Retreat 2008

‘T is pleasant, through the loopholes of retreat, To peep at such a world… William Cowper

It was a pleasant Washington Romance Writers Retreat. This year we met in a new location, The Bolger Center, a lovely conference and training facility owned by the Postal Service. It used to be a convent and you could tell in places. The Stained Glass Room where we gathered as a whole group was obviously the chapel complete with confessionals in the back.

This statue of Samuel Osgood, the First US Postmaster General, stood in a location that must have once held a statue of the Virgin Mary or one of the saints.

On the whole it was a nice place. The air conditioning had not been turned on yet and, as happens in the Washington, DC, area sometimes, it was 80 degrees in April. So it was HOT. Then Sunday it was 60 degrees and was COLD.

I didn’t see many workshops, except for one I moderated. Victoria Alexander, who will be the keynote speaker at RWA in San Francisco, spoke at the Retreat and did a “Chat With…” workshop. Here’s Victoria with Kathryn Caskie, both lovely “original blondes”. I went to another workshop with the publicist for Avon who talked about what an in house publicists does. Basically, an in house publicist works to get the word out about your book in ways that don’t cost money. Magazine ads, for example, cost money; TV appearances, booksignings, newspaper articles don’t.

Karmela Johnson and I coordinated the agent/editor appts, which is why I didn’t go to workshops. I love doing this, though, because you get to know the agents and editors and you also get to help the nervous, hopeful writers who are pitching for the first time. but you miss most of the workshops .

I won a Tarot Card reading by Nora Roberts. I won this a few years ago and, like that time, her reading was all about home and family, all good things, but I think it is fascinating that this is what she sees at a writer’s gathering when all we’re thinking about is writing. The card that represented my husband was the King of Rods. He liked hearing that one!

We all donate baskets and items to raffle off as the last event of the weekend. Here is the one my friends Helen, Julie, Virginia and I donated. We called it It’s All There in Black and White.

Here is what I won, a pink pearl bracelet.

We also have a Moonlight Madness. I bought a tote bag made by my friend Beth Holcombe and a wooden pen (you can’t tell but it is stained tourquoise) made by my friend Denise’s husband.

My favorite part of the Retreat is being with friends.

Photo 1 – Bookseller Cynthia Parker, me, and Gail Barrett

Photo 2 – Heidi Betts and Karen Anders

On Saturday we had the awards ceremony, including the Marlene awards, which I cannot report until they are officially announced, I’ve been told. So we should be able to say something by Tuesday.

On Saturday we also give out special awards, and the very best-est thing happened! I won the Nancy Richards-Akers Mentoring Award. Members make the nominations for this award and the Board decides who to award it to. I was nominated by more than one person, which was incredibly wonderful. I cried…..

At our Published Author forum we discussed blogging. I said I thought Risky Regencies had made more readers familiar with my name and my books. Nora Roberts said she’d rather spend her time writing books, but she enjoys responding to blogs. Some others seemed to take the entire process of blogging verrrrry seriously. I said I really do it because it is fun.

What would you like to know about the WRW Retreat?

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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25 Responses to Retreat 2008

  1. Santa says:

    Congrats on the Mentoring award. I know that I’ve appreciated all the advice you’ve given me!

    Were there any workshops on plotting and fostering productive CP relationships?

  2. Diane Gaston says:

    Oh, thank you, Santa.
    Margie Lawson was there and she did her workshop on the EDITS System. I think this is the one where she uses different highlighters for different story elements. (too much analysis for me), then she did another -Deep Editing for Psychological Power. Kresley Cole did a workshop on Paranormal. Karen Rose and Mariah Stewart did one on Masters of Suspense. Kathy Gilles Seidel always opens the Retreat. This time she talked about The Wit and Wisdom of Jennifer Enderlin (her editor and a frequent Retreat guest). Our editors Jen Enderlin, Lucia Macro and Tracy Farrell sat on a panel for American Author, a take off on American Idol. Members submit the first page of their ms anonymously and the editors critique it. (I’m very ambivalent about this workshop because some of the entrants get discouraged by it, which they shouldn’t!)
    Nora always closes the Retreat with a speech, which is always entertaining and informative. She talked about the amount of things writers give away for free – books, contest prizes, short stories. She spends her time writing the books and selling them and that is her advice to the rest of us–write and don’t give it away for free!

