April was filled with a series of firsts in my writing career. It was the first time:
I traveled to a new state alone without the intention of meeting family, friends or coworkers.
I attended an RWA sponsored writer’s conference.
I attended an African American writer’s conference.
I visited Chicago, Illinois.
I considered truly being self-employed without feeling a panic attack brewing in my chest.
When I attended the RWA sponsored Desert Dreams conference in early April, I had every intention of comparing and contrasting that experience with my participation in the predominantly African American focused Romance Slam Jam set to take place later in the month.
These two experiences really reflected the industry distinction between two groups who have the same appreciation for love and romance but operate on different levels of support.
At Desert Dreams, which was hosted by my local RWA chapter, I was the only African American author and the only author who wrote interracial romance. Despite that fact, I felt the readers and writers in attendance really took an interest in my platform, because to them it was unique and different. One Caucasian woman took an extreme interest because her daughter was the product of an interracial relationship. Talking with an editor from St Martin’s Press only solidified my conclusions.
While Desert Dreams was a great experience, one that I will repeat again in the future, I really felt at home at the Romance Slam Jam conference. There were a lot more readers in attendance who were hungry for great romantic stories and excited to meet the authors of those stories. Even though I was a newly published author, I was an important contributor to these attendees. It was nice to be around people who looked like me and appreciated what I was called to do. While I didn’t have any agent/editor appointments at this conference, I actually had one seek me out. She was an editor at Red Sage and she introduced herself to me because I seemed familiar to her. Upon hearing that I write interracial romance, she invited me to submit to her.
The conference was nearly a week long and it was great to laugh, learn and party with my sisters and brothers. It was great to put names to faces and personalities. It felt like a reunion although all of those in attendance were virtually strangers to me. I was able to meet some of my virtual critique partners and it was like vacationing with sisters. I made so many contacts and so many new friends that there’s no doubt the next Slam Jam will be even better.
While Slam Jam didn’t have the exposure to the New York publishing market like Desert Dreams did, it is clear that we are garnering attention. Representatives from RWA were there as they were a low-key sponsor as well as Avon and a local Chicago book-club. It becomes obvious that we are growing in numbers and our economic power is being watched when those in mainstream start to take notice.
On returning to the regular day to day, a raging fire was ignited in me. I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Writing, reading and being around those that appreciate these endeavors is how I see my future and now I have the courage to pursue it with laser-like focus. Since arriving home, I have been up late every night writing and researching ways to freelance full time. It is still my primary desire to write novels, however, freelancing appeals to me as well. I am no longer satisfied being at the mercy of one company no matter the industry. Even in writing, I plan to write in multiple genres for various publishers and companies.
I’ve search for many years for that one product I would market in order to stake my claim among the self employed, and these conferences have taught me to look within. The product I can promote the best is inside of me.
As long as there are readers looking for stories that reflect their unique experiences in a world that is not just black or white, I will be striving to meet the demand.