I have just returned from a three-day cruise on the Navigator of the Seas, a luxury floating hotel that offers super accommodation, great food and entertainment. I bet you are thinking, “she’s so engrossed in cruises, she mixed up her posts.” Nope. I didn’t lose my mind on the dream ship. Imagine that our FRW 2009 conference bore another name: Cruise with your Muse. Thanks to our conference organizer, Aleka Nakis, we held our 2009 cruise on a ship, sailed to Coco Cay and had a fantastic time.

It all started the night before with a pre-sail party at the Ale House where we met our guests: editors, agents, writers and a few smart husbands determined to share their wives’ fun. I had the pleasure to greet my editors, Raelene Gorlinsky from Cerridwen Press/ Ellora’s Cave and Rhonda Penders from The Wild Rose Press. Of course Raelene wore her charming little hat and Rhonda donned a t-shirt printed with a large THE WILD ROSE PRESS on the front.

On Thursday my husband drove me and my friend and critique partner from Canada, Joan Leacott, to Port Everglade to board the humongous Royal Caribbean ship. We dropped our carry-on in the cabin we shared and rushed to deck eleven for a delicious lunch, but I couldn’t linger on visiting the rest of the ship. Duty called.

As the editors/ agents appointment coordinator I had to report to the second floor. While the attendees lined up for their ten-minute meeting with the editor or agent of their choice, I led the VIPs to their tables: Adam Wilson editor at MIRA Books, Kerry Donovan from NAL, Rose Hilliard from St. Martin’s Press, Jessica Berry from Resplendence Publishing, and my two editors, as well as agents Holly Root from Waxman Agency and Miriam Kriss from Irene Goodman Literary Agency, who all gave so generously of their time to the attendees they interviewed. So many writers ended up pitching to four or five editors/agents and received multiple requests for full or partial manuscripts. Pitching time extended for two hours on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.

We patiently waited for the ship to weigh anchor while sipping drinks with FRW members, Traci Hall, Patrice Wilton, Jianne Carlo, Kimberly Burke, and chatting with Cindy Thomason, Zelda Benjamin and Allison Chase. By six-thirty the book signing started on the Promenade deck with over thirty authors selling and signing their books. We met many writers and readers before rushing to our cabin to change for dinner. Words fail to describe the elegance of the three-story dining room. I was sitting at the same table as Rhonda Penders and fellow author at TWRP, Maggie Toussaint, and later met Liana Laverentz, Loretta Rogers, J.L. Wilson and many others.

During the Floridian Idol, some brave writers anonymously submitted the first two pages of their works in progress, read by bestseller author Heather Graham and Michael Meeske. They received oral critique by editors and agents while we sipped delicious drinks offered by FRW.

In addition to workshops, we enjoyed Christina Dodd sharing her journey to publication. Joan and I posed for a lovely picture with her. Aleka distributed gorgeous thank you gifts to the volunteers who helped her organize the conference. With hardly any time left to spare, we gathered for happy hour in the Dungeon lounge and mingled with our guests before dinner. While some of FRW tested their singing talents in a karaoke session, Joan and I shared a drink with Nancy Cohen and exchanged impressions about our fabulous conference.

The cruise ended too soon on Saturday morning as we exchanged last minute business cards. What a fun and productive conference!

Mona Risk, www.monarisk.com


  1. Arkansas Cyndi // January 26, 2009 at 11:47 PM  

    I SOOOO wanted to do this cruise. Thank you for posting some photos. I so hope you have more pics to share!

    And there was a conference? HAHAHA

    How well were the workshops attended? How many did you make? That would have been my problem...Dragging me from the bar to a workshop! :)

  2. Mary Marvella // January 27, 2009 at 1:13 AM  

    Color me green, Mona! Great job of making me want to be there with you.

  3. Nancy J. Cohen // January 27, 2009 at 6:14 AM  

    Mona, you did a fantastic job scheduling the editor/agent appointments. It all ran smoothly, thanks to your efforts. It's too bad we have to wait another two years for the next FRW conference!

