Authors: Richard Paul Evans
The morning of December 10th I parked my car in the long-term parking lot of the Denver Airport and took the shuttle in to the terminal. There wasn't a direct flight from Denver to Burlington, Vermont, so I had a three-hour layover in Detroit, where I ate lunch and wandered through the airport. In a magazine shop I watched people browse through the books.
How would that be?
To have a book on one of those shelves?
It was dark when my cab drove up a pine-lined lane to the Mistletoe Inn, each of the trees wrapped with white Christmas lights.
“It looks cozy,” I said.
“Yeah,” the driver said. “It's a real nice place. Kind of fancy.”
The inn was decorated for the season with twinkling, draped garlands running the length of the hotel, glowing against the snow-blanketed backdrop of the deep purple night.
As I got out of the taxi, a young man wearing a long blue wool coat with black piping and a black felt top hat walked up to me. “Would you like help with your bag?”
“No, thank you. I just have the one. It's not heavy.”
“No problem; let me get the door for you.”
He opened the tall wooden doors and as I walked past him I was embraced by the warmth and ambience of the inn's extravagant lobby. “Greensleeves,” played on a harpsichord, faintly reverberated throughout the room. All around the lobby were flickering red candles, and the room was filled with a pleasant scent of cinnamon, clove, and pine.
There was a large Christmas tree next to the check-in counter hung with red baubles and silver icicles and tiny white flickering lights. The lobby walls were paneled with dark wood planks, and black metal carriage lamps hung from the high ceiling.
In the center of the room was a large fireplace with a roaring fire inside. The fireplace's mantel was made of polished dark pine with a garland draped over it, tied with red velveteen ribbons.
In front of the fire were two leather sofas and two red-velvet armchairs, arranged beneath a massive light fixture made of deer antlers. The sofas were occupied by an older couple and two young women, all holding wineglasses.
A few yards in from the door, on a gold easel, was a sign that read:
An arrow, which looked like the nib of a fountain pen, pointed to a table to the right of the check-in counter. The table was occupied by a lone fortyish woman with short auburn hair and thick-rimmed glasses. There was a small line at the hotel's check-in counter so I walked to the registration table. The woman smiled as I approached.
“Hello,” she said warmly. “Are you here for the conference?”
“Yes,” I said, setting down my bag. “I'm Kim Rossi.”
“Rossi, let me look that up.” She lifted a two-page roster and slid her index finger down the list, stopping about halfway on the second page. “Rossi,” she said. “Kimberly.”
“You came clear from Colorado. How was your flight in?”
“It was good,” I said.
“Good, good. Let's get you checked in.” She handed me a manila envelope with my name handwritten in purple marker on the outside. “This is your conference packet; it has your credentials along with a list of panels and lectures and some other information.” Then she lifted a white canvas bag from the floor behind her. “And this is a little welcome gift from the Vermont Tourist Association. It has a brochure with some coupons and a list of things to do in the area. There's also some locally produced maple syrup and maple candies in there. I should warn you, the maple walnut fudge is addicting.”
“Thank you,” I said, taking my things. “I'll be careful with the fudge.”
“And don't forget, our conference opening reception is tonight at 7 p.m. in the grand ballroom. You won't want to miss it.”
“How many are registered for the conference?”
“We have just over a hundred,” she said.
A voice behind me asked, “What's the male-to-female ratio?”
I turned around. Standing behind me was a beautiful woman about my height and maybe a year or two younger. She had long red hair that fell past her shoulders, freckled cheeks, and green eyes that were unusually brilliant.
“Unfortunately, the odds are in favor of the men,” the woman said. “There are only seven men enrolled.”
“May the odds be ever in your favor,” I said to the woman.
She looked at me. “That's fromÂ .Â .Â . wait, I know this.”
,” I said.
She clapped. “Yes! Are you Suzanne Collins?”
I looked at her blankly, wondering if she was serious. “I'm sorry, I'm not.”
“I'm sorry I'm not her either.” She put out her hand. “My name is Samantha.”
I took her hand, still not sure what to think of her. “Kim Rossi.”
“What kind of name is Rossi?” she asked.
“I love Italian,” she said.
The woman at the table said, “Let me find your registration, Samantha. What's your last name?”
“Samantha McDonald.” She looked through her papers. “Here you are.” She handed her a packet and canvas bag, reciting the same spiel she had for me, ending with, “The opening reception is tonight at seven in the grand ballroom. Enjoy the conference.”
I thanked the woman again, then walked over to the line at the check-in counter. The line had shortened and there was just one couple ahead of me. Samantha followed me over. “Is this your first time at one of these writers' conferences?” she asked.
“No. But it's my first time at this one.”
“This is my first writers' conference. I'm a little nervous.”
“You don't need to be nervous,” I said. “It's fun to be with other writers. They're all in the same boat as you.”
“Are you from Vermont?”
“Oh, we're neighbors. I'm from Montana.”
“Are there many writers in Montana?”
