Romance writers connect with fans this weekend in Orlando

- Orlando is world famous as a convention town, and this week, the Dolphin Hotel at Disney is being invaded by something quite magical: A group of special people with the power to create worlds where dreams really do come true.

They are romance writers – more than 1,000 of them – attending the National Romance Writers of America’s annual convention.

"The majority of the conference is for education and networking," explained Shirley Jump from Clearwater, a former newspaper reporter now on her 68th romance novel.

At the conference, she's teaching other writers how to up the conflict in their romance.

Across the hall will be Sarasota's Karen Rose, who writes gritty but also romantic thrillers. "I think romance hits a nerve. It's a need people probably aren't even sure they have until they read their first one. It's a place where they can hide when their lives get too hectic or scary. I know that's what I did before. I hid in romance novels when my husband had cancer."

Rose used to be an engineer. She holds two patents for bulk fiber laxatives.

What is more fun?

"Would I rather write sexy scenes or drink what I make in a bulk fiber laxative lab? I think the first one," she said with a laugh.

Since leaving the day job, Rose has written 20 books; her latest is coming out in August.  Rose is a two-time winner of the Rita -- the Oscar for romance writers awarded yearly at the convention.

Carol Post from Haines City is one of this year's nominees. She's wishing upon a star that her dream comes true this week.  She says she wouldn't be here, or even be published, without RWA.  "When you're trying to get published and you get rejection after rejection, which is all part of the process, it's really easy to get discouraged and quit. I did that a few times before I found RWA."

RWA is a thriving community of magic-makers, sprinkling pixie dust on pages, hoping to fulfill the fantasies of around 34 percent of the U.S. fiction market. And, get paid for it.

According to Nielsen, Women do make up around 82 percent of romance book buyers in the U.S. But men buy these books, too

And more than $1-billion in sales means the romance business is still hot, from erotica to inspirational.

But no matter what your fantasy is, you can find it in Orlando this weekend, especially when the door opens to RWA's literacy book signing, the grand finale of convention week. It's free to the public. And the proceeds go to local and national literacy charities.

Heather Burch of North Port, who writes romance and women's fiction, explained how enchanting it is when readers finally meet their favorite writers. "They get one-on-one face time with them, talking about books and what they loved, and why did you kill off this character?  Is this character going to have her own book?"

So, if you're looking for a magical experience and that elusive happily-ever-after, the happiest place on earth is just the place you need to be.

If you want to attend the literacy signing and meet some of your favorite authors, it's this Saturday, July 29, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Pacific Hall. Here's a link to more details: https://www.rwa.org/literacy

If you can't attend, Linda will be doing a Facetime live from the event Saturday around 3 p.m.  Visit her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheLindaHurtado/

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