I’ve never gone to a writer’s conference in December, but if you want to attend one in an amazing city, head to New Orleans. Heather Graham always did this conference over Labor Day weekend, but constant worry about hurricanes had her try a change in the date and I’d have to say it really paid off.
New Orleans in December is a sight to behold. Gorgeously decked out in all the Christmas glory, the shops even have Christmas vampire and voodoo stuff. I guess I never thought of the two items in the same sentence. I’m glad I had a chance to experience it.
If you’ve never attended Heather Graham’s Writers for New Orleans event, you are in for a treat. While it’s a smaller conference, the intimacy is what makes it so special. She hand picks her special guest and they all have something unique to offer. There are the usual panels, but there are also interviews with the big name authors. The questions and answers are are sometimes surprising, but always entertaining.
James Rollins is a New York Times bestselling author, but did you know he’s also a veterinarian? He still volunteers his services and has found a special place in his heart and books for dogs used in the military. Jonathan Maberry most notably writes horror, but has been writing a YA series about Zombies (the good kind). Did you know he was a body guard earlier in his career? Eileen Dreyer started out writing medical suspense books which would explain her nursing background. David Morrell, best known for his Rambo series explained why he wanted to stretch his wings and try writing a western. David feels that it helps the author to stay fresh when he/she tries new things.
I was on a branding panel with Joan Schluhafer, Don Lucey from Harlequin and Tony and Tori Eldridge. Joan is a publicist, Don is the head of publicity for Harlequin, Tori adapts books into tv and movie as a screenwriter and Tony is a movie producer who’s next film The Equalizer will feature Denzel Washington and start shooting in spring. All very fascinating and I felt out of my league. They had so many interesting things to say that I was up at the table furiously taking notes to I can pass them all on to you in future workshops and panels I do. Don explained that Harlequin is serious working with authors to give them everything they need to be successful and Joan (who is the very organized one of the group had meticulous notes and made us all look good. Me, I stumbled my way through, but was well received which always makes me feel good.
I met Shara Waas , 2012 winner of Heather’s contest, Giving Back to Your Community. Shara wrote about working and volunteering with therapy dogs for twelve years and the satisfaction and joy she received from it. Shara was in awe of the authors and the whole event. She told me she was thrilled to win and experience this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Heather Graham doesn’t just sit back and let others do the workshops, she is the driving force behind the shows put on during the event. This year’s theme was Vampires on the Titanic. It was a clever take on the idea that Jack could have been saved if 1) Rose would have just moved over on that plank or 2) the vampires had only made him a vampire and they turned everyone on the ship into vampires, it could be a happy ending. The show was also dotted with Christmas songs that strangely fit into a doomed ship filled with vampires.
Also attending the conference was Heidi, one of the WW Ladies. She won the trip from Heather at my Barbara Vey Reader Appreciation Luncheon last April. Here’s her take on the event:
I was really impressed by the variety of panels scheduled during the entire weekend It was really hard to pick one or two to attend. The kick off of the welcome party was amazing. I was overwhelmed by all of the writers, publishers, agents and editors. PLUS to be able to meet Heather Graham, James Rollins and Eileen Dreyer, I think I said WOW a million times. But it was so fun to see them and have a regular type of conversation even though I was gushing like a school girl. James has a special place in my heart now being a Chicago boy!
On Saturday, I had the pleasure to hear Jonathan Maberry during breakfast, and it is truly amazing to hear what a unique background he has had. His sense of humor I enjoyed most of all. It made me feel right at home. He asked me later in the day what kind of writer I am. I never looked at myself as a writer, but technically I am now, so that was a really cool revelation.
The panel of speakers later in the morning were so awesome because you really got to hear all of their journeys into writing. I loved that is isn’t all cookie cutter writer stories of their beginnings. Eileen, James and Jonathan had me laughing quite a bit, I had a hard time taking notes. I kept thinking they are like secret agent writers: “trauma nurse by day, romance writer by night.”
The special dinner on Saturday was the most unique experience of my life. I never imagined vampires on the Titanic, but I sure can now!! To know that Heather had her band there, and wrote the play that went on during dinner really showed how much she loves her life. I have such respect for that.
Watching Barbara from the sidelines, talking to everyone at the event, as well as bringing in strangers from the hotel to meet authors, with such a passion and love of reading, was really a hoot. Barbara is truly gifted in her element and it was really fun to witness it.
All in all, it was such an honor to be able to attend this event, thanks to Heather Graham. To be able to meet so many people who love what they do, makes me want to work harder in my life, because I love that I do. I have been blessed to come to New Orleans and it will be an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.
Oh, by the way, did I mention the food??? YUMOLICIOUS!!!
It’s obvious that Heidi enjoyed herself and together we explored some of New Orleans including the famous Cafe du Monde and it’s famous beignets. I looked like the abominable snowman from the shower of powder sugar that loads down the pastry. Of course, I’d do it again in a heart beat.
The conference ended with a book signing.
Bottom Line: I’ve already been invited back for next year and I hope to see you there!
From Marilyn Baron: FREE SWEET ROMANCE ANTHOLOGY WITH LOVE STORIES FOR EVERY SEASON PLUS TWO WEEKS OF FREE READS & PRIZES. Petit Fours and Hot Tamales bloggers have published a FREE anthology called SEASONS AND SEASHELLS just in time for the holidays. You can read it here. As a bonus, from December 17-Dec. 28, we will publish all or portions of each short story of our Group Novel on our blog. Author prizes awarded daily plus three great prizes to be announced on December 31. Visit our blog to find out more. Here’s what we’re giving away this year: A $5 Starbucks gift card; A PF&HT cookbook and the grand prize: A lovely pair of sterling silver seashell earrings from Nature’s Jewelry.