If you're a seasoned RT Conventioneer, chances you've seen spunky bookseller Deborah Neff's smiling face at a RT Convention event or two. For the past five years, Deborah has joined us as we've celebrated reading and romance all over the country, and today she shares some of her most memorable moments from this year's RT Booklovers Convention.

I’ve just recently returned from my fifth RT Booklovers Convention, this time located in Chicago, IL. As always, it was non-stop activities, books, authors, books, occasional hunky eye candy, (did I mention books?), parties, little sleep — in short, a blast!

In 2008, when I decided on a whim to attend my first convention, I can remember the shocked responses of my family, friends, and co-workers: You’re going where? Who are you going with? Do you know anyone there? Of course, I didn’t know a soul who was attending. They all thought I was nuts and for a moment when I first entered the hotel and saw everyone walk by in groups; I thought that I might be, too.

Since I was a bookseller, I headed straight for the Bookseller orientation meeting. Kate Ryan, the Bookseller liaison, made me feel so welcomed and I immediately became friends with several other booksellers. In fact, as the week progressed, I went from not knowing anyone, to by the time I left, feeling that I had met everyone and had made lots of new friends.

Fast forward to 2012, by now I have had five conventions under my belt. Now when I go, I have lots of people that I know and happily, one of my friends & co-workers, Dana, is equally addicted to attending after dragging her with me to the 2009 Orlando convention. Her exact quote was “I’ve already called my husband and told him that I will be going every year until I die!”

As a bookseller, it is such a fun opportunity to get to meet the authors of the books I sell. Now I can associate the person with the name on the book. Before I attended the conventions, I was such a creature of habit in my reading choices. I’d read the same authors and rarely try someone else. Now, since I know many of the authors, I try to read (and recommend to customers) their books. In fact, I am always thrilled when I sell one of their books!

Naively, it wasn’t until I attended my first convention that I realized the hunky men on the book covers where actual people! Somehow, I thought they were the manifestation of some artist’s imagination. Now, when I am shelving books, I look at the covers to see if it’s anyone I know!

Deborah with two of the Ellora's Cavemen

All of the conventions have the same elements, but for me, this year’s convention highlights included:

Sightseeing in Chicago: This year, Dana and I decided to arrive a couple of days early to relax and sightsee. Let me just say, that Chicago is not called “the windy city” for nothing! And it was cold. Thank God I brought a warm jacket and gloves.

We went to the Navy Pier, Miracle Mile, and walked all along downtown Chicago. We also went to the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower), the tallest building in the western hemisphere (3rd tallest in the world). The Willis Tower has glass ledges, which extend out 4 feet from the Skydeck. I thought it would be a piece of cake stepping out on the ledge until I looked down the 103 stories! Ayyyyy!!!

Ellora’s Cave Hip-Hop party: This year, the Ellora's Cave people hooked us up with major swag! We had a great time putting on our hats, Ellora’s Cave medallions, and sunglasses and pretending we were fly! They had some dancers perform for us, which was very entertaining. For me, this was the best party of the week!

Private bookseller session with J.R. Ward: This was a rare treat for us! J.R. Ward spoke and answered questions for our small group. She was so interesting and she was dripping in diamonds! Very classy and intelligent woman.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips: I was beyond thrilled that my very favorite author attended this year! She participated in a couple of sessions (of course, I sat on the front row!) and autographed her latest book, Call Me Irresistible, for me.

Meeting Anne Rice: It was such an honor and privilege to meet such a living legend! She was a very kind and classy lady. She autographed her latest book, The Wolf Gift, for me, too.

It’s always a little sad when I leave because it’s hard to say goodbye to new friends and old, but the good news is we all stay in touch through Facebook, email, and phone calls until the next convention. When I think of how much RT has meant to me over the past 5 years, I am so glad that I took a chance and went that first year! The friendships and the good times are priceless.

- Deborah Neff

Do you have a special memory from this year's RT Convention? Share it in the comments below! For more 2012 RT Convention coverage, click here.

Tags: Convention
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