Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Trip Report: My Visit to #Miami for #ReadersFavorite Book Awards and the #MiamiBookFair 2015 @AyalaRachelle #MiamiReads

South Florida was a blast. I landed in Miami and was immediately hit by the humidity, palm trees, and friendliness. So much like Puerto Rico. Oh, and for a drought-stricken Californian, there was water everywhere--pools and pools of it between buildings, entire rectangular plots of water, and of course the Everglades.

Excitedly, I made my way to the Regency Hotel in Miami, a stylish, hotel reminiscent of twentieth-century Hollywood with its columns, dark wood trim, marble and funky elevator.

The Annual Readers' Favorite Award Ceremony is a three-night affair held annually in November in Miami, complete with field trips to the Miami Book Fair. As soon as I unpacked, I went to the meet and greet and met James Ventrillo, the Readers' Favorite CEO and soon made friends with Sheri Fink, a celebrated children's book author, and Marylee MacDonald, the gold medal winning literary fiction and dramatic fiction author. We then had dinner and met Darlene Quinn, Steve and Marge Lebel, Garret Blis, Diana Hart, Dete Meserve, Robert Ahanessians, Eddie Price, Danielle Hampson, and James Ventrillo in a comfortable and relaxed setting. What a wonderful way to spend an evening making new friends and talking shop.

The next day, Friday, I was up bright and early to catch the shuttle bus to the one and only Miami Book Fair. Obviously the first stop was the Readers' Favorite booth where I immediately spotted my book, A Father for Christmas with cute little Bree Kennedy on the cover. Here I am with the Readers' Favorite emcee, Eddie Price.

I also got to hang out with my friend, Jade Kerrion, a 2013 Readers' Favorite Gold winner, and her wonderful family: husband and three darling boys. The book fair was full of school children, all wearing brightly colored t-shirts, and an invigorating and palpable atmosphere of LOVE-TO-READ permeated the fairgrounds. An entire city devoted two-weeks to books, reading, and literacy. I'm awed!

After returning from the Miami Book Fair, I got a text message from my friend and fellow author, Cate Beauman, gold and silver winner in Romantic Suspense. She and her family had just arrived! We decided to try Cuban cuisine and walked over to the Latin Cafe. It turned out everything was yummy, especially the Guava Mimosa with Bolo ham and pickle sandwich.

We hung out afterwards and met many more authors, then attended the motivational lectures on marketing and how to get your book optioned for film, as well as advice on building a sustainable writing career. Everyone has a story! What's yours? It's never too early to get started.

The next day, we wanted to do something fun for Cate's husband and son, so we took a cab to the Miami Seaquarium. It was definitely the off season so it wasn't too crowded and I enjoyed the flamingos, parrots and cockatoo display best as well as the wild birds and lizards walking around the park.

After returning from the Seaquarium, I took a few hours to write (my NaNoWriMo book), before heading downstairs for THE AWARD CEREMONY!!! Woot! Everything was decked out fancy in Le Club, again dark wood trim adorned the area and flowers festooned the stage. We had time to meet and greet, take informal pictures, and mingle before the ceremony began.

Once it got started, it was full of energy, good vibes, and excitement! When was the last time I was the one getting my pictures and videos taken instead of being the parent behind the camera taking pictures and videos of my children? Here, everyone was a star and we all got our moment of glory, walking onto the stage.

Afterwards, I was interviewed by a media consultant--didn't catch her name, we had a buffet of finger foods, only I told everyone the empanadas were samosas [it wasn't until I got to the Miami Airport the next day that I realized those fried crescents were empanadas, something Miami is famous for.]

Check out my Facebook Page for more snapshots. It was a super fun experience being around so many energetic and excited authors. Best of all, everyone was genuinely friendly and no one pushed their books on anyone else. Instead, I got a chance to sample books, gather business cards and have bought a few on my own. My kindle full, I headed home on the airplane, a little sad to leave it behind, but mostly enriched from my experience of making new friends and realizing that everyone has a dream, and that the most important thing in life is making those dreams come true.

The paperback makes an excellent stocking stuffer!

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