From Alligators to Scrapbooks: What Christi Barth Learned at RT

There's always room in your brain for more knowledge, especially when attending an event like the RT Booklovers Convention where authors and other publishing professionals engage attendees in smart conversations about the world of books. Author Christi Barth learned a thing or two while in NOLA for this year's RT Con, and today she's sharing the top five things she learned. Take a look:

My friends mock me, because I never sleep in at a conference or take time to sightsee. I go to every hour of panels possible, and proudly sport the dark undereye circles to prove it.

Jon Fine, Amazon’s Director of Author & Publishing Relations, said that “the most sophisticated, nurturing and intelligent writers in the country are romance writers.” Sure, I like starting this article on a high note, but I also agree. RT is a place where you get to rub elbows and talk shop with so many different people. Authors and agents and publishers who are scarily smart and sharp and witty and warm and welcoming and lovely. Here's what I learned this year:

A photo of Christi Barth eating Alligator balls with Lea Nolan and Eliza Knight

Christi Barth (right) "toasting (alligator) balls" with authors Lea Nolan and Eliza Knight

1. Alligator is delicious. I determined this by trying alligator balls at the RT Mardi Gras World party, with more balls on Bourbon Street with my editor (because come on — what romance author in doesn’t want to come home from a con saying she had delicious balls multiple times?), and again with fried alligator bites as a reward for surviving the hordes of fans at the Giant Book Fair. In other words, don’t forget to step out of your comfort zone at a con and try something new.

2. No matter what, drag yourself out of bed to the morning mixer. Two years ago at RT in Chicago, I went to a thriller/mystery breakfast mixer and was rewarded with a great speech by Steve Berry and the discovery of Alma Katsu’s compelling books…along with a bag stuffed with about eight other books and the opportunity to meet people outside my genre. So I made sure to hit this year’s morning mixer, the Cajun Queen Riverboat Casino. Yet again, I walked out of there with a brimming bag of free books. I also used that opportunity to do the up close and personal fan girl thing with Julie Kenner, Colleen Gleason and Tamara Hogan — along with twenty other amazing authors. They were just hanging out at tables, waiting to engage with readers. You can sleep any old time — at RT, you can talk face-to-face with your favorite authors. You can find out the inside scoop on the next eagerly awaited book in a series.

3. USA Today bestselling author Toni Blake writes in a park. Even if it is seventeen degrees out — she still sits in her car there and writes for seven hours. This is the kind of fascinating detail you learn from going to panels at RT.

4. New Orleans has amazing food. My first night I had a cherries jubilee white chocolate bread pudding. I was ready to call the week a huge success right then and there. Not to mention the beignets, muffalettas, and those insanely good cupcakes at the Avon Krewe of Muses party. But I guess the nugget of wisdom I should pass on is to not be afraid to leave the hotel. You can chat talk the future of publishing in the lobby bar…or while drinking at a Carousel Bar in the French Quarter. So grab your author buddies you only see at RT, get out and make a memory!

A photo of a scrapbook made by a reader

5. Speaking of memories, the very best ones of the convention come from interacting with the readers. After all, that is what this convention is all about. Having bloggers stop you in the hall to squeal about an upcoming series is a feeling authors can’t get when hunched over their laptops at home. RT gives us such a great opportunity to meet the people who appreciate our writing, who get our voice, who love our characters as much as we do. At the Giant Book Fair, I signed about eight scrapbooks like the one in the picture above. Readers cared enough to create books of all their favorite authors and covers, and stand in line for hours to get them signed. Geez, I well up a little just thinking about it again. Talking to them was the highlight of RT, and I can’t wait to do it again!

We all leave exhausted, but filled with new knowledge, renewed enthusiasm for our craft, and appreciation for our industry. So let’s share the joy — what did you learn from RT?

You can pick up Christi's next romance, Up to Me, releasing next month. For more RT Convention coverage, click here.