Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Saturday the 14th

Saturday was the Big Day. The Rita gala and party afterward.

By Saturday I was tired, sore, and cranky. I'm good at conferences for 2-3 days; after that, I'm ready for the hot bath, the massage, the two days in bed. But I perservered.

8:30 am--I give another workshop. This one a panel on worldbuilding with author Cathy Clamp, editor Heather Osborn (now at Tor), and editor Anna Genoese (formerly of Tor). Pretty good crowd, good info on the panel. The great thing about panels is that I learn from the other people while I'm sitting up there waiting for my turn at the mic.

9:30--upstairs for a room service breakfast (I really went for the room service this time!)

I was tired and knew I'd have a long night, so I tried to take it easy. I cleaned up my room and started to organize and pack (ha!), and mailed three boxes of stuff home to myself.

2:30 was the Rita/GH rehearsal. I apparently recieved an email telling me when my groups was to show up. If I ever got the email, I promptly lost it, misfiled it, or forgot. I arrive at 2:30 and am in the wrong group. Oh well, it can't hurt. (Turns out I was in the second group).

The director explains the sequence of events to us: The announcer for the category will read the finalists, and behind her will be slides of our photos and our book covers. (Thank heavens I sprang for a decent photo last year so I'm not embarrassed by the pic that flashes by).

When we're announced, we're to walk up the stairs (in the dark!), take the award from the announcer, and walk to the podium on the left to give our speech. I am convinced I won't win, so to me it's a moot point.

We're asked to look at our slides and make sure everything's spelled right and it's really us in the photo. Mine looks fine. I try out the stairs, say my name in the microphone so I won't be worried when I hear the sound of my voice.

(I don't mention to the director that I got to hear my own voice in painful detail when I recorded my friend Nancy's CD in March. Talking to a roomful of people is nothing to standing in a small, hot booth and hearing my voice over the headphones--singing! Aaaaaaa!)

I talk to Sylvia Day and Marjorie Liu who both have butterflies. They're having a hard time eating that day. I say I just finished a bowl of Hagan-Daaz dolce de leche ice cream (nummy!). I have no butterflies because I'm not going to win. There are far better books than mine, and it's such a long shot. Why worry?

After rehearsal I go to the atrium and sit with Desert Rose/Valley of the Sun ladies--Kayce Lassiter, Tina Gerow/Cassie Ryan, Isabella Clayton. Leslie Langtry, a new author at Dorchester stops by and talks about the Spotlight on Dorchester, which I had to miss to do the Rita rehearsal.

(This whole conference I either had six things scheduled on top of each other, or nothing.)

I'm still calm and cool, because winning is such a long shot!

At 5, I meet up with Bonnie Vanak, who sweetly takes me out to dinner at her hotel. We arrive before the restaurant is open and have a glass of wine in the bar to wait. We're on the 29th floor, and there are gnats up there. What is the deal?

Bonnie interviews me for her live blog (she actually recorded the events as they happened, instead of being lame like me, doing it a week or so later). She takes a photo and uploads it as I watch. (Technology is scary).

We have our dinner, but have to hurry a little because we have to shuttle back to the main hotel and I have to dress. Bonnie already looks lovely, but I need to change.

We make the shuttle bus, which craawwlls back to the Hyatt, dropping us off near the ballroom, which is hell and gone from the elevators to my room. Bonnie and I race back to my room where I throw on my clothes. (I'm not going to win, no one's going to see me except sitting down.)

Back down to the ballroom in the nick of time. Except, I've lost one of the two tickets we need to get in. Bonnie had hers. They were going to stop me. Fortunately, one of the coordinators was there, and let me in.

Bonnie sits next to me to cheer me on. The Dorchester Rita finalists are nearby: Pam Clare, Marjorie, Gemma Halliday. Even though I finalled with a Berkley book, they are rooting for me (and I am for them).

The ceremony gets underway. Bonnie is nervous because she wants Pam and me to win. I'm still cool as a cucumber, but getting a *little* nervous. Mostly I want it to be over with.

The Golden Heart finalists are presented first. The ceremony was fairly simple, just the announcers reading the finalists with interludes of clips put together about some big name authors (Nora Roberts, Suzanne Brockman, Anne Stuart, Elizabeth Peters.)

The GH winners were so happy; it was fun to applaud for them. I was a Golden Heart finalist once, and went through this, though I didn't win. (BUT, almost all the finalists that year published before the winners did. Not in every case, but in many.)

Before the Rita starts, I duck out to the bathroom. I can't trust my bladder to hold up through the whole thing.

The Rita categories begin. I'm a tiny bit more nervous. I was more interested in categories besides mine. I judged one (not saying which), and I wanted my pick to win (she didn't, rats). Plus I wanted Pam, Marjorie, and Sylvia to take home a trophy (thet didn't, double rats).

And then Alesia Holliday read my category. I tried not to be nervous. I really tried. I was jumpy, though. She said, "And the winner is..."

And lo and behold, it was me! (A Lady Raised High) Bonnie screamed and jumped to her feet even before I did. I somehow got up onstage without falling and hoped my dress wasn't riding up or something.

I didn't have a speech, but I had thought about what I might say, on the off chance (LOL). I thanked my editor Ginjer, who couldn't be there, but another Berkley editor picked up the plaque for her. Then I rambled on thanking my RWA chapters, who really are so supportive. Plus my husband who was home painting the living room--even as I spoke. I saw people wanting to start applauding again, so I shut up and got off the stage.

It was very nice to have Alesia give me the award. She was a Dorchester author and now a Berkley author (we're following each other around).

Afterward was a blur. I went up to the front to take pictures. I saw more of my editors, Kate at Berkley and Leah at Dorch. They were both incredibly happy for me, even though this book wasn't theirs.

Lots of hugging! I never realized I knew so many people, but they all came to congratulate me. That teared me up more than winning.

Anyway, it was terrific. I stayed out in the lobby talking to people (Squires, Kathy Caskie, Claudia Dain, met Cindy Hwang of Berkley). The lovely Sophia Nash interviewed me for Romance TV (I'm not sure when or where that airs--I think it's an Internet thing? I met the ladies who run it--they're fun.)

So for an hour or so, I was a princess. Then the princess took her trophy upstairs, called husband, cried to him, frantically finished packing, and fell into bed.

Sunday was easy: Breakfast at the coffee house, talk to Leah and Chris Keeslar, who were also leaving, catch shuttle to airport, hobble onto plane. Husband picked me up on the other side and took me for a much-needed lunch.

I packed the Rita carefully in my clothes and now she sits on a table in the living room.

Thus endeth RWA Nationals, 2007.


At 2:22 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great day for you. Now back to writing! LOL! But still, you deserved it.

At 5:35 PM , Blogger India Carolina said...

Congratulations Jennifer! I have to grin even more at your RITA win because you told me just a few short weeks ago that you're not the kind of writer who wins awards. Ha! Told you so!


At 10:25 AM , Blogger Jennifer Ashley said...

Thanks Amy and Maude! LOL I truly did not expect to win this--that's not false modesty; I mean I really didn't expect it! :-) But thanks for the congrats...and I'm back to work big time.


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