LOCATION: RWA National Conference, Dallas, TX
Get 2000 people, mostly women, mostly romance writers, agents, and editors, together, and the setting is ripe for social gaffs. Sure, we're all trying to be on our best behavior and hope to make good impressions on the people we meet, but we're also human. We're fallible. We make mistakes.
For those walking the road that may lead to that first book sale, a conference provides a place to meet and possibly talk with an editor or agent who might be interested in seeing their work. A brief introduction with these professionals can sometimes gain a writer an invitation to submit.
For published authors, it's a chance to meet with their editor, agent, and fellow authors. It's about participating in the book signing that raises money to fight illiteracy and is a great chance to meet readers.
For everyone, it's about networking.
For someone like me, it's an open invitation to embarrassment.
The 2007 RWA conference is the perfect example of the ineptitude that sneaks up on me at the worst times. One of my closest and best writing friends lost her husband earlier that year, so she and I roomed together at the hotel. The first night, we talked into the wee hours of the morning. Wee=about 6 a.m. when we both finally fell asleep. I had a 9 a.m. Meet & Greet to attend. I managed to make it there on time, but I was a zombie. When a woman walked up to me with her hand outstretched and introduced herself (first name), I shook her hand and gave her my name. I didn't say anything else, because my brain hadn't yet kicked in. She looked at me as if I was on drugs, then turned to walk away. She'd taken three steps when I realized she was my new senior editor. Now, how I was I going to undo that faux pas? I didn't even try and felt like a fool for the rest of the hour. It was definitely not one of my finest moments.
The luncheon with the same senior editor was a few days later, and I can't say it went much better. The waitress didn't seem to understand that all I wanted was a salad, and it took some explaining, while all the other authors at the table looked on as if... Yeah, you get the picture.
Friends have told me it was nothing to worry about, and although I've taken their comfort to heart, I still feel that tiny squeeze of embarrassment when I think about how foolish I was. Does my senior editor remember? I don't have a clue. I haven't been back to a conference since then, nor had the opportunity to speak with her. At best, if I'm lucky, she's probably forgotten. At worst...well, it hasn't kept her from giving the "buy" nod to my books, so maybe it wasn't the grand oops that I remember.
Lesson learned? In the future, I will make sure I've had enough sleep to form coherent thoughts and words. But to tell the truth, I've been known to become tongue-tied at the worst possible times, so even sleep may not put an end to embarrassing moments. I guess that's just part of life, and it's best to forget these incidents, if possible, or to at least learn to laugh at them. After all, we all make mistakes.