Socioeconomic Class at RWA

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I had a great time at the Romance Writers of America conference. I went as press for Book Riot and attended panels, spotlights, and social events with my blogging ears and eyes open. I have a lot to share about forthcoming books and current trends I’m excited about (and a few I wish would go away).

I’ve been following discussions in the aftermath of the conference. Just a few things I’ve seen so far: Rose Fox has been tweeting about being persistently misgendered. Tweets —trigger warnings for the Locke link — about the “Nazi romance” that was nominated for a RITA award (I recommend India Valentin’s and Katherine Locke’s excellent streams). Would love a Storify on those, but have no idea how to do it.

I recommend Alisha Rai’s Storify on one of the fantastic panels on diversity in romance publishing. I also recommend Suleikha Snyder’s RWA15 in NYC:  A Tale of Two Conferences. She was either too kind or too overwhelmed with similar incidents to put it in her post, but when I was introduced to Suleikha at the conference, she was standing with Sonali Dev, and as I shook Suleikha’s hand I told her I loved A Bollywood Affair.

There was also a fantastic panel on writing and depression, which was the most crowded one I attended. Lots of questions from the audience. I remembered meeting one of the people who spoke out about her own struggle with depression (it may be have been a panelist or audience member. I don’t want to be specific). At the time, she seemed distracted/uninterested/cold. I realized after her comment that she may well have been suffering a depressive episode — or I’m just not interesting. The point is that it reminded me to be more aware of what people may be experiencing when I encounter them, and refrain from making an assessment of someone based on a brief encounter.  It also occurred to me that while there are loads of panels at RWA on fighting procrastination and tools to increase productivity, the way that disabilities, including chronic mental illness, affects writers remains largely unacknowledged.* For example, what are the effects of the industry push to “write faster” on someone whose output is affected by their experience of disability?

*Edited to add: there wa sa panel on ADD/ADHD which many found very helpful. Thanks to Mary Lynne Nielsen for the reminder.

I’m sure I committed other microaggressions, but those are just examples to illustrate that I am not writing this post in any kind of a position of perfect ally-hood or moral saintliness. Far from it.

One issue I wanted to mention here that really struck me was socioeconomic class issues. Here are a few random examples:

1. Meetings at the Broadway Lounge in the conference hotel. So many meetings happened there, both scheduled and informal. A drink at the lounge will set you back $10-15 plus tip.

2. Dressing for the conference and the RITAs. There’s a lot we can say about the gendered nature of the term “business casual”, (does it ever apply to men?), the beauty norms, etc. But I’m thinking about the cost of showing up for the meetings, the cocktail parties, and the RITAs. And the issue isn’t even just having to dress up. I think a middle class woman can show up in casual clothes and not feel bad about it. Someone in a different situation might find it important to dress to hide her economic status (“Dress for success!” “Dress for the position you want, not the one you have!” etc.).

3. The conference hotels. It’s NYC. It’s expensive. Of course you can put 4 in a room or stay fewer nights, or stay outside of Manhattan or in a cheap motel, but all of those require tradeoffs in convenience, time, safety, privacy, and sleep.

4. The breakfasts. My understanding is that RWA conference admission used to include lunches. This year, it included a buffet breakfast. Lunch is a more substantial meal, around which someone trying to save $ could plan a snack in the morning and a light dinner at night. Breakfast as the only substantial meal of the day is a bigger challenge.

5. Lots of writers talk about the day when they’ll be able sell well enough to “quit their day job.” Of course, that’s a huge milestone. But what about writers who can’t even find a day job? Or who have a day job, but would really like a second or a third one (i.e. the “working poor” with all the scare quotes around that phrase) to make ends meet?

6. Many RITA winners thanked their (usually male) partners for their support. I was thinking how much harder it would be to come to the conference, or to even write on a regular basis, if you were on your own, single parenting, or were responsible for other dependants.

