This weekend I attended my very first writers’ conference. It was not only my first writers’ conference, it was the first time I networked in-person among readers, writers, editors and agents as a published author.
The Tempe Arizona Desert Rose RWA chapter hosted the 2008 biannual writer’s conference in Chandler, Arizona. It was a busy weekend packed with workshops, mixers, editor/agent appointments and book signings.
Over 225 men and women descended upon the San Marcos Golf Course and Resort to serve or satisfy a need or desire. Editors and Agents were on site to offer advice and hopefully spot the next bestselling author, while writers were there to connect with readers, other writers and hopefully get recognized as potentially the next bestselling author.
Despite an allergy-induced head cold, I arrived on Friday afternoon, ready to meet a fellow author who would be my roommate for the weekend and anxious to take advantage of all the conference had to offer.
Being hosted by a chapter of Romance Writers of America, the attendees consisted of USA Today and New York Times bestselling authors, as well as lesser known successful authors all the way down to aspiring romance writers both male and female from as young as 20 to as aged as 80.
One point of interest to make is the fact that I was the only African American present. Such ethnicities as Chinese, Korean, Hawaiian, and Hispanic writers were present but there were few of them as well. Equally low in attendance were the number of men as to be expected. There were a couple of men who were there as aspiring writers, but most of the men were husbands of the attendees or employed on the sales side of the publishing field.
Although I was the only African American there and obviously the only person focused on African American romance, it was a test to my commitment every time I answered the question regarding my genre of choice. When asked, I would reply “I write interracial multicultural romance”. Most of those inquiring were pleasantly surprised. Their response seemed genuine many asking follow-up questions. The best response I received was from an aspiring mystery writer. She was a middle-aged Caucasian woman who expressed strong interest the moment I mentioned my genre of choice.
As it turns out, she was in an interracial relationship in the 1970’s and a baby girl resulted. She went on to express the difficulties she and her mate experienced and the difficulties her biracial daughter still encounters today. She seemed excited and flattered that someone was interested in telling the stories of people with experiences like hers. She beamed with excitement and laughed as she imagined her daughter’s response in hearing about my book and platform.
I asked her if she had pictures of her daughter. Unfortunately, she did not but her eyes twinkled with pride as she compared her features to that of Lisa Bonet.
An obviously shy woman stepped out of her shell as she shared snippets of her experience with me. In addition, the fact that I was a black woman interested in her experience was not lost on her. It made her feel even more comfortable as she began to chat like we were old friends.
I gave her my card and a bookmark with the realization that my audience just tripled. I assumed my writing would appeal to African American woman aged 18 to 55, but I realized in this exchange that anyone touched by the romantic bonding between ethnicities would be drawn to my stories.
Although I never say her again the rest of the weekend, I know with that encounter that biracial stories are important and need to be told and I am happy to be that vehicle as we inch closer toward acceptance of our differences and similarities.