Just before the polished elevator door starts to open I take a deep breath and I glance at my reflection. I look OK, not great, but not bad either, at least my hair is behaving today. I square my shoulders back and step out onto the floor.
“Excuse me?” I ask a passing hotel employee. “Where can I find the Executive Boardroom?”
She directs me to the second door on the left around the corner and I head in that direction. With any luck no one can tell that butterflies are doing jumping jacks in the pit of my stomach. What kinds of people attend Romance Writer’s Association meetings? Heck, who writes romance novels? My stories aren’t romances. Are they? I’m pretty sure they aren’t. Are these people going to know? Are they going to care? Are they going think I’m a fraud?
The door to the boardroom is wide open and I step in unnoticed. A group of women, all ages, all types, walk around with bunches of bookmarks and fliers which they’re adding to the already towering stacks on the large boardroom table. None of the women look like what I would expect, but I watch them and realize I’m not surprised. If you have no expectations they can’t be dashed. Three weeks ago I didn’t even know the Romance Writer’s Association existed. Three weeks ago I hadn’t given it any thought at all.
I interrupt the excited banter with a quiet greeting. I want to stay unnoticed. I need to observe these people for a moment, just to see if I can fit in, but I don’t get a chance. I take the stack of postcards a member hands me and I join the women already gathered around the table. For a minute we move awkwardly around each other, darting in and out, adding our things to the stacks, then we fall into a rhythm, all of us dancing around the table in the same direction, at the same speed.
I don’t talk much save for a few murmured hellos. I just strain to listen.
“Are you pitching tomorrow?”
“What are you working on?”
“Hey! How’s that new story coming along?”
“What are you going to pitch? The finished one or the new one?”
The chatter is energetic and friendly. I don’t hear jealousy, just support and honest interest. I listen more intently, but I just get more of the same – advice, support, even genuine affection. In a group of bloggers there’s often an undercurrent of tension and competition. There are many of us fighting to be heard in one small overcrowded space. I can’t detect that same undercurrent here. This is a group of women coming together to support each other, not size each other up.
“Hey! Jessica, want to come get some coffee?”
I look around to see if the words are being directed at someone else, but the speaker is looking straight at me. I nod, still a bit unsure, and she smiles at me. I’m still not sure that what I write fits under the Romance genre, but don’t think that’s going to matter all that much.
I ended up learning a ton this weekend, including the fact that I don’t write Chick Lit, I write Women’s Fiction, which falls broadly under the Romance Writer’s umbrella, so all was truly well.