You’ve already seen the tiara; that was just one perk of Authors After Dark. My roomie Susan and I were both attending for the first time. We had planned to attend with our pal Debi, who knows everybody and is a real bon vivant, so we had some trepidation, being natural introverts. But Stella and Jackie made sure that everyone felt included and kept things rolling along wonderfully. There were panels on every topic both for readers and for writers; there was a great vendor room; there was a tattoo artist, there were pitch sessions with editors and agents. There were fabulous meals–yes, it is possible to get good hotel food (wow, that salmon!)–and lots of treats from the book, chocolate and fun food groups (i.e. parties and a dance). I got even more ideas about effective promotion, met a lot of terrific people and felt quite at home.
The biggest thing I came away with, however, was attitude. When you say “romance” I know what people think: dumpy middle aged women who console themselves with chaste and unrealistic fantasies. The truth is romance writers and readers, by and large, seem to be really happy people with optimistic attitudes. They believe in happy endings because they’re living them, or have every expectation that they will make it happen. So many of the writers kept saying how they based their heroes/heroines on some aspect of their partners. Better yet, they talked about how supportive their relationships were, even if they didn’t really understand the appeal of, say, sex with vampires or were-snakes (so forget about “chaste”)!
Spending most of my time at academic or spec fic gatherings, it was a real delight to be surrounded by so much bubbly positivity. In the last couple of years I have come to realise how much your outlook affects the shape of your life. I’m not talking about a blithe ignorance of facts; I’m talking about choosing to be happy and to be completely alive now. Now: not lost in the regrets of the past, not hiding in the hopes for the future, but engaging fully and alertly with NOW. Terrible things happen, but you become resilient. You look for the opportunities. Most of all, you don’t get mired in the endless cycle of “why me?” victimhood. My default position now is “I can cope. I have skills. I have resources. I have friends and people who love me. I will make the most of this.”