7. I participated in discussions where it was clear money was an issue. For example, I talked to people who, as individuals or with their chapters, are withdrawing from the national organization due to annual fees. Like a lot of middle class people, I tended to just nod and offer a bland reassurance. I wonder if asking outright how someone is doing financially, and helping co-create a safe space to share worries, when a person opens the topic, is a more supportive approach.

8. I went to the Harlequin party, which was held in the Waldorf Astoria. I was thinking about the many implicit social norms embedded in a situation like that. Just as a thought experiment, I wondered what a celebration of authors that didn’t yoke success and economic privilege would look like. A walk in Central Park? I don’t know.

9. When I walked through the Goody Room, I wondered how much it costs authors to provide “swag” for readers. As a reader, I tend to disdain bookmarks. Writing this post, it occurs to me that bookmarks are a lot cheaper for authors than some other options.

10. I’m writing this today because I’m too tired to get much work done. I chose not to go up to the office, but instead to deal with emails and other department issues from home. I talked to a lot of RWA attendees who planned to take today off to recover. I’m betting a good number of RWA attendees didn’t have that choice.

Because I’ve been interneting for a fairly long time, I’m worried about all the ways this post might be misconstrued. So:

1. I’m not suggesting socioeconomic class is a separate issue from the others mentioned in this post.  To speak from my own field, I know that access to health care is associated with employment, and health status is associated with employment and education. And all of these are associated in pernicious ways to race, ethnicity, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.

2. I’m not saying writers who are struggling with economic issues or who identify as poor or working class (either presently or in terms of their upbringing) somehow can’t succeed, or can’t be very productive, or can’t have fantastic conferences, or can’t behave properly at swanky parties, or would rather walk in a park than go to a ball.

3. I identify as middle class and have all my life. I not only experienced, but enjoyed this privilege at RWA. Looking at socioeconomic issues from my limited perspective, I probably got things wrong.

With this post, I’m just trying to think out loud about the strong impression I had all conference that “RWA is fucking expensive”, and to begin to process the encounters I had with people who shared with me that money is a concern.

Comments, critiques and questions more than welcome.

36 responses

    • I grew up poor. I’m now in the upper middle class but then taxes come and all the money I have to spend to not got eaten alive by taxes…so that money that I’ve made isn’t really money made… I had to spend so much of it, it’s sorta sad. But still, I had the money to spend, whether or travel or research or…well, living.

      But the excess we see at nationals is something outside my price bracket. I splurged on a jacket and felt guiltily pleased with myself. I bought a cheap bottle of rum and used that when I wanted a drink. I ate most of my meals outside the hotel or gorged at breakfast, then waited until the cocktail parties.

      That said…because I get to experience it so rarely, I love having that excess. It gives me a glimpse into things I never knew existed growing up as a kid and things I know now are out there, but can’t have…especially not if I want my kids to have all the things I didn’t have.

      I think how to handle it all depends on how you view your circumstances.

      If you’re meeting with your editor or agent, they’ll often buy your drink.

      You can always just request coffee or tea.

      Being satisfied with what you have can be as simple as deciding to make that choice…and yep, that’s coming from somebody who has been along both sides of the line…the well of middle class bit and the struggling along in the pit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for sharing your perspective Shiloh. And thanks for reminding me how much power an agency a person can have even in difficult circumstances.

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  1. What a fantastic post. Thank you so much for writing this.

    I’ve never gone to RWA and the price makes it pretty likely I never will. I’m not an author, it’s not my professional meeting, and I have 2-3 of those I already regularly attend. But I’ve been gobsmacked at how much RWA and RT cost. At least in my professional association meetings, the conference fees are scaled according to income and whether or not you’re a professor, grad student, or from another discipline. And there are travel grants (not many, but some). But even at the highest level, the conference fees are lower. The big ones don’t include meals, but the smaller ones do.

    I’ve been to RT twice, but I didn’t go for the whole thing and I bought day passes, which are quite a bit cheaper (in KC it was $75/day, I think). RT is so much more expensive than, say, Bouchercon, which is smaller but still has great panels and famous mystery writers. As a reader I don’t feel as if I have to dress up as much, and I don’t have to think up and then pay for (and transport) endless swag and books, but wow, for an author who isn’t affluent? That’s a lot of savings and work and just stress.

