Writers conferences. A matter of hot debate, the question asked most frequently “Is a conference worth the time and money you spend to attend one?”
IF you’ve done your research, IMHO, yes, they are worth it! You can find sources in writer’s publications, local writers groups, and on line. One quick warning; there are as many types of conferences as there are genres, so research until you find one benefitting your genre, level of experience, and budget. You can find single subject conferences (characters, dialogue, marketing, etc.) that last a few hours or a single day. Weekend conferences with pitch sessions, meet and greet, and craft workshops. There are week-long retreats as well. Conferences have sprung up not for writers, but for readers. Many of your favorite authors have conferences to meet their fans, held in cities or on sea cruises. But for this blog, we’re dealing with writers!
First, choose a conference in your genre. If you write Mystery, don’t attend a Paranormal conference. Seems ridiculous to mention that, but one Romance conference I attended had a lone male there. Talked to him a bit and it turned out he was looking for help with Westerns. He was one lost puppy. But we put our heads together over the workshops, and craft is craft, so it wasn’t a total bust for him. Pointed out if he’d substitute ‘six gun’ for ‘stilettos’ in certain aspects, he’d do fine. Plus he loved the attention he got from all those ladies when word of his dilemma got around. Made me feel good he went away smiling.
I write paranormal romance. I’m attending Silken Sands Writers Conference in Pensacola, Florida this March 16-18 because of the sheer diversity of romance genres represented there. (If you need info, click here: www.gccrwa.com/silkensands .) Barbara Vey from Publishers Weekly is the Kickoff Speaker, a mighty presence with her personal blog there. Yet I’ve never met a more unpretentious woman. She has one of those smiles that has you opening up to her without being aware you’ve done so. Knowing she’s with us . . . Please excuse the strange woman doing the disjointed wiggle dance in the corner; I’m trying to stay to the shadows, but I’m super excited! And multi-published Historical Romance author Beverly Kendall is our Keynote Speaker. Can’t wait to hear what she has to say!
Speakers provide more than group entertainment. They’re head cheerleaders for every one there. The Keynote speaker is the individual held up as a success story, proof the dream can be accomplished. I’ve heard Keynote Speakers who tore at your heart with what they endured to achieve that dream. Sherrilyn Kenyon is one. She’d just started using her MacGregor moniker for a series, and we chatted about ancestors. She didn’t know me from Adam, yet was interested enough in the subject to ask how far back I’d tracked mine. I responded with a rousing “Clan MacClaine o’ Loch Buie, Scotland”, complete with hacked consonants and swallowed vowels. She started laughing. “How do you do that?” she wanted to know. “I still can’t get it right!” (Helps if you have family who never lost their accent. Imitation comes naturally to a child, and I guess I’ve never grown up.)
At another conference Romantic Suspense author Karen Rose talked about her writing journey, then brought home how ordinary individuals comprise writers’ ranks. Turns out she’s terrified of snakes. I’ll never forget her pot and spoon story, holding up the very items she bangs away on to scare off serpents every time she walks her dog. Even after a family member told her snakes have no ears, she refuses to budge off her stance her system works. After all, she’s never encountered a snake!
How many? And why? I try to attend three conferences a year. Why? Because there’s no better place to stay abreast of changes in the field. And with the financial crash of major publishing houses that left their long-term authors unpaid, the mass charge to ePub and Indie Pub, the change in royalty percentages and house expenses charged to the author, they’re changing often and quickly. Attending every four months or so to put your finger on the pulse is not unreasonable; in fact it’s good business. But even one a year will recharge you. Every conference has panels of experts, those knowledgeable of current facts, not just rumor and hearsay circulating the Twitterverse, loops, and email. They also have the most current list of author loops and organizations to choose from. Unfortunately there are scam artists out there. It’s comforting you can rest assured everyone at an RWA conference has been vetted by the chapter putting it on.
Throw in the opportunity to pitch a project one-on-one, directly to an acquiring editor or agent, and they become an unbeatable prospect. Being able to write “Requested Material” on an envelope or in a subject line lifts you out of the slush pile of thousands.
What Can You Expect At Conference?
Initially, a bad case of nerves. But then you look around and see quite a few others in the same condition. Nerves turn to excitement. Only another writer can truly understand a writer, and it’s a giddy moment when you realize you’re in an entire herd of them. Speaking with others at every level of the field gives you a good sense of what you’ll need to do to accomplish your goals.
Workshops at conference are varied, and set up to appeal to writers at almost every level. What do you need help most with? POV problems? Dialogue? World building questions? Where to start your book? Perfecting your pitch to that editor or agent? Organizing your space or writing to be your most productive? Finding that cotton pickin’ Muse who heartlessly abandons you when you finally have an hour to write? By going over the workshop descriptions, you can pick the best ones that specifically help you improve your craft.
But it’s the friendships you form, the networks you enlarge that stand out the most. The encouragement you get from someone who has been where you are. The inner glow you feel when you help someone who’s where you’ve been.
So come join me at Silken Sands. I need a few more friends who write. We’ll learn. We’ll teach. We’ll commiserate. We’ll cheer. We’ll laugh. We’ll stay up too late. We’ll share.
And at least once, we’ll take time to walk to the water’s edge and play in the waves and push our toes into the sand.
See you on the beach!
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Filed under: Phantasy Friday, Uncategorized | Tagged: agent pitches, Author Beverly Kendal, Barbara Vey, conferences, editor pitches, ePub, GCCRWA, genres, Indiepub, Pensacola Beach, Publishers Weekly, romance conferences, romance writers, Silken Sands Writers conference, workshops | 6 Comments »