We checked into the conference the night before when we arrived, picking up our welcome packets and tote bags and thankfully avoiding the lines to do so the next morning.  We’d also attended a book signing, where all the proceeds went toward a literacy foundation.  I believe over $40,000 was raised, which was amazing.  I also got to meet another author I’d met online, Laura Kaye.  I picked up one of her books for my mother, and had Laura sign it to her.

The hotel was nicely laid out for conferences; several floors were dedicated to conference and meeting rooms, and they were connected by escalators, allowing us to avoid using the ridiculous elevators for the most part.  Also, I was thankful that, unlike most conferences/meetings I’ve been to in the past, the Marriott seemed to know their stuff when it came to climate control.  Layers were still necessary, but were limited to a light sweater, and I never regretted not bringing my heavy fur coat to wear over long underwear, tank tops, t-shirts, a long-sleeved tee, and a sweatshirt.

“Take a right at the ice burg. The Brainstorming workshop is on the left.”

Just kidding. I don’t wear fur.
On the first day, there wasn’t much to do in the morning (besides inadvertently sleep through the welcome presentation), so we explored and drank coffee.  Shelley had mentioned that quite a few of the Maryland Romance Writers (their RWA chapter) would be there, and she was excited to introduce me.  For a variety of reasons, I don’t belong to a local chapter, only the national RWA, though I would like to.  So, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and though I knew Shelley would want to hang out with them as well as me, I didn’t want to make myself an extra wheel.  But you know what they say…you can never have too many wheels.  Or maybe it’s just me who says that.    
Anyway, it was just our luck that, while waiting for the welcome luncheon to begin, we ran into the amazing Sharon Buchbinder, the president of the MDRWA chapter.  She appeared to be a little younger than my parents, and was dressed in layers like Shelley and I were.  When we were introduced and she asked what I write, I responded a little more specifically than I usually do, given that this was a writer’s conference.  “Hi, I’m Sarah, and I write contemporary romance and erotica.”  She then asked me what my first book was going to be about and my stomach clenched, not sure how she’d take to hearing what my first WIP was about.  “Well,” I said nervously, “it’s a male/male erotic romance.”  Instead of the worst-case-scenario responses I expected, which ranged anywhere from a polite raising-of-the-eyebrows to disgust, Sharon’s face broke into a wide, genuine smile, and she congratulated me.  The three of us then chatted about my story and what each of us was writing until the ballroom opened for us to be seated for the lunch.  
“Your story is M/M and has sexytimes? High five!”
As a little side note, writers, particularly romance writers, appear to be some of the most tolerant people I’ve ever met.  I heard so many different story concepts and pairings while I was at the conference that I would imagine we’d have to be.  So, one thing I’m especially grateful for that I learned at the conference was to revel in your writing.  You write what you want to write, and there will be people who are enthusiastic and supportive of it, no matter what.  This was a big lesson for me, and I’m glad I figured it out. 
I think I’ll stop here for today, and talk about the workshops in the next installment!    
xoxo Sarah

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