    I remember people at RT economizing on meals, or hoping for the publisher events & parties to provide some additional stuff so they didn’t have to splurge as much for hotel food. NYC has a ton of places to eat great food at relatively affordable prices, even around midtown, but if you don’t know how to find them, that’s not much help to you (at our meetings there’s usually a “cheap eats” guide, I don’t know if they had that at RWA). And when so much of the action is in the hotel, as you point out, you have to avoid too much drinking/eating when you’re there or the prices really add up.

    I think it’s really important that you have focused on the class issues; I’ll just add that the intersectionality issues make it even worse (which I know you know). If you’re non-white, or non-US/UK, you feel even more compelled to fit in and make a good impression on people who have influence on your future (or whom you want to remember you favorably).

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    • Thanks Sunita! Glad you mentioned the comparison to academic cons. My bioethics cons are comparable in cost b/c they serve healthcare professionals seeking CME credits. But the philosophy cons are much more moderate in cost. I was thinking how in some ways the desperation/anticipation/hopefulness of RWA attendees (many of whom were trying to get published) was akin to the grad students/new PhDs at APA looking for permanent positions. Both conferences are aspirational, with their superstars and hierarchies, which is a mixed bag.

      And great point about intersectionality.

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  2. This is just an awesome post. Of course I was thinking about you and other friends in NY all last week/weekend, and I love that this is what you chose to write about first. Thank you.

    I think class is hard for most/many people to talk about directly, and since there are ways to mask affluence or lack of it, many people who’s economic circumstances may not be stable or fixed become quite practiced at “pitching” themselves for the surroundings. But it is exhausting to be doing that a lot, and it’s especially exhausting and demoralizing to be at a conference or other public/professional setting while carrying the burden of constantly calculating the affordability of one’s every meal and/or interaction. Sure everyone likes to stretch their travel budget as much as possible by availing themselves of publisher parties, “free” (remember the conference fees!) food, promo codes, etc., but if these choices are necessarily informed by the combination of professional necessity and genuine hardship, the trade-offs aren’t just about gaming the conference.

    And on a personal note, thanks also for including the family/single parent angle in your assessment of what conditions make it possible or not possible for people to even consider participating in RWA & RT.

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    • Hey Pamela! I love your points that managing all this can be exhausting, and also that “the trade-off aren’t just about gaming the conference” for some attendees. Much more is at stake for some.

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  4. Thank you so much for this post, Jessica. As someone who is struggling financially this year, RWA was almost a Land of Denial. I found myself handing my credit card over for meals or drinks and pretending the money to pay off the debt would come from a magical place. Because the benefit of being there is supposed to outweigh the cost, right?

    Except the breakfast buffet was hella early, the publisher signings with “free” books were either across from other big ticket events or cleaned out quickly, and regular janes don’t get invites to tbe fancy parties with food!

    As to your mistaking Sonali’s book for mine, I was pretty taken aback at the time, but I also know how cons can make people tongue-tied. Later, I didn’t want to conflate it with a microaggression. If it was…well, it’s in the past! Let’s move forward.

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    • Suleikha, thank you for your wonderful post, for stopping by here to share your experiences, and for being so gracious about my mistake. It was great to meet you.

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  5. This is a rather interesting and fascinating post. I loved reading it. In the early days of blogging and reading romance, I thought I’d love to go to these conferences. I realized, years ago, that won’t be happening in the foreseeable future because of the cost involved and fear of being disappointed. What really gets me is the constant questions I ask myself: that would I enjoy myself there? Is it worth the cost/expense and pushing me out of my comfort level to attend? Would anybody even talk to me? (partially joking). All of these things tend to raise my anxiety level so I’ve decided to move on to other things. Like Sunita, this isn’t my profession or conference. I always assume these events are geared more towards writers and I forget which ones are more reader friendly. I think it’s RWA. ::shrug:: I missed my opportunity to go when bloggers started attending these years ago so, my ship has sailed where RT/RWA interest is concerned. My reading interests lie elsewhere these days.

