Today, it’s my extreme pleasure to welcome New York Times Bestselling author Julia London back to the blog. She’s here today to talk about the RWA National Conference and her latest bestselling novel One Season of Sunshine, out now.

Adopted as an infant, Jane Aaron longs to know the identity of her birth mother and why she gave her up. Her only clue is the name of the small Texas town where she was born, so she’s come to Cedar Springs for answers. Handsome ad executive Asher Price lost his wife, the beautiful, mysterious Susanna, in a terrible car crash eighteen months ago. When he hires Jane as the nanny for his two children, sparks fly. Jane finds herself falling in love with both Asher and his children, but begins to suspect that Susanna was not the perfect mother and wife the family portrays her to have been. As Jane gets closer and closer to finding out the truth about both her own and Susanna’s past, devastating secrets begin to emerge that may be more than anyone can bear. Will the truth bring Jane and Asher closer together or tear them apart forever?

What was the first RWA National Conference you went to? What was the one thing you wished you’d known that first time and would it have made a difference if you’d been published or unpublished?

The first one I attended was in Chicago, I think in 2000. I really didn’t know what RWA was at the time. I’d never heard of it before I was published, and my editor told me it was a conference where other romance writers went. So I went, expecting…what, I don’t know. I didn’t know about all the workshops and opportunities to network until I was there. So I guess I would say that I wish I would have known what the conference was really about, what its goals for members were, and how I could have made better use of it than I did. That’s not to say it wasn’t beneficial, because it certainly was. But it could have been more so had I known what to expect.

What are some of the things that writers, at any stage in their career can get out of going to Nationals?

I think first and foremost is the opportunity to meet and network with industry professionals whom you would never meet sitting in your office or at home. That’s where this conference is really unique, I think, in bringing industry professionals to the writers. Second, the chance to meet people with similar goals and experiences, at any level. And third, the various workshops for any stage of your career. Craft, promotion, business—it seems like they cover the full gamut.

What are some things as a published writer that are on your “must do” list at Nationals?

Gossip ☺. Okay, seriously, taking the opportunity to meet with people who can help further my career. For me, that includes my publisher, editor, agent, as well as the people who help me promote my work, such as Writerspace and Fresh Fiction. I try to meet with booksellers and buyers, and of course, readers. It’s a chance to meet face-to-face with everyone who helps make my business a success.

What’s the thing you don’t see people doing at Nationals that they should be doing?

Breaking out of their cliques and meeting new people. It is great to go off and hang with your friends, and I do that every year. But I also make sure, since I go to the trouble and expense of going, to reach out to new people. For me, that is readers and librarians and booksellers. For any one, at any stage of his or her career, reaching out will serve you when you are published.

What are some of the common pitfalls you see folks fall into regarding interacting with other writers/agents/editors?

A couple of things: Remember that people have busy schedules and have taken the time to set them up to see who they need to see. I know some people try to schedule things on the fly, or worse, will come and “join” you when you are having your meeting with your editor/agent/writer. It is best to try and schedule ahead of time. But having said that, knowing that not everyone can plan ahead for whatever reason, it is just polite to ask if it is a good time to interrupt, or better yet, inquire if there is another time the person can meet. I can’t tell you how many times I have been with an editor when someone stops and needs to chat right then, with no respect for my time or the editor’s time.
The second thing is alcohol. Hey, we all love a good party, but loose lips sink ships. I’m just saying ☺. I’ve known of more than one author or industry professional whose drinking reputation precedes her book reputation. Just remember that it’s fun, but it’s also a business conference.

If you were going to give one piece of advice to unpublished authors about attending Nationals, what would it be? What about for published authors?

Take advantage of all the conference has to offer, but don’t be a slave to it. Make it the best use of YOUR time, not theirs. I would say the same for published authors. There are some really good workshops, but there are some really good conversations happening everywhere. If you are a published author, I would highly recommend catching the Madeline Hunter and Sabrina Jeffries PAN workshop on numbers if you get the chance. It’s really enlightening.

We hear a lot about having an ‘elevator pitch’ ready to go at a moment’s notice. What are some things you think are good or bad about the pitch and do you recommend it?

I think you must have a killer pitch that you know will grab the person you are pitching. Remember that these people are getting pitched left and right, they have a million things going on, and the odds of them remembering are pretty slim in the best of circumstances. The pitch cannot sound like any other book out there. You really must have the right grab-you hook. So my advice sounds simple, but it’s really hard: Have the right pitch. To make sure you do, pitch it to friends and acquaintances who will tell you the truth about it. You need the truth, the bold, untarnished truth. And even then, you have to keep in mind that it is all subjective. The perfect pitch to one editor may be the snooze button to the next.

Any final thoughts on Nationals?

It’s a great conference! Have fun and enjoy it!

Thanks so much for being here today. I’ve got my copy of One Season of Sunshine in my TBR pile and I can’t wait to get to it!

Thanks for having me here. I really appreciate the opportunity to speak to your followers and invite anyone who is interested to visit to read more about me, an excerpt, and about upcoming books.