harrison’s Dragon Bound was my pick. (Click here for some other great recs.) A sexy alpha dragon shifter and a smart heroine with secret powers who won’t take any crap from him? Yes. Just yes. You want to read Dragon Bound.

RWA 2012 was crazy fun – full of inspiring workshops and squeeing fangirl moments. I loved getting to talk to my wonderful agent, Nalini Akolekar, in person. It was exciting to see all of my “conference friends” again and to make new friends. If you ever attend a conference, I hope you’ll come find me. I’ll probably give you a cookie! 🙂 Now that I’ve recovered, it’s back to word world for me. It’s time to put inspiration into action. Sexy chefs…coming right up!

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  1. Soooo cool, Cakepal! If I didn’t work with you in a kitchen years ago, I wouldn’t have such a deep affection for Marlene and Olivia. You have inspired me, and so have your strong women. Keep writing, and I will keep reading!

  2. I just finished Scrumptious and it was quite tasty:-) I look forward to Luscious! My daughter is a Pastry Chef, so I have been ‘discovering’ authors who write about chefs. It sounds like you had a blast at this conference! Keep writing and I’ll keep reading!!!

  3. Loved reading about the highs of your highlights! And that red dress is DIVINE!

  4. Thanks, y’all! 🙂 I’ll definitely keep writing – and I’m going to wear that red dress again next year. Must develop my brand, lol!

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