I’m just back from Washington Romance Writers Spring Retreat in beautiful Harpers Ferry*, West VA, one of the writing highlights of my year.

On Thursday, April 26, I had the pleasure of transporting guest speaker Julia Quinn and her sister and workshop speaker, Emily Cotler of Waxcreative Design, from the DC area to Harpers Ferry. On the way we had a very pleasant dinner together and lots of time to talk. Both of these ladies are just so pleasant and friendly. I’m delighted I had the time to spend with them.

On Friday, Apr 27, we went to Boonesboro, MD, to Turn the Page Bookstore Cafe, Bruce Wilder’s (Nora Roberts’ husband) bookstore for a mega-author booksigning. Here’s a photo of Julia and me and Lisa Gardner, another of the guest speakers. Lisa, by the way, is a doll, inside and out, and has the most captivating eyes. Lisa also speaks without notes and with great poise. Madeline Hunter (whom I had the privlege to introduce) was the third guest speaker and was also at the signing. If you can believe it, all three ladies speeches involved lists of various sorts and all were great. Synergy happens!

Back to the signing. I sat next to Michelle Willingham who is a brand new Harlequin Historical author with her first book, an Irish Medevial called Her Irish Warrior. I was signing Innocence and Impropriety.

We were right at the doorway where the visitors entered. They were our captive audience and we had the best time chatting with them! Here is one of the happy customers who bought our books. And another treat! My friend Toni stopped by. In all there were about 100 visitors who came to the signing.

Just to prove Michelle and I really were at Turn the Page, here we are with Nora (that’s her husband Bruce in the background looking harried)

After the signing it was back to Hilltop House, the old hotel that WRW takes over totally for the Retreat. The workshops were fabulous. Emily Cotler did two workshops on website design, including critquing three members’ websites. It was fascinating! The agents and editors do a variety of workshops, but one is our American Author workshop, a take off on American Idol, only kinder. Members volunteer to have the first pages of their manuscripts read out loud and three editors, Kate Duffy, Jennifer Enderlin, and Tracy Farrell, respond with their impressions. They don’t always agree, either. Another workshop I attended was with Sue Grimshaw, the Romance buyer for the Borders Group and she talked about the marketing side of books. Another workshop speaker was Michelle Buonfiglio of Romance Buy The Book, who made an exciting announcement. Her column and blog will soon exclusively be on LifetimeTV.com! Check her site for details.

On Sunday morning Nora Roberts entertained us with a talk about the difficulties in publishing that she faced at the beginning of her career which were not so different than the ones we face today. As always, the serious message of her talk was delivered with wit and humor. Nora also answers questions. One thing I love about Nora is that she always makes it clear that there is no one right way to write a book. Whatever way works for you is fine. She also stresses that the only thing the author truly has control over is writing the book. So all the periphery we worry about should not distract us from writing a good book.

Even though I love the workshops and the speakers, my favorite part of the Retreat is the time I spend with old friends and the opportunity to make new friends. At the end of it all, that is what gives me that happy sigh when I drive back home.

Do you have any questions about our Retreat? Are there any get-togethers you attend that leave you with that happy sigh at the end?

Diane (who has NOT unpacked yet!)

*Photo of Hilltop House courtesy of WRW’s website