    Nothing on Critique Partner relationships, though.

    I’m gonna hurry up and follow Nora’s advice!

  3. Eden Sharpe says:

    Yeah Diane! From experience, I know you are most deserving of the mentoring award! Congrats.

    And although I didn’t go this year, I was able to get my partial off this weekend to Kate Duffy from her request last year πŸ™‚

    Glad you had fun πŸ™‚

  4. Eden Sharpe says:

    ps thanks for the pics from the new location.

  5. Diane Gaston says:

    eden, a “little birdie” told me that you also had been considering nominating me for the Mentoring Award until finding out I’d already been nominated. I deeply appreciate that!!!!

    I swear, this award means soooooo much to me!!!!

    Congrats on sending out the partial!!!!

    Kate Duffy did not attend this year; she came down with a bug and had to cancel at the last minute. Both you and Kate were definitely missed.

  6. We’re supposed to take blogging Very Seriously?? Gosh, I’ve been doing it wrong! πŸ™‚

    Major congrats on the award, and thanks for the retreat run-down! It sounds great.

  7. Deb Marlowe says:

    Congrats Diane!

    I met Nancy just a few months before her tragic death. She was a generous and giving person–just like you. Your award is well deserved!

  8. WOW!! What an enormously fun retreat. I want to become a WRW member just for this. πŸ™‚

    Big congratulations to you m’dear for winning the mentoring award. Why am I not in the least surprised? A very well-deserved award.

    I love Margie Lawson and her online blogs/workshops. I tend to follow her around the net. It’s cool that you got to see her in person.

    Jennifer Enderlin is also Lisa Kleypas’s editor at St. Martin’s Press, and Lisa cannot say enough kind words about her.

    Diane, would you please give more details on Nora’s speech? Did she mean that authors should do very little promo, just write the books?

    We’re supposed to take blogging Very Seriously?? Gosh, I’ve been doing it wrong!

    With the success the Riskies have been, Ammanda, y’all must be doing something right.

  9. Elena Greene says:

    Congrats on the award, Diane–could not go to a nicer person!

  10. Diane Gaston says:

    Gee thanks, everyone, for thinking I deserved the award. In addition to thinking Blogging is fun, I think helping aspiring writers is FUN.

    Diane, would you please give more details on Nora’s speech? Did she mean that authors should do very little promo, just write the books?

    Nora’s message was that readers are starting to expect free books, free stories on websites, free stuff from contests because authors are giving this stuff away. She thinks that authors spend too much time (hours) on things like blogging and writing online free stories when they should be writing books and that readers should expect to buy the books, not get them for free.

    As you can imagine, Nora gets lots of unusual requests, but she can’t see the sense in giving away stuff for free. She does see the sense in promoting her books and she does what the publisher asks of her, doing tours and other promotion.

    Having watched Nora at booksignings, I KNOW she is warm and generous with her fans. She’ll sign anything; she’ll pose for photo after photo. No matter how long the line, she takes time with every fan. She’s quite an inspiration that way.

    But she doesn’t beleive in giving away her work for free.

  11. Diane Gaston says:

    I met Nancy just a few months before her tragic death. She was a generous and giving person–just like you. Your award is well deserved!

    I didn’t really know Nancy Richards Akers. I knew who she was, but I never had the chance to become acquainted with her.

    For those of you who never heard the story, you can read it here:

    WRW named the award in her honor.

  12. janegeorge says:

    Congratulations Diane!

    The award couldn’t have gone to a more deserving person. Your talent is as generous as you are.

  13. doglady says:

    Congratulations O Divine One!! NOBODY could deserve this honor more. You mentored me right into a Golden Heart finalist spot! That is something I will remember and appreciate all my life.

    The retreat sounds like a lot of fun and very informative too. No AC? EEEK!

    Got my call from the Marlene coordinator and I am VERY PROUD of where I finished. Another one I owe to the Divine One’s insightful critique!

  14. Diane Gaston says:

    She thanks, O Doggie One and Janegeorge.

    O Doggie One came in SECOND in the Marlene!! It was nice for our organization that a WRW member won the Historical category. She was WRW’s only winner in the contest, I believe.

