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New York-New York: Back-to-back conferences in Manhattan

times square

At the end of July and early August, I spent two consecutive weekends in New York City, mingling with my kind—aka writers, you know, the ones who understand why I stare at the wall and call it “working”—exploring the busy streets on foot, attending workshops, and giving my own presentations (on Scrivener and self-publishing).

The first weekend, I attended the Romance Writers of America (RWA) annual national conference. Imagine 2000 writers and industry professionals, 99% of them women, talking plot, characterization, self-publishing, industry trends, writer’s block, query letters, and work-life balance.

The fun goes from sunup till midnight for four straight days. Once conference starts, you could easily never leave the hotel. After you've faced the mad crush of Times Square, Hell's Kitchen, and Broadway—think facing off at the line of scrimmage—you might not want to. 😉

{click any image to enlarge}

Gwen and Keely with plaques

Can you tell I woke early and spent the morning on a train? Keely Thrall and I won signed quotes from Nora Roberts at the Golden Network retreat on Wednesday.

central park west

Running down Central Park West before the conference starts on Thursday.

fruit stand

A fruit stand we found on 8th Ave in Hell's Kitchen on the way back from dinner. I loaded up on snacks.

Hudson River

Running north on the Hudson River Friday morning.

Kiss and Thrill friends

All but one of us from managed to attend RWA this year. It was great to catch up with each other in person.

Highline Trail

The Highline Trail (an old elevated railway turned multi-use path).

Hudson River and Highline Trail

View of the Hudson from the Highline Trail.

Funny ad on building

This ad made me laugh on my run to the Hudson River. You can just see the USS Intrepid at the bottom right of the picture.

The following weekend, I returned for the annual Writer’s Digest (WD) conference, an event for all types of writers in both fiction and nonfiction. In my unscientific visual survey, the 800 or so writers, agents, and editors in attendance appeared to be split roughly 50/50 between women and men. That definitely affects the atmosphere (not better or worse, just different).

Since WD is affiliated with a magazine rather than a membership organization, most people didn’t know each other—and many of them seemed to be earlier in their writing career—but everyone was friendly and excited. I met three people in the first hour, just standing in line to register (wrong line, oops) and sitting on the hotel’s mezzanine. Along with the workshops and keynote speakers, the pitch slam—like speed dating with agents and editors—was a huge draw.

It was also nice being in Midtown East, which despite boasting Grand Central Station, the United Nations, Park Ave, Madison Ave, and the Chrysler Building, was far less crowded than the west side.

Roosevelt Hotel lobby

The lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel from the mezzanine level.

grand central exterior

I stumbled upon Grand Central Station while walking down Park Ave on my way home from dinner the first night.

Chrysler building and Grand Central Station

The Chrysler Building at sunset, towering over Grand Central Station.

Inside Grand Central

Inside Grand Central. There's even an Apple Store.

Ceiling inside Grand Central Station

Part of the ceiling inside Grand Central Station. Zodiac signs in the stars.

Freedom Tower

On Saturday morning I ran down Park Avenue–which was closed to cars for the morning–to the Brooklyn Bridge, then veered west to find the Freedom Tower and World Trade Center Memorial.

WTC memorial

World Trade Center Memorial, north pool. I was surprised how small the footprints of the WTC buildings were.

Storm trooper in doorway

The “guy” loitering near the door of this restaurant on Park Ave looked a bit out of place…

Patience the lion at NY Library

Hanging with Patience the lion outside the NY Public Library on 5th Ave.

Chrysler Building at night

The Chrysler Building at night from 5th Ave.

East River

Running on the East River on Sunday morning.

Back-to-back weekends in Manhattan was definitely exhausting, but I squeezed as much as possible out of both the conferences and the city. I had a fantastic time, reconnected with old friends, made new friends, learned lots, and came home motivated and inspired to get back to writing in my quiet little suburb.

Tell your friends!


  1. Reply

    Holy cow! When do you get time to write? Glad you had a great time, I think those crowds would intimidate the heck out of me, lol
    Jacquie Biggar

    • Reply

      LOL, Jacquie. Write? What’s that? 😉 I never expect to get any writing done during a conference. Too busy and tiring. I’m definitely not a crowd person, but it’s fun for a few days, especially if you don’t have to drive. The lane markings are used more like suggestions in Manhattan. 😉

  2. Reply

    Well, this is what a call a very interesting review of two beautiful week-end.
    Thank you Gwen to share your fun and your knowledge. I love your blog and your descriptions.
    Lison Dubreuil

    • Reply

      Thanks, Lison! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I love exploring. Running and going to dinner are about the only chances I have to explore when I’m at a conference. There’s nothing worse than staying in a new or interesting city and not being able to see any of it. 🙂

  3. Reply

    I’ve done business trips to New York City several times but I will never know it well. I’m curious — at the conferences, did others discuss using open source writing software vs. Scrivener? I have about 5 different projects on Scrivener right now, but as a software developer I’m always interested in alternatives, and I wonder what your peers are using. Make no mistake — I get a lot out of Scrivener. The courses I took with you earlier this year were a great help. I do need to retake the compile class and will sign up for it.

    • Reply

      Bob: I’ll never know NYC like a native, but it’s fun getting familiar with different parts of it. I haven’t heard discussion about open source writing software in any capacity. For most writers I’ve talked to, they either use Word, Pages, or Scrivener. Thanks!

  4. S. J. Pajonas (spajonas)


    Looks like you had a great trip and awesome double conferences! I love NYC. It’s my favorite city.

    • Reply

      I did, S.J.! I think living in NYC would stress me out quickly, but it’s fun to visit. I love being able to get everywhere without a car, and there’s so much to see and do just in Manhattan. 🙂

    • Reply

      I should have expected you to go there, Bob. 😉 I’m not sure I’m brave enough to ride a bike in New York! But they do have those CITI bikes in various places. Also, there were swarms of cyclists when I ran through Central Park. You’d probably love it!

  5. Reply

    Be still my heart! New York! Your shot of Time Square is excellent. Sounds like you had a great trip. An August NY trip does remind me of The Lovin Spoonful’s Summer in The City. “Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty” But! But! NY anytime is a good time. ( Why not invent reasons to go back?)

    • Reply

      Ha, thanks, Curtis! Good music choice, though we had amazing weather when I was down there, especially the first weekend. Very mild.

      I had a great trip, both times. For the RWA weekend, I took Amtrak for the first time. Very nice.

      I’ll definitely try to get back to NYC before we leave New England. And of course, there’s always RWA 2019. 😉

  6. Reply

    Love, love, love all the pictures! I have my Nora quote in my bedroom on a bookshelf (how appropriate). I wonder if I could blow it up to poster size…

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