“Tons. It's Montanaâwhat else are you going to do?”
“Next, please,” the man at the check-in counter said.
“Excuse me,” I said.
I got my room key, then, as I turned to go, Samantha stopped me. “Are you going to the party tonight?”
“I was planning on it.”
“Do you want to go together?”
“Sure,” I said. “I'll meet you here at seven.”
“I'll be here with bells on,” she said.
I'm not sure why I had agreed so quickly. She seemed a little crazy. But she also seemed kind of fun. Besides, I hated being alone at parties.
My room was niceâwell designed, modern, but quaint. In the center of the room was a tall, king-sized bed with an antique headboard of dark oak and tufted dark-brown leather. The bed had a thick, greenish-tan duvet cover with matching pillow shams, along with several smaller decorative pillows.
On the wall opposite the bed was a large, rectangular mirror in an elaborate wooden frame. The mirror made the room look larger.
I sat down on the foot of the bed and opened up my conference packet. Next to several loose forms and registration papers were stapled pages with a schedule of events. I found a pen next to the telephone, then started down the list, checking or circling some of the classes that interested me.
LIST OF PRESENTATIONS AND EVENTS
MEET AND GREET
Monday evening, 7 p.m., Grand Ballroom. Credentials required.
Tuesday, 9â9:45 a.m. Presenter: Jill Tanner, Chairperson of the Mistletoe Inn Writers' Conference Committee, and Kathryn Nebeker, this year's Vice Chairperson of content.
DAILY GROUP WORKSHOPS
Tuesday, 10â10:45 a.m.
WednesdayâSaturday 9â9:45 a.m.
Important Note: You will meet each day with your workshop group. You have been preassigned to a group of 10 writers. Please check your packet for a yellow sheet with your designated group letter.
I found an 8 1/2-by-5 1/2 yellow sheet inside the envelope. Printed on it was a large letter
with the instructions that the group would be meeting in the Maple Room. I went back to the list of events.
TWITTER IN YOUR FACE(BOOK)
Building a community of readers through social media.
I made a check by it.
HOW NOT TO GET AN AGENT
Famous New York literary agent Laurie Liss shares the 5 things not to do when pitching an agent.
I circled it.
CLOTHES MAKE THE
Dressing (and undressing) your characters for success.
Probably not. Maybe.
I put a check by it.
THE CHANGING FACE OF ROMANCE
Romeo and Juliet
Bridges of Madison County
Fifty Shades of Grey
: Where the romance world is going next.
BACK IN ROMANCE
Creating the perfect Italian setting for an Italian love story.
No. I'm Italian, but my book's not set in Italy.
THE LIMOUSINE LIFESTYLE OF THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR
(Wednesday only) Mega-Selling Author Catherine McCullin recounts her career as one of the world's most celebrated romance writers.
AGENT SPEED DATING
Fifteen minutes to pitch your book to a real literary agent. (Additional fee required.) Reservations must be made before 1 p.m. on Tuesday. Sessions held Wednesday, Thursday, Friday only. Reservation form is included in packet. First come, first served.
This was what my father had paid for. Twice. I circled it.
FROM WALMART TO HOLLYWOOD
Bestselling Author Deborah Mackey talks about her rocket-like rise from retail store clerk to international bestselling author (via Skype).
Maybe. Don't like the Skype part. Sounds like she's phoning it in.
WHIPS AND CHAINS
(No, nothing exciting.) How to endure the stress and pressures of a sweatshop publishing house.
How to use punctuation (and not use it) to strengthen your stories.
VAMPS AND VAMPIRES
Tips for writing sizzling paranormal romances.
No interest in vampires whatsoever. Was once married to one.
BARE FEET AND BUGGIES
Writing your Amish love story.
Same as vampires. I wonder if anyone has written a vampire-Amish romance. If not, it will happen.
LIVING THE DREAM
Author David Bready shares his secrets to breaking down the walls to the publishing world.
Sounds good. Never heard of Bready. But he's publishedÂ .Â .Â .
THE EYES HAVE IT
Facial gestures that say more than words.
I could use that.
How to heat up the Internet with your e-book.
MAKING A 6-FIGURE SALARY ON 4-FIGURE BOOK SALES
How to make a lucrative living as a midlist author.
Quit the dealership to write? Okay.
CHOPPING THE WRITER'S BLOCK
How to keep writing when the words stop coming.
Definitely need this.
CLOSING KEYNOTE: WHY I STOPPED WRITING
H. T. Cowell.
I circled this a half dozen times. It was the first time that I saw what Cowell was speaking about, which frankly was exactly what I wanted to hear. Maybe what the whole world hoped to hear.
I set the conference material on the night table next to my bed and lifted my suitcase onto a luggage stand. I unzipped my case and took out my manuscript. I looked at it, then put it back in my suitcase. There was a little more than an hour before the reception so I set the alarm on my phone for fifteen minutes, then lay back on the bed. As I closed my eyes my phone rang. It was my father.