  4. Aleka Nakis // January 27, 2009 at 7:09 AM  

    The trick was to balance work and play. BUT I think we have one up on most people because we're romance authors! lol

    Mona had the pitch sessions running like a swiss time piece, and Nancy's ship expertise was invaluable in our planning.
    The speakers were great and varied, as were the agents and editors. Trust me, their pull was strong enough to draw particpants below deck, and their knowledge made the sessions extremely valuable to writers of all genres. We couldn't have asked for more...except for more time.lol

    We're in the process of uploading a recap and pictures to the website, www.frwriters.org . Remember to check back next year for more details on our 2011 Fun In The Sun conference. You can't miss it twice, Cyndi.

  5. Cyrano // January 27, 2009 at 9:49 AM  

    What a fabulous idea. A conference cruise. I never even imagined something like that existed. And so many big names mingling around the deck.
    Cruises are amazing, but a conference cruise would be to die for.
    Is your conference on a ship all the time? Or is this a first?
    Thank you for posting. The pics were great and it looks like you had a wonderful time!


  6. Pamela Varnado // January 27, 2009 at 12:31 PM  

    Wow! Now that's what I call a conference--drinks and lots of sunshine. Such a relaxing environment was sure to put the editors and agents in the mood to say, "send me the book."

  7. Mary Ricksen // January 27, 2009 at 1:33 PM  

    Mona, it sounds like everything went so smoothly! You guys really know how to plan a conference!
    I wondered who the cutie in the hat was. I loved it!
    And Rhonda, I can't believe how special she is.
    I am so glad you and Joan had a good time. She was a really sweet lady.

  8. Scarlet Pumpernickel // January 27, 2009 at 5:45 PM  

    Well, I'll just declare, MM that is my exact shade of green. It's very becoming to you!

    Mona, what a wonderful conference! I'm green, just like MM, at the thought of this wonderful adventure. Please do post more pictures and tell us all about the conference.

    Scarlet, sporting her favorite shade of green!

  9. Mona Risk // January 27, 2009 at 5:59 PM  

    No, no, no, Cindy, not from the bar to a workshop. Quite the opposite as we ran from the workshops to the bars. LOL

    Mary, glad you like the post. I hope you'll be there to share it next time.

    Nancy, it was lovely toasting with you and relaxing on Friday night.

    Aleka, our sweet queen, you didn't crack the whip. Everything went smoothly thanks to your great organizational skills. I guess next time you should give a workshop on how to organize a conference, even better a cruise.

    Cyrano, this cruise-conference was a first for us, but will be followed by more according to Aleka.

    Yes, Pamela, the editors and agents, all, said send me the manuscript, partial or full. You should have seen the smiling faces coming back from the pitches.

    Mary, we missed you so much. I had the pleasure of driving Rhonda and Liana Lavarentz after the cruise to their hotel. They are such nice ladies.

    Scarlet, we'll have to take you all next time, if only to bring back a natural color to your cheeks. LOL

  10. Julie Robinson // January 27, 2009 at 9:55 PM  

    What a coincidence. I just came from The Wild Rose Press, where Maggie Toussaint blogged today about this cruise. Sounds like you had a lot of fun.

  11. Joanne // January 28, 2009 at 8:45 AM  

    I so wanted to go on this cruise. Sounds like you did an admirable job organizing and keeping everything running smoothly.

    Sounds like everyone had a blast!

  12. Beth Trissel // January 28, 2009 at 3:08 PM  

    I envy you Mona, stuck here with my sick nieces and a lot of ice and snow. Great post and the pics are super.

  13. Chiron // January 31, 2009 at 3:22 PM  

    This looks like so much fun!

    Thanks for sharing the photos and turning me green with envy!! *laughs*

    Chiron O'Keefe
    SIDEKICKS, Eirelander Publishing, October 2009