The Romance Slam Jam in Chicago this year was definitely worth my while, and the best thing was it was worth my while both as a reader and as a writer. I can now put faces to the names of all those books I have stacked in my apartment, and consequently, those who have bought my books now can put my face along with the name on that cover and spine as well. It was very surreal, very nerve-wracking, very humbling, and very exciting all at the same time. I had a Readers Session with Beverly Jenkins and Nathasha Brooks-Harris. Both of these women have multiple books out with publishers, and Miss Beverly especially is one of the most beloved authors at this conference. And there's lil' ole me, with her self-published debut book with nowhere near the sales of either of the other women. Yet Miss Beverly told the attendees who'd come to the session to "Be nice to the baby", and they were. They were actually interested in what I had to say, in what I'd written, in what I'd write. Many of these women were older; all of them were black. I write interracial romances where the majority of the books being celebrated and written are monoracial Black romances. And yet, many women approached me and said, "I've never read interracial before, but now I'll buy your book." Goal accomplished. The fact that Being Plumville is set in a racially strife era in our country (then again, when hasn't there been racial strife in the US?), and these women are willing to give it a chance really meant a lot. I had so many wonderful conversations with established and aspiring authors, and I learned so much.
I had agent and editor pitches and both went so well that even if ultimately the project doesn't work out, I still think I have succeeded. I wouldn't hesitate submitting another project to them, and hearing other established and beloved authors talk about their struggles to get published encouraged me not to give up. In fact, a publisher that had rejected my work before said for me to submit again, and it was because of that one-on-one contact, I think, is what enabled me to get that request.
I didn't win the Emma Award for Debut Author of the year, nor did I win the Aspiring Author contest. I couldn't even be disappointed. By the time for the awards ceremony, I'd gained so much more than expected, that those wins would've been icing on the cake. Congrats to Isis who did win the Aspiring Author contest and to LaConnie Taylor-Jones who won for the Debut Author. Seriously, just being nominated, being the only self-published author on the list, was plenty validation.
It's been a week since the conference. A week since I sat on that Readers Session panel; a week since I've met some of the most phenomenal people I've ever met. A week since meeting people who've bought my books and told me how much they appreciated it. A week since just soaking up everything I could from people who've been in my shoes, and counseling people who aspire to just finish a novel. I've made contacts, even friends, mentors. This was definitely worth the trip, and I genuinely hope to be a part of it next year.