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    • There are many local events for readers (and writers) on a smaller and less expensive scale. Those are also good for those of us overwhelmed by social anxiety. Many are all genre inclusive, for example Liberty States in New Jersey (held in March). Romance chapters often stay aware of such events and as a rule romance writers are happy book people who love to share information. If you contact a local RWA chapter, they might be able to tell you about such an event.

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    • Keishon, I am uneasy at parties where I don;t know anyone (who isn’t), and so I found my best times were one on one meals or the small groups. I was able to feel less anxiety at RWA, though, because my role there was just to watch and absorb. I felt very comfortable with that!

      KA, thanks for these thoughts. It was so great getting to spend time with you at RWA. I forgot to link to your post, which I’ll do now: Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth. A discussion of being queer at RWA, Everyone should go read it.

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  6. Thanks for this post. I was at RWA this year and I’m one of those single people with a dependent at home (my mother). I save up all year for RWA & usually ititit’s mostly funded by my tax return. The costs at the NYC Marriott this year made things even worse. As I currently have mobility issues, I wasn’t able to get out of hotel to get “cheaper” meals (will they have a ramp? Will they have room in restaurant through which the scooter can maneuver?) so was basically forced to overpay the hotel prices. Several people did post pre conference recommendations for places to eat around hotel but certaimly for lunch, ggetting in and out of the hotel in time to eat and get back for next session was pretty impossible. My information was that lunch at Marriott for RWA general meetings was too expensive, which is why we instead had the buffet breakfast, which means RWA passed that lunch cost to attendees for out-of-pocket expenses. (I made it for two 7:30 AM breakfast sessions, but threw in the towel on Saturday in favor of sleep & a Juniors’ bagel compliments of my comference wife.)

    The socioeconomics of the event is really getting out-of-comtrol. I can’t imagaine doind an additional National conference like RT, though I do attend my chapters’ regional conference every year but I serve on the committee there & thus get a small discount.

    I like the fun of dressing up & networking/having fun at conf but I do it on a tight budget and no where near to the scale of what I see in others, whatever their peraonal circumstances. Since NYC is local for me, I was able to bring drinks and snacks with me. But its very difficult on a whole. I’ve heard a LOT of SM chatter over the last 2 days from people about not renewing dues with RWA next year and fear we’re goimg to lose needed voices due to cost vs return ratios (among other things) if these and other members start jumping ship

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    • Kiersten, wow, thanks for sharing your perspective. I agree that 45 minutes for lunch was a ridiculous amount of time, and especially for someone with mobility challenges. I really don’t know what the answer is. My son plays competitive soccer, and there was recently a national tournament in Indiana, in a small town. Nobody wanted to go there, but boy was it cheap. It’s a tradeoff. It was great to meet you, and thank you for moderating the depression panel.

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  7. Curses! My comment was eaten. 😦

    Fascinating post, ma’am! My comment was less fascinating but I talked about how things might be better if a slightly smaller city were chosen for RWA or RT – somewhere still easily accessible by air but not the big ticket “convention”-type places. The extra perks from happy-to-see you businesses and lower prices overall might be surprising. And there are cool things to see and do almost everywhere, if you’re willing to look.

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    • It’s not a bad idea. I know a lot of people love to stay extra days and sightsee, but maybe having it in a smaller city every other year would help some people, especially since many people didn’t even leave the conference hotel, they were so busy.

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      • Not sure, but I think there are limited locations that can host a conference of this size. RT avoids NY because it is more expensive, but RWA believes there are benefits in having the conference in NY, where many of the traditional publishers are located. More editors from those houses show up. RT did have their first one or two conferences in NYC (because they are based in NY), but they decided it was too expensive to continue.

