May 23, 2011

Hospitality

Hospitality

On May 21, 2011, Colorado Romance Writers hosted their annual conference at Indian Tree Golf Course. Our main speaker was Kara Lennox, Harlequin romance writer. We had Kristin Sevick, TOR/Forge editor, taking pitches. As Vice President, it was my job to pick them up at the airport. This was the first time I entertained people from the publishing industry. For the past two days, I hosted these two special ladies and you know what? I had fun, getting to them not just as an editor or a famous author, but as people.
On Friday, I had plans to take Kara and Kristin to Colorado’s Brown Palace for high tea, something I had never done before. Unfortunately, Kristin emailed me in the morning and her plane was delayed – five hours. She was trapped in New York. Problems happen. I adjusted and told her not to worry that I would pick her up at DIA at three thirty.
I called the Brown Palace and changed the reservation to lunch at one thirty at the Ship’s Tavern. At twelve forty, I picked up Kara. We had a snafu of not knowing what each other looked like so I had to make phone calls and find her. We connected outside and laughed. I had walked by her, because she didn’t look like the picture I had.
As we headed down town, no silence interrupted our easy chatter. She wasn’t a scary person, just someone who wanted to experience the beauty of Colorado. We drove by the blue horse statute at DIA, and I learned something new. Did you know that DIA’s horse was touted as being one of the top ten scariest statutes in the world? Kara had read that.
We made our reservation at the Ship Tavern’s. Kara ordered a salmon salad, and I had a Kobe Burger – like always, the service was excellent and our meal delicious. We chatted about the industry – conferences, contest reviews and self-publishing. Next, we talked about our homes and the stress of remodeling. We decided to have a cup of coffee as we talked about the horrors of buying clothes and the woes of trying to lose weight as two women over forty.
I glanced at my watch and realized I had a half hour to pick up Kristin. Kara and I raced back to my SUV. In the parking garage, we had to go up to find the exit. Kara almost directed me the opposite way which would have been the wrong way, and said she’s always gets lost or points people in the wrong direction.
We raced out to DIA again. My heart thumped that I was late in picking up an editor. I called Kristin, and luckily, she had just arrived. At Frontier, she stood at the curb waiting for us. She flew on Frontier and reported that the Grizwald the Bear was on the tail of the airplane. So, did he just wake up from hibernation? Or was he too busy trying to find some honey? Despite her five hour delay at LaGuardia Airport, she smiled and brushed it off. Not a frightening person at all.
I took them back to their hotel, Grand Hyatt, and as they freshened up in their rooms, I waited in the bar. Kara came down first and we ordered drinks. We talked about our pets. Kara has a cat and I, of course, have a cocker spaniel named Sadie. I brought up the book, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, and Kara mentioned that one of her friends wanted her to read a book about dog that gets reincarnated, trying to learn his purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron, a male author her friend knew. “Does the dog die?” Kara asked her friend. When the friend hesitated, Kara said, “I can’t do it.” Her dog died ten years ago and she just couldn’t replace it. Her friend said, “But it’s so good! The dog keeps coming back.”
At that time, Kristin joined us. Once again, we returned to our pets and books on animals. Kristin said that she edited a book called A Dog’s Purpose written by Cameron. Kara laughed. “I know that author. Or at least, I know of him.” Talk about six degrees of separation.
Saturday was the conference with the normal hustle and bustle, but on Sunday, neither Kristin nor Kara’s planes left until in the afternoon. We were going to go to breakfast and then go to the Tattered Cover. I planned on taking Kara back to the hotel since Kristin wanted to go hiking. However, another problem arose. The Tattered Cover didn’t open until ten o’clock. I asked Kara if she wanted to go hiking and she jumped at it. “I can get a big breakfast anytime.” We grabbed a cup of coffee and a light breakfast at Starbucks and headed up the hill.
After a week of rain, we couldn’t have asked for a lovelier day. First we made a pit stop at the Trading Post at Red Rocks and then we hiked up the paved road and then, the winding stairs to the amphitheater. Kristin and Kara gasped for air, but continued on the trek –neither wanted to admit defeat. Their eyes widen when we reached the amphitheater. Men and women walked, jogged and sprinted up and down the sixty nine benches and stairs. A woman walked her little bichon across one of the benches and a little toddler hopped from seat to seat.
We darted to the other side where I though the Trading Post trail was located. Little did they know I was notorious for leading my friends and family down the wrong path and unfortunately, this was no different. After hiking up a path that led to a huge red rock, we turned and retraced our steps. Next, we climbed a river bed. We arrived at a parking lot, but Kristin spotted a map near the amphitheater. The map said that the trail was located next to the Trading Post. Duh?
But even then, we had to go inside the Post and ask for directions. Once on the trail, we chatted. Kristin said one time she was hiking back east and her dog started barking at what looked like two Rottweilers, but on closer inspection, she discovered they weren’t dogs – they were cubs and mama was right behind him. Kristin wanted to watch, but not her husband. They got out of there fast. Her husband wasn’t into animals, even on their trip to the Galapagos. While Kristin was fascinated by seals and lizards, her husband asked questions about the volcanoes and when they were formed. He would have loved Red Rocks and told her if he ever came to Colorado, he would never want to leave. As a Colorado Native, I have to admit I understand him perfectly.
Kara, on the other hand, was an avid bird watcher. Along the way, she pointed out birds and called to them. Her husband wasn’t into bird watching, but went on hikes with her. He preferred riding his bike, and she and her husband biked everywhere in California together. They only owned one car between them. Similar to Kara and her husband, Kristin and her husband don’t even own a car and traveled everywhere in New York by public transportation. They were also bike riders.
On our drive back to Denver, Kara said that she never felt so welcomed to a conference. At first, I thought that was strange, because I assumed everyone treated their speakers in a similar manner, but Kristin said the same thing. “I usually just get picked up at the airport, taken to my hotel, then the conference and shuffled back to the airport.”
I frowned. I kept thinking of my mom drilling into me about good manners and treating people with kindness. Was it really too much for chapters to treat the editors, agents and speakers as people? Hospitality goes a long way, but it was more than just taking them out for meals. I believed going that extra mile left a lasting impression. I know if I ever made it big as a writer and was invited to talk at a conference in an unknown city, I would want someone to show me the sites, not just trap me in a hotel room. Taking them out to dinner was nice, but on the hike, I learned more about them as people. What’s that writing term? Deeper Point of View? Kristin and Kara weren’t just an editor and an author. They were pet owners, bird watchers, snorkelers and bikers, but most of all, they were individuals I wanted to know.

3 Responses to “Hospitality”

  1. Hi Mary,
    the con was great and I’m so glad you spent the time with Kara and Kristen. I agree with you completely. Special guests should be given opportunities to have fun, especially when in a strange city by themselves. We have a tourist destination state, and for our guests its a special trip. Sounds like you made it even more special.

  2. Hi Mary,

    You do so much for the CRW! Thank you so much spending your time with those lovely ladies! The conference was a huge success and I think everone had a great time. =)

  3. Good job Mary!

    For speakers both Kristin and Kara were very relaxed and seemed to enjoy themselves – must have been because you did such a great job welcoming them to our beautiful state!

    Thank you! (Oh and fun post)

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