I arrive at the gorgeous Omni Shoreham hotel, after a relatively smooth morning of travel.
"Ma'am, I'll upgrade you to a King room," says the reception clerk.
"Oh, but the only King room is without a view."
"Then I'd rather have a Queen, if at all possible."
She returns to the computer, does a little magic. "I have a very nice room for you. It has a view of the park, and a bay window."
I gather up my bags, stroll across the elegant lobby, and take the elevator up to the 5th floor. My room is a coveted corner room, framed by windows on two sides. The plush King bed floats along one wall of the ginormous, sunny room. I set my suitcase in the closet and note the bathrobes hanging there. This space is gorgeous. Comfortable. Posh, yet simple. Perfect.
I head to the conference, where I sit in on a "chat" with Nora Roberts, who cusses and says hilarious things, though I don't agree with everything, and (shhhh) am still not a huge fan of her particular kind of romance. But, damn, the woman is prolific and sassy and divatastic.
proclaiming my scholarly identity for all the world to see
I roll out of the center of the giant bed, throw on my yoga clothes, and head to Open City, a corner cafe-restaurant-bar, where I deviate from my daily cafe au lait for something stronger--straight up coffee with cream and sugar. It comes in a huge latte bowl, served with two animal crackers.
I head back to the hotel, prepare for the day by dressing in my new linen suit, pink flowered H&M blouse, and my favorite pink shoes. I can feel my scholarly, presentationey self coming back, after a sun-drenched (and beer soaked) two months hiatus.
I sit in on a panel about using tense and point of view to craft the story, and leave after 10 minutes, during which the terms are defined and an informal quiz on said terms is given.
Instead, I go to the Borders book room, where I buy two writing craft books--Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing and Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life--as well as two RN's, Delicious, a historical involving food, and Seducing Mr. Darcy, a contemporary meets literary meets paranormal (which incidentally won the coveted RITA award Saturday night).
I listen to Suzanne Brockmann talk about writing romances that break social barriers--racial and sexual. I'm blown away by her passion and commitment to writing books that readers will love and will possibly be changed by.
And, soon, it's time for my panel. With trembling feet (clad in the aforementioned awesome shoes), I head to the presentation room. I greet Pam, and then fight my way into the room amongst crowds of women coming or going. I then greet Jenny, who...HUGS me. I'm trying to play it cool, to seem all scholarly and writerly and professional and not be the fan girl I really am. The panelists chat about our plan, Jenny mentions how cool it is that we're talking about her books, and we're off. I talk, I meander, I throw out little bon mots here and there, and then, it's over, and Sarah mentions my awesome shoes and the audience clamors for a glimpse, so I reach down and take one off and hold it aloft, to murmurs of approval and envy. Pam and Jenny raise excellent points, and just like that, the panel is done. I reach into my bag and remove the books I brought--Pam's scholarly tome and Jenny's Agnes and they sign them with sweet inscriptions.
the famous pink shoes
I head to the cafe early, eat a little breakfast outside, as the sun streams down, the birds flit about, and a bad city smell fills the air, prompting the little girl at the next table to say, repeatedly, "It smells like poop! I don't like it!"
And it's back to the conference, for another panel of writing tips that winds up being so obvious I leave once again, and walk around the neighborhood, down by the zoo. I feel alone and lonely. All these groups of friends, these couples, these families, make me long for a little company here, and I think about my favorite people and how much fun this day could be if they were here.
I head back to the conference hotel for Jenny's craft panel, which is absolutely packed. I hear a guy behind me complaining about her panel yesterday, and how he walked out when some college prof was talking about food. OMG! I briefly consider throwing a little PhD slap on him, but realize that he missed the point already. Jenny talks about turning points, and acts, and scenes, and beats, and moments in the story where people are fundamentally changed and they can't go back to how they were at the beginning of the story, and it's fabulous. I scribble many notes. I wave to her at the end, and then I head out.
It's time to explore the capital. I brave the metro, ride to Union Station, where I eat lunch at B. Smith's, and then walk straightaway to the Library of Congress, passing the Capitol on the way...
But, oh, the Library of Congress! Shivers run through my body as I contemplate the wonder at a temple of books. And I love, love America. And I love this place. And I want to sit in the reading room and write deep thoughts, but there's a whole process to gain entrance into that part, so I content myself with gazing at the wonders within and without.
Next, I walk past the various buildings lining the mall, and I head into the Botanical Gardens, marveling at the different climates and the wild blossoms. I snap shots of plants I can't identify, but love anyway, like this frilly flower.
Exhausted, I take the metro back to the hotel, where I relax for a few moments before the fire alarm shrills and I head to the stairs and out to the street, heart leaping. After 10 minutes, we're told we can return to the building, as a water pipe has burst and there's no fire. I still feel bluesy, and not up to another solo meal at a restaurant, so I head to the pool area, where I order a dangerously smooth Lemon Martini and a plate of hummus and olives, a fine dinner.
My spirits artificially lifted, I primp and slip into my new LBD (little black dress) for the RITA awards gala. In a large ballroom, conference attendees watch, cry, and cheer as the winners of best manuscript and published novels speak. Sequins and chiffon and glitter swirl, as does laughter and movie clips, in between the awards. My eyes tear at some of the more moving speeches, and I imagine what it might be like to win such an award...Afterwards, we head to the lobby for pastries, cocktails, and other finger foods. Famous authors flit between award winners and wannabes. I soak it all in, feeling delight from the top of my gleaming hair to the bottom of my strappy silver sandals.
I awake with a plan to head back to the Mall, to see the big monuments, the White House, and a few goodies at the Smithsonian American History Museum. The day is hot, the Mall is long, and I am tired. Still, I manage to giggle at the giant phallus towering over the mall...
say "hey" to Abe...
wave to Michelle and Barack...
and commune with Julia Child...
And then it's back to the hotel to retrieve my bags, ride the shuttle to the airport, fly back to Wisconsin, and drive back home. Back to routines and friends and writing and my glorious life...
...back to write my own stories, to craft art and life with happy endings:)