        I do think that some locations sell better than others. Despite the costs, I think this conference sold out faster than some. I know, regarding RT, that New Orleans was tempting, and I’d even consider Vegas (I’ve never been), but Kansas City or Texas don’t appeal to me.

        RWA tries to move the conference around the country, to make it easier for people in different parts of the country to attend.

        Some chapters have excellent smaller conferences of their own, which might be worth checking out. But of course, they have limited attendance, fewer workshops, and only a few editors, agents, and publishers represented.

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  8. Jessica, thanks for writing this post. I remember my first RWA and trying to figure out how to polish up this working class kid from small town Maine into someone who at least looked, if not felt, like they belonged at this place. I was also highly worried about looking like I was trying too hard – something I still struggle with in my new job as an instructor at West Point. Jessie Streib wrote about cross class marriages in her book The Power of the Past and in her talk on it, she said something to the effect that people who come from working class background never quite feel like they fit if they’ve managed to be upwardly mobile. I wonder how many of us are passing and hoping that no one finds out that we’re not the middle class we pretend to be. I know I do. Even if I can pass as middle class, I still identify and feel very working class, even if I don’t feel like I fit at home anymore, either.

    In an industry where perception is everything – don’t ever let anyone know your book isn’t selling well, never say anything bad about anyone, always smile and be nice – the harsh reality is that socioeconomic class is something we don’t talk about much. We smile tightly and move on and pretend that everyone there is just what they pretend to be.

    Self publishing in some ways has opened up the doors to publishing to some that might have been excluded before but the cost to publish is still outside of many people’s reach. Even if an author gets traditionally published, the expectation that the author do some publicity might push some authors to spend money they don’t have.

    But I do agree with you that RWA is rapidly becoming an event that only the affluent can truly afford to attend. Even if you’re able to squeeze together money for the conference, the hotel and travel, that doesn’t count the cost of food, the cost of dressing the part, and a dozen other incidentals that go into attending. As it often does, money issue can suck the enjoyment right out of what is supposed to be both professionally and personally enriching experience.

    Great and thoughtful post. And it was great meeting you at RWA, too!

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    • Jessica, thank you so much for sharing this. And thanks for pointing out the self-publishing angle. Self-publishing is often talked about as a devil or a savior, but your point make me think today some authors can avoid nationals and still have a fighting chance to do ok. It was great meeting you. I hope some time we can talk again in somewhat calmer circumstances.

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  9. What a great post and very thought provoking. For me, RWA is a gift I give myself every year. Normally it’s the kind of thing I would really hesitate about as it is very expensive. But because of the way things played out with Ron, he was constantly putting things off until he retired and he didn’t make it past 52. So I live for the moment a lot more than I used too, not to extremes of course. But Ron left me in a position to be able to go. It helps that I pay for things in stages, not all at once so I have the conference itself paid for a few months in advance as well as transportation if I fly. As well I pay off extra on my credit card so the hotel bill won’t be as bad. The price of food is an issue and for the most part I cut down to two meals a day.
    But when I weigh all the costs of the conference against the friendships and warmth and being surrounded by people who share a deep love for romance, well on the balance sheet, for me, I pay the cost and find it worth it. I LOVED spending time with you.

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    • I thought it was well worth it too. I loved spending time with you and the other bloggers who were there. even after all these years, there’s almost no one in my real life who really gets and shares my love for romance. I am hoping to go back to RWA one year.

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  10. This is such an interesting post. Sunita and I were talking as we read RWA tweets about how it is/is not like our academic conferences, and we decided it’s kind of a hybrid of a professional conference and a trade show. And the trade show part probably has benefits for authors (exposure to/interaction with readers, for instance) but it also imposes additional costs–on people who may have little income from their writing and who don’t have an employer covering their costs (vs. an electronics show or something). If it were just authors sharing information about craft and business and chances to meet with agents and editors, for instance (like an APA or MLA conference/hiring venue) why would authors need swag? I know, from tweets, that authors do TAKE swag from each other, but you don’t really need to market yourself to other authors, do you?