    She wins a critique from me, poor soul….

  15. For the record here: doglady has finaled in the Golden Heart and in the Laurie and finished 2nd in the Marlene. WOW! What a fantastic year. And I concur with you Pam. Diane is a fabulous mentor.

  16. Todd says:

    Congratulations on the award, Diane! I can tell from the thought and care that goes into your blog posts, and your replies to comments, that you must be a wonderful mentor.

    I can appreciate where Nora Roberts is coming from. It’s hard to quantify things like word of mouth and good will, but I daresay that very few promos and giveaways pay for themselves directly in terms of increased sales. I am grateful, though, that at least the six of you give one blog post a week away for free! πŸ™‚


  17. Eden Sharpe says:

    Thanks, Diane πŸ™‚

  18. “I didn’t really know Nancy Richards Akers. I knew who she was, but I never had the chance to become acquainted with her.”

    I met her years ago at an RT, and she became one of my first “mentor type” people! She was very encouraging and kind. It’s so appropriate this award is named after her! πŸ™‚

  19. Diane Gaston says:

    I told Nora and the other authors (some of whom take this stuff deadly seriously) that I do the blogging for fun…and I believe it has helped get my name out “there.” If I weren’t having fun doing it, I wouldn’t do it!

    I don’t think I’d ever give away a short story for free, though….a book now and then, in thanks for the fun I have here is okay, though.

  20. Thanks muchly, Diane!!!!

    I wonder if Nora was referring to the “scenes,” “chapters,” “nouvellas,” detailed family histories, genealogical charts, etc. etc. that some authors give away to their fans. I definitely know of instances where this has made the fans more loyal to the authors. I don’t know whether it brought in readers who were not fans before or even had read said author’s book before. That is, if you are going to get something for free, they’d buy your book in the first place.

    I have to rush, so I’ll write about how much I adore the goddess that is Nora Roberts a little later this afternoon.

  21. janegeorge says:

    I do buy new-to-me authors from giveaways!

    Authors I now buy because of a freebie:

    Anna Campbell
    Shana Abe
    Sarah Addison Allen (waiting for a next one!)
    Tate Hallaway
    Patricia Rice
    Loretta Chase
    Kresley Cole

    I’m sure I missed some. And the converse is true, there are some authors I will never buy because of something that was in my RWA National goody bag.

    And Diane, I converted a friend’s romance-reading mother into a Gaston/Perkins fan by sharing loot. I was already a reader when I won your faboo prize!

    Ms. Nora is so huge she doesn’t really need word of mouth. πŸ™‚

  22. I know I have squee’d about this since last year’s conference, but it bears repeating again. I attended Nora’s chat and was able to ask her a question. Her reply shook me to the foundations. It was about how she wrote and published while raising two kids, the youngest of whom was 4-5 when she started. At the end, I went up to thank her for her fabulous speech. She asked me to come up to her so I could get a picture taken with her. She held me and looked me straight in the eye and said, “You have to really, really want to write your stories and you have to believe that you can do it.”

  23. Michelle says:


    That anecdote made me tear up. Thanks for sharing.

    Diane, Congratulations for a well-deserved award. The WRW retreat was awesome, wasn’t it? As I told some friends, for me it was like the universe told me what I needed to hear via the retreat.

  24. Susan/DC says:

    Congratulations on the award! Here’s hoping there’s lots of awards in your and other Risky futures.

    It always feels odd to go on an Internet site and recognize someone in a photo. I’ve been to Cynthia’s book store in Silver Spring, Maryland many times, and she’s always informative and gracious. The DC area is not always romance-friendly, but she’s so welcoming and I’ve spent hours sitting on a step stool in her shop sampling (and then buying) books.

  25. Diane Gaston says:

    Keira, what a wonderful memory. I remember you were so thrilled with speaking to Nora. I have the highest admiration for her. The Highest!

    Michelle, I hardly spoke to you! That is my only regret about the Retreat; I don’t get to spend time with all my friends.

    Susan, I love Cynthia! There just isn’t a warmer person in the universe than Cynthia! She and I bonded years ago because we are both former social workers. Her store is too far from me to be convenient but I ought to take a field trip there one day, just to see it!

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