My first RWA was in New Orleans in (I think) 2001, and I’ve been to every one since. I look foward to it all year! I see people I consider some of my closest friends (even though I only see them at RWA), and meet ‘online friends’ in person, as well as get inspired by all the creativity floating around. I get to hear gossip, learn some new promo and plotting ideas, have fun–and come home totally exhausted, counting down the days until next year. But I have to say that this conference proved to be one of my favorites.

Not for the hotel or the food (the hotel was majorly confusing, not within walking distance to anything at all, and the food–well, it sucked). It was for something intangible that I can’t entirely figure out. A ‘positive vibe,’ maybe, that’s been missing for a couple of years. An overall atmosphere of happiness and excitement, and a sheer love of books and writing. I’m not sure where it came from, or even if I was imagining it (since I am, after all, pretty darn happy about my own upcoming books–preorder Notorious Woman now!). But I think I smiled and laughed more in those four days than ever before (and, yes, squealed when I met people).

And those people were a major part of the fun. I met Keira and Santa, RR regulars who are every bit as fabulous in person (and I saw Jane George in her lovely lace dress at the Beau Monde soiree, but she was dancing whenever I went to say hi! So “Hi!” Jane!). I met Elodie and Manda from Romance Vagabonds (where I will be appearing on Tuesday! Look me up there), and so, so many others. The luncheon speeches were inspiring (I don’t feel so bad now about writing in my old Hello Kitty pajamas, and I see armadillos in a new light…), and the awards ceremony mercifully quick and fun, with Regencies and historical novels well-represented. And there were so many lovely gowns, too!

And the Harlequin party–ahhhh, the Harlequin party. I have heard stories of the fabulosity of this event for years, but have never had the courage to ‘crash.’ I had to wait until this year, when I am bona fide, but it was worth it. So much exuberant happiness, such a sense of celebration, in one spot. Plus ’80s music, and a ride in a spectacularly tacky Hummer limo! What more could I ask for? (Except maybe Orlando to escort me…)

All was not perfect, of course. My books weren’t there for the literacy signing. And when I got home and started scanning the blogs I found Controversies had reared their heads (honestly, it’s not a conference unless there is Controversy). But, as usual in Amanda Land, such things went over my sleep-deprived head while I was actually there. I need to get more observant.

And the good always outweighs the not-so-good. Like most writers, I’ve had my share of ups and downs, lots (and lots) of doubts, much stress. I expect this will continue as long as I write. So, don’t I–don’t all of us!–deserve those 4 happy days? Days to meet friends and celebrate, and be glad romance novels exist in the world.

See you in San Francisco! I’m already planning my wardrobe…

(And the pics are: The Harlequin party, me with Deb Marlowe at the Beau Monde soiree, me with the Vagabonds, and me with Keira!)