    I realize the parties and the RITA awards as a glammed up event make it fun and special, but they also require additional clothes/concern about presentation. Could you have a meaningful awards ceremony without the costly aspects? I don’t know–we pretty much associate awards with glitz and banquets in our culture.

    It seems like an especially interesting dilemma considering that authors often talk about how they can do their job without wearing pants. I guess part of me wonders why are they doing this to themselves?

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    • I think that hybrid description is a good one. at bioethics conferences many of the grad programs bring very expensive swag, and publishers have books to sell or give away. But this was on a larger scale.

      Wow I never thought about the swag question. but yes, there were very very few people at the conference that I noticed who were not authors or aspiring authors. I guess press, folks from places like Library Journal, etc? Maybe also the idea that newbie authors or aspiring authors still feel like readers and fans mainly and like swag? Or maybe it’s just that authors never stop feeling like fans and do collect swag? No idea.

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      • My first reaction at an RWA event was that yeah, authors were trying to sell to other RWA members. I think doing workshops is a kind of promotion. In part, maybe it’s because authors think other authors will help sell their books to their respective readers, but it might also be because RWA has unpublished members. (They’ve changed the rules, finally, so that members have to show they are writing. Originally, the majority of members were not only unpublished, but didn’t have to do anything to maintain membership. Later, they added a new classification, because a lot of authors had completed manuscripts that they were submitting, or were even published by newer e-publishers that weren’t formally recognized.)

        But I wonder how that affects the bottom line?

        Regarding dressing for the awards ceremony, I think people can get away with different clothes. The nominees dress up the most, and I think some authors use it as an excuse to get really glammed up. But it’s also possible to dress nicely (but not quite so fancy) and sit at a table in the back (preferably with friends doing the same).

        Regarding swag, I think the idea is to provide something useful that reminds people of the author. The conference starts with the book signing, so authors tend to bring something for that. They need some kind of handout, and I know I end up talking with authors I don’t know (maybe they’re next to an author I’m waiting for, or they catch my eye, or they have something interesting on their table — could even be the cover of their book). I always liked bookmarks, partly because they are useful, and partly because they provide a list of an author’s series, or maybe a reminder of their next book. Some authors had lip balm, and one had a coffee holder kind of thing (to keep you from burning your hands).

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  11. I just wanted to say that RWA offers some scholarships to members who want to attend the conference but have financial difficulties. I know because I got one in 2008. The Kate Duffy Memorial Fund offers conference tickets to PAN eligible RWA members. Sylvia Day sponsors another just for RITA nominees.

    https://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=129

    It’s still expensive with hotel, travel, food, glam etc, but having the conference fees taken care of is a big deal. I try to mention it when the issue comes up because I’m so grateful to have been awarded this help as a new author.

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  12. Jessica,

    I’m finally starting to catch up; I was trying to follow twitter and than read various posts. Still don’t think I’ve read most of them.

    It was lovely to meet you and spend some time.

    Regarding reader conferences, I’ve been to a small one, and it was lovely. The programming was limited, but to hang out with readers (and some authors), and have the chance to talk books was great. I loved RT the first time I went, because it was local (no need to stay at the hotel, but I met someone and hung out with her, so I had plans for things to do). Also, it was the first time for me being with a lot of romance booklovers (like discovering RT magazine in the first place – it was on newsprint back in those days). I attended RT again, with a friend. It was a bad year, so it wasn’t well attended, and the mood was off (it was November 2001), but, even so, it was a bit overwhelming. So not sure a regular RT would be my thing. (I was combing through the panels for New Orleans, and didn’t find as many I wanted to attend as I do for RWA. And I’m not really a party person.)

    It is nicer to stay in the hotel and hang around in the evening and run into people, but it really is necessary to make arrangements to meet specific people. I think last time the 8th floor hadn’t been renovated yet. There was a space set aside for conference attendees, with tables, and I think there was more seating around the lobby.

