By Kristin Ramsdell — Although having a conference in New York City just before the Fourth of July weekend wasn’t ideal, that didn’t deter more than 2100 writers, librarians, and other industry professionals from braving the holiday crowds and jam-packed flights to converge on the Big Apple to reconnect with colleagues, forge new relationships, hone their skills, and celebrate the past year’s accomplishments. Various pre-conferences preceded the main event, including the traditional Librarians and Booksellers Day Event that targets local booksellers and librarians.

Panels featuring authors, editors, librarians, and other industry pros informed the attendees on everything from what was new in the genre to how to use the increasing incidence of genreblending/genreblurring to cross-market their romance collections to new readers. Best-selling Regency Historical author Julia Quinn entertained everyone with her luncheon speech, and the afternoon was taken up with a networking event. The “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing, an annual RWA event that typically launches the main conference, raised more than $46,000 this year for ProLiteracy Worldwide and several local literacy projects.

Workshops, presentations, appointments, and more networking filled the next few days with luncheon speakers best-selling authors Madeline Hunter and Sherrilyn Kenyon providing inspiration and insight into the writing life. As always, the Rita Awards ceremonies, held on the last evening of the conference and beautifully hosted this year by Meg Cabot, was the highlight of the conference.

Ecstatic writers took home Golden Hearts for the best unpublished manuscripts, while published authors were rewarded with the sought-after Ritas. This year books in twelve categories were honored with Ritas; they provide a bit of something for everyone, make fascinating reading, and are listed below. Note: for more information on RWA and the conference, check out www.rwanational.org.