These are just my personal highlights. Who I saw, things I did, friends I made, so maybe not the usual recap, but here goes...
We (hub and daughter included) arrived at the Dolphin Resort in Orlando, which is a gorgeous place. I wasn't as tired as I thought I'd be after the drive from NC. Breaking up the 10 hr. trip made a huge difference. We left the house Mon. night, drove for about three hours, stopped at a hotel, and then drove the rest of the way on Tues.
After checking out our awesome room and the incredible view over to Epcot (check out my Facebook Page for a bunch of pics), we found something to eat, chilled in our room, and then crashed.
My only scheduled event was the big, open-to-the-public charity Literary Signing later in the evening. But, I headed down to the lobby, found registration, and got my conference bag with several free books (the latest by Meg Cabot, which I'm stoked to read), my RITA ribbon (wee!), and schedule.
I ate breakfast and had a lovely conversation with the woman who'd stood in line at the buffet with me. Turns out she was a Golden Heart finalist in Paranormal, had come all the way from Australia, and she ended up winning the Golden Heart later in the week. So, Kylie Griffin, if you're out there -Hi! And big congrats!
Later in the day as I was orienting myself, I saw my agent at the registration desk and went over. I thought about sneaking up behind her and pitching some crazy story, but she saw me. :-) We ended up hanging out near the lobby at a table by the bar, which was closed. We also ran into Jesse Peterson and Kathryn Smith (both clients of Miriam). Fabulous women, smart, funny, and my first time meeting both of them.
Even later in the day, my critique partner, Jenna Black, arrived. And we hung out a bit before I went back to my room to get ready for the Lit Signing. I'd been to the signings several times, but as a reader and fan, not as an author. I felt like a deer in the headlights most of the time. And at other times, I just kept thinking how cool and surreal it all was. I sat next to Maria Geraci, who was really sweet and so friendly, and Olivia Gates, who is not only a successful author but a surgeon as well, and she brought a huge tray of Baklava (yes, I got lucky). :D
According to RWA: In two hours, 3,600 fans and 500 participating authors helped raise $55,000 for literacy.
And, I actually had a small line a few times! People actually bought my book, or had read my book and wanted a signed copy. I met so many great people, saw old friends, and got to see Leslee from Night Owl Romance, which was very cool.
Oh, and right before they opened the doors, I darted over to find Kasey MacKenzie and Jennifer Lynn Barnes, where I got signed copies of their books. And Jennifer said she was a fan -- which gave me all kinds of warm, fuzzy feelings. :D
The official start of the conference. I met my agent in the lobby at noon for lunch and we headed for the Disney Boardwalk where we ate at The Brewery. (Well, first we walked to this Meditterranean place, which ended up being closed, so we had to backtrack to The Brewery -- OMG, did I mention how HOT it was). Thank God for air conditioning. We had salads and talked about the book biz, and my career, and all the things I want to do in the future. It was pretty cool, and my first "lunch" with an agent.
(This entire trip was full of "Firsts").
Jenna and I hooked up later and went to the agency party acrossed the lake at the Disney Yacht Club. We took the boat and ran into Jesse and Kate again. Jen and I only stayed about thirty minutes before having to go back and catch the bus for the Pocket dinner, which was being held at The Living Seas at Epcot.
Pocket's dinner, which I'd gone to in 2009 before BPOD was out, is a class act affair. We actually had dinner in a private room with the aquarium being one entire wall in the room. There was a massive sting ray, a shark, and all types of fish swimming around. Dinner was amazing, and I sat at a table with some great company, the Executive VP of Pocket, Louise Burke, and authors, Dianna Love Snell, Laura Griffin (who later won the RITA), Barabra Freethy, and Sharie Kohler. I also got to meet YA author and RITA finalist Lauren Strasnick who is just so sweet and smart and friendly, and I got to hang with my pal Sharie!! Then, we hiked to a reserved spot at the lake in Epcot where drinks and desserts were served and we watched the fireworks. 'Twas awesome and in true Pocket style.
Then, it was back to the hotel, and the bar where I hung out a bit with a bunch of great Pocket authors, but those seated within earshot were Allison Pang (who has a very sweet cover for her debut book that I'm sure you'll all get to see very soon. So gorgeous!), Jenna, Sharie, Kresley Cole, Eileen Carr, and Carry Lofty. And in true Kelly Style I left earlier than most because, well, I was just plain tired. :D
So that's Part One wherein I was pinching myself from the time I woke up to the time I fell asleep. Most of the conference was me travelling through a dream I'd imagine only in my mind for years and years. To have actually experienced the signings and what it's like to be a RITA finalist --- it was totally unreal.
Part Two tomorrow...