From pitch to RITA© finalist: How the RWA conference launched my career

Kerri Buckley, Rhonda Helms, Kat Latham and Eleri Stone at the Harlequin party

Kerri Buckley, Rhonda Helms, Kat Latham and Eleri Stone at the Harlequin party

Last night the 2014 Romance Writers of America conference wrapped up in San Antonio the way it always does—with a glittering ceremony to announce the winners of this year’s RITA award. At the last conference I went to, two years ago, I was a volunteer usher at the ceremony. This year I was a finalist.

 I’ve been to the conference—and the ceremony—three times; this year was different not only because I was a nominee but also because it’s my first time attending as a published author. It was through the conference in 2012 that I got my first publication deal.

One of the best things about the conference is the opportunity to pitch your books to agents and editors. In Anaheim I pitched to Angela James and, a few months later, she contacted me to say she wanted to publish my debut novel, Knowing the Score. That book has turned into a four-book series, with book three coming out in November and book four coming next year.

Having a chance to pitch my book face-to-face was terrifying, but it was also probably the only way I was going to get published. Angela asked me the right questions to draw out parts of my story that I hadn’t thought she’d be interested in.

I’m writing this post on Saturday evening before the ceremony, so I don’t know yet if I’ve won. All I know is that the conference is a totally different experience when you’re published. I don’t have to pitch anything—huge relief! Most of my time is spent on book signings, meetings, lunches, breakfasts, dinners and parties—hurray!

And being a RITA nominee is a dream come true. I’ve had the chance to meet some of my favorite authors. All week people have been wishing me luck. The little “RITA finalist” badge is an icebreaker, and one I’m very grateful for.

The conference is expensive—all the more so because it involves a transatlantic flight for me. And it’s long. And it’s exhausting. But I owe my career to it, and I’ll leave San Antonio more excited than ever to get back to my computer.

One of the speakers, Cindy Ratzlaff, gave us a bunch of social media tips and tools, and she encouraged us to try a new one this week. So I chose to make a very brief video with Anamoto, using some of my photos from Harlequin’s legendary party. Enjoy thirty seconds of me and my friends celebrating all we’ve accomplished this year!

Harlequin party San Antonio


Have you ever been to an RWA conference? What are the best and worst parts for you? Has it helped you advance your career?

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Meeting and Greeting


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