The Romance Writers of America association is meeting in Washington this week for its annual convention.
There are the usual speakers and forums and workshops scheduled. And then last night was the Literacy Signing, open to the public — a benefit for some nonprofit, I don't even know which one. Frankly, I didn't really care. Because there were 500 — that's right, 500 — authors sitting at tables with their books, pens in hand.
What was incredible — besides meeting and talking to some of my very favorite authors — was the diversity of the huge crowd and the authors themselves. It's true that I didn't see any male writers. But otherwise it was a stunning multiplicity of people: big-city types and people from smaller towns, young and old, fat and thin — you get the picture.
A couple things stood out.
First was the Successful Author Uniform. The heavy-hitters — Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, Linda Howard and my personal favorite Suzanne Brockmann (and can I just say, she was incredibly gracious when I met her?) — had special tables off to the side so there was room for long lines to form. I was struck by their outfits: the black suit, the classy pin, the highly coiffed hair and the best accessory, a general aura of success. Indeed, that was in great supply last night among the Successful Authors. As for the authors — who are also successful, I might add — they were also wearing various uniforms, their versions of the Successful Author Uniform. But funnily enough, their idea didn't conform to anything you'd consider fashionable. It was more, I don't know, a Romance Author Uniform — flowered dress, humorous earrings, comfortable shoes.
But I digress.
The other thing that stood out was bad red hair.
Because I really admire anyone who can write a novel — not to mention smart and funny novels — I don't want to name names. But I was really surprised at the outbreak of weird red dye jobs. What was that about? Is it a way to let people know you're not made from a particular mold, that you're different and interesting? Well, it doesn't really work.
However, it is true that number one thing you can do to change your look is to change your hair. Cut and color are so important as a way to show the world who you are. But you do NOT need a screaming burgundy-red color to let the world know you're fun and interesting, bold and dramatic. That idea is better conveyed through your clothes and accessories — and not, I might add, the cute and fun pins and earrings I saw on display last night.
But I don't want to end on a negative note, because I do love romance novels so much. I will say that I was so thrilled to meet the authors I've been reading for years. And, you know, I'm really not alone in my reading habits. I once read that some huge percentage of books sold are romances. These stats don't bear that out, but they do show that it's very likely that you or another smart, interesting woman you know, has recently read a romance.