Conferences – scary or sensational?
Recently, a chaptermate sent out a few very pointed questions about conferences. In her follow up, she said this will be my first time attending the RWA National conference so I need to learn as much about the process as I can. It struck me that other people might be wondering if the expense and travel is worth it.
In a word, YES. Writing is a lonely, solitary business. In my (non-writer) circle of friends, they’ll listen to a maximum of five minutes of writing related comments from me before their eyes glaze over. They’re proud of my accomplishments, but don’t want to hear the day to day details. There certainly isn’t a proverbial water cooler at which to exchange writing rants and gossip by my laptop. A conference is a chance to share and learn and listen and let it all hang out. For a few glorious days, everyone cares about your sagging middle, POV issues and query letter trauma. Sympathy and advice flow freely, mingled with laughter and ear-to-ear smiles. It feels like home.
Validation is so important in this business. When you struggle to squeeze in writing pre-dawn or post-nightfall around a day job, it is hard to remember that your writing is also a career. In fact, if measured in blood, (emotional) sweat and tears, a much more serious career. Networking often feels close to impossible. A conference closes that gap. Agents and authors are not just approachable, but warm and encouraging. Every moment is a celebration of you as a writer. Last year I had dinner with Donald Maass, agent extraordinaire. How? By plopping myself into the only empty chair at an eight-top and diving into the conversation.
Can it be scary to walk into a ballroom filled with 2,000 people you don’t know and decide where to sit? Sure – for about a second. Then you remember that much of the room feels the same way. Talk to strangers at meals. Make sure to chat with the people on either side of you at workshops. Yes, multi-pubbed authors still attend workshops! Strike up a conversation while waiting in line at book signings. Like many other life experiences, you get out of it what you put into it.
As fabulous as RWA National is, it isn’t the only conference worth attending. Many authors actually prefer smaller, regional conferences because that grant even more access to agents and editors. Small or large, in your neighborhood or two states away, I’d venture to say attending a conference is a must. Maybe you’ll learn how to strategize a series. Maybe you’ll pitch your book straight to a publisher and get a request. Maybe another writer will help you plot through the muddy pothole into which your WIP has fallen. Or maybe you’ll make a lifelong friend and critique partner. Does my chapter mate need to ‘research’ the process beforehand? Nope. Just show up and go to every possible thing you can with a smile on your lips and a pitch in your back pocket. It’s that easy!
Act Like We're In Love
When two people make beautiful music together onstage, can their love survive once the curtain falls? Linnea Larson is willing to do anything to keep her family's Minneapolis dinner theatre from going under. Anything, that is, besides accepting a date from the Hollywood hunk her father hired to inject a dose of star power into their production of Guys & Dolls. It's a toss up whether his greatest claim to fame is playing a superhero on screen, or a super stud off screen. Neither fact convinces her he's got what it takes to share her stage. And thanks to a life long pact with her best friend, she never dates actors.
Luke Powell has fame, fortune, and an endless string of women, but also a lingering dissatisfaction with his picture perfect life. Looking for a change, he escapes to his theatrical roots. What he finds are wary cast mates, a nervous best friend convinced the show will ruin Luke's career, and an adorable costar who stubbornly refuses to go out with him. Suddenly singing and dancing aren't the only challenges he'll tackle over the summer. Far from the spotlights of Hollywood, can he find happiness in the footlights of a tiny theatre?
Despite Luke dragging her into his daily paparazzi nightmare, Linnea can't deny her mounting attraction to his irresistible charm. And even if she's crazy enough to chance getting involved, their fling would have a guaranteed expiration date. He's leaving at the end of the run, and she's tied to her family's theatre. Why risk the inevitable heartbreak? Their job is to act like they're in love, but will they decide it's worth the leap to fall in love for real?
Great post, Christi! I lost my conference 'virginity' last year when I attended my first Romantic Novelists Association (UK RWA equivalent) conference in July. I knew one person, who I travelled there with, and that was it. Nervous was not the word to describe the chabbering mess I was when I arrived, LOL!
But within an hour, i felt as if I'd come home and three days later didn't want to leave. Loved it, loved it, loved it!