    I kind of wish there was some kind of readers/author reception planned for after the signing, so people could walk around, relax, and talk. Going to the signing is exhausting, and only worth it really (for me) to go and say hi to people. I feel guilty about not buying many books (for literacy! – this time I bought one; last time I didn’t buy any). Tired of the piles of books that I buy, and end up not reading. And now, most of my reading is electronic. (A friend and I used to meet up with NJ readers and travel around to used bookstores, followed by the NJ conference’s signing. It was fun, but because I didn’t have much access to used bookstores, I would stock up, and then buy signed books. I just don’t read that fast.)

    Oh, and, as a reader, one problem I have with the push for authors to write faster is that some authors write better when they write slower. And it shows. I’m all for series, partly because I sometimes really like them, but also because it makes more sense. The author spends times creating one world, one set of characters, and can then write a bit faster. Maybe there’s a bit of research required for the particular book, but at least the author doesn’t have to start all over from scratch. Which takes a lot of time.

    I read a series book by an author in a favorite series recently that seemed very rushed in the second half. I don’t always notice that, but I really got the feeling the author was late with the book and had to hurry to get everything in, so she missed tying up some loose ends. And the editor doesn’t bother to catch things like that.

    I also get what you’re saying about socioeconomic issues. I live in a neighborhood that is fancier than it used to be, and I do notice the difference. I sometimes feel a bit out of place.

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    • Lori, It was so great to meet you and spend time with you at RWA. I do think that series becomes more attractive when the time between books is shortened. sometimes I really like revisiting a world, but for me it;s mainly that I like the group of characters, not the world as it is built.

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  14. First time reader here…I followed a link from Wendy the Super Librarian’s blog. I don’t really have any comments to make as I’ve never attended RWA, but I did want to thank you for your thoughts on what can be a really touchy issue.

    I am an aspiring author, I work full time, will probably be a single mom in the next 5 years or so, and I worry about trying to balance all of that. The feelings I’m getting from most RWA attendees this year is “write faster, do more right now” and for most authors that’s just not possible, especially for those of us with disabilities. I’ve battled depression most of my life and have recently been diagnosed with a sleep disorder. My writing comes in fits and starts and I can’t sacrifice sleep to get things done because my body won’t physically allow it.

    Putting the financial aspects of attending something like RWA or RT yearly along with the swag that has to be so much better than everyone else’s together with the pressure from the industry to produce more is scaring me. Not enough to stop me from writing but enough to make me really stop and think about pursuing it as a full-time career. Definitely something to think about.

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    • Hi Lizy! My spam filter grabbed this comment and I only just saw it now. I apologize! But thanks for sharing, and I agree completely that it’s important to consider all of the financial aspects that go into a possible new career. I know I never understood how much money and time authors spend to self-promote until I started interacting with them on social media and at conferences. and from what I hear, trad publishing is not much better than sel-pub for those expenses.

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  15. I do know RWA is looking at keeping costs down – hence why they’ve scrapped the luncheons. I actually MISS the luncheons (conference chicken and all) because they were a great way to connect with other attendees in the middle of the day, network, and meet new people. So I get it – but miss them all the same. I’m probably one of the few though. If you have the luncheons, then registration costs go up. Most folks want/need registration costs down and would rather pay for their own meals – but meals in NYC made my credit card cry uncle a couple of times.

    That said, I’m just not sure how much longer they can keep hitting NYC. It’s a fun town, it’s convenient for traditional publishers, but good Lord the sticker shock! I’ve been to a lot of RWA conferences and NYC and San Francisco were the worst for my pocket book. In fact, I’d be shocked if RWA heads back to San Fran anytime remotely soon.

    Thought-provoking post, as always, Jessica.

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    • I did make some connections at the breakfasts but more often I arrived late and barely had time to eat before the speaker started her address. Of course, despite what will be sky high airfare, the emotional part of me is already thinking about San Diego, while the rational part of me is grabbing my purse and running in the other direction. So great to meet you (finally!)!

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