Love in the Stacks: RWA from the POV of our Librarian of the Year

Sean Gilmartin
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July 30, 2014

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Librarian of the year, man of RWA, aspiring cover model … these were just some of the names I was called while attending this year's Romance Writers of America conference in San Antonio. I was very close to adding "car thief" to the list, but luckily I can leave that out. Apparently, when a driver is holding a sign that clearly states Barbara Samuel, who just happens to be a seven-time RITA winner and RWA Hall of Famer, that vehicle is not for you. Needless to say, I didn't steal her ride from the airport but ironically was only a few hotel rooms down from her. Barbara, if you're reading this, I promise I wasn't stalking you at the conference; we really just kept running into each other. By coincidence. A lot.

#SeanDoesRWA

That was the start of my RWA and the launch into my hashtag on Twitter: #SeanDoesRWA. I intended for it to be a way for family and friends to easily follow my escapades, but it actually turned into my best communication tool. People all over the conference were saying hello and despite not having met in person, we were chatting daily. I would then run into someone, standing in line for a book signing or whatnot, and we would actually meet. It was a surreal and incredible experience that lessened the fear deep inside of me that fueled my preconceived notion that as a librarian I would not fit in. It didn't matter that RWA has a special award for librarians — no, I was certain that I would feel isolated in the midst of 2,000 romance authors. I could not have been more wrong, and people could not have been more friendly, kind and gracious to me every single day of RWA. People thanked me left and right for the work I do for the romance genre. I was hugged, bowed to and asked to be in pictures. I felt like an A-list celebrity.

Then Thursday arrived. I was sick with terror. Today was the day I had to stand in front of 2,000 people to accept my award … and give a speech. There was a lump in my throat and my leg was bouncing like a jackhammer. I had put down bullet points in my phone so I wouldn't end up standing there white-faced and silent, and when I heard my name announced, I was certain that I would vomit. As I walked up to the podium I glanced over to my table, searching for something familiar, and saw everybody smiling at me. Suddenly, in the span on a millisecond I was calm. My mouth began moving and my speech flowed effortlessly. People clapped, I forgot my plaque at the podium and had to go back for it (at which we all laughed), and while I didn't think it was possible I felt even more connected to the men and women in that room. We were truly all in this together and it was our common love and support for the genre that united us.

Getting Back to my Writing Roots

After that, the rest of the conference was stress-free and absolutely life changing. I attended dinners and cocktail parties, chatted with fellow librarians, laughed with "USA TODAY" and "New York Times" best-selling authors and posed in many pictures. I met the legendary Nora Roberts, which was like meeting the president of romance, as well as Gena Showalter and Nalini Singh. One of my teens' favorite authors is Simone Elkeles, and I couldn't wait to get home to share the picture of us together, if only to brag a little bit. I was on Cloud 9, and on top of making connections and stockpiling free books, the conference roused the side of me that yearns to write.

You see, I have been writing on and off my entire life. On a daily basis I have characters and stories swimming around my head. Attending RWA showed me that it is possible to achieve that dream of being an author. I attended a workshop on managing dual careers, and I left rejuvenated and confident that it was possible for me to be a librarian and an author. I met countless people that proved I could write 500 words a day and it didn't have to be the final product. Everyone said the same thing: write, write, write. I had heard this countless times before, but this time was different because standing all around me were people who proved that it was possible. I told myself on the flight home that I would stop making excuses as to why I wasn't writing as much as I should be. I would make the effort each and every day to get something written down and I would stop listening to that voice that told me my writing wasn't good enough. I accepted it for what it was but made the choice to ignore it until it had no power over me.

Processing and Paying it Forward

Now I am back in the real world and still playing catch-up on the 80-something emails in my inbox. I am so thankful and honored to have attended RWA. I still have not digested the overflowing buckets of knowledge that I acquired from the workshops and conversations with librarians and authors alike. It will most likely take me weeks to process everything I learned and I look forward to sharing that with everybody and anybody I can. Going forward I know that I will be a better writer and librarian because of my RWA experience.

If you leave any questions or comments below, I will try to answer them in next month's post. Head over to my Twitter page for more pictures and updates from the conference. Let me know if there was an author you would have loved to have met. Are there any upcoming books you would like reviewed? Let's try to get more of a conversation going, because I would like to continue to make amazing connections.

Sean Gilmartin (@author_sean) has always been in a world of fantasy and superheroes. It was his fascination with good vs. evil that kindled his love of reading. When he is not working as an award-winning librarian, Sean blogs more often than he likes to admit. Follow Sean's blog and his work as paranormal romance author Sean Thomas at www.seanthomasauthor.com.

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