January 30th, 2005

There’s been a lot of talk about conferences lately on the loops. Opinions are like a**holes and everyone has one. I am no exception. (wg) I thought since the talk of conferences is in the air I’d list a few observations.

I’ve been to four conferences since I started taking my writing seriously, two were the RWA Nationals, one was the Romantic Times Convention, and lastly my local RWA conference. The first National I attended was completely overwhelming. I’d finaled in a contest that was to be announced during the conference. I didn’t setup any agent or editor meetings because frankly, I was terrified. I had no idea what I was doing. I did listen to talks by a couple of agents, including my future agent. I took notes on whatever any editor said. LOL! Luckily, I met a wonderful woman whom I’m still friends with today. We got to be freaks together. 🙂

On the flipside of that conference is the Romantic Times Convention. I went to that conference in 2001. I must say that the focus of that gathering is on fun, fun, fun. I know that their ‘writing’ emphasis has grown over the years. Not sure how much that will change things. It’s a laid back affair that allows you to meet other authors and readers, who share your interests. I actually made more friends at that conference than at National. I think it’s because RT is relaxed and people at National are a bit tense. National last year was no exception. It may have been Harlequin’s sudden announcement of a shakeup or the stormy weather, I don’t really know. For some reason there were a lot of depressed and burnt out writers walking around that conference. The mood was like a contagion. I didn’t even feel better after I arrived home. I just kept thinking that I’d wasted a lot of money for little return.

I know I’m rambling, but please bear with me.

I think if you’ve never attended a conference before you should pick a local conference to start with. For one, you’re likely to know some of the people attending. For another, the tension that exists at the bigger gatherings doesn’t permeate the local conferences.

That said, if you’re newly signed, then by all means go to National. You’ll get a chance to meet you editor (if they attend) and your agent. Face to face meetings are ALWAYS helpful. I still hope to meet my editor someday.

So far this year I’m only planning to attend the Romantic Times Convention. It’s not far from my hometown and both my books will be out. This will be my first booksigning, so that should be interesting. :-O I haven’t decided whether I’ll be going to National. Almost a year later, I’m still trying to shake last year’s vibe. (If I don’t go, I will be purchasing the booklet and CD.) I’d also like to give a few smaller conferences a chance. There are some amazing local chapter conferences that sellout quickly because they’re so popular. If I don’t manage to make National, I plan to attend one of them.

What do you all think about conferences? What do you get out of them? Do you like them or hate them? What do you expect to get out of a conference?

15 comments to “Conferences”

  1. Wow! I’m very interested to hear what everyone says here. I’ve only been to ONE conference before, and while it was a huge one, (equal to or bigger than national) it was also a cross genre one. I admit to being leary of Nationals, just because of the cost!

  2. It’s certainly a big investment, but worth it if you’ve just been signed. I needed to meet the people that I was going to do business. I can’t ‘read’ people without a face to face. Unfortunately, my editor cancelled at the last minute, so I didn’t get to meet her. Perhaps the RT conference will change that.

  3. It’s also an easy way to pitch your work to editors. If you interest them, you can bypass the slush pile. Always a good thing.

  4. The Mary Kay Ladies! You forgot the Mary Kay ladies!!! LOL I’m sure they helped the atomosphere a lot (and before any Mary kay ladies come after me, I only say that after hearing all the stories about how militant some of them were–I have friends who sell Mary Kay after all =) )

    Seriously I’d bet the weather and all the hotel probems were a huge contribution to the tension in Dallas…. but i also heard a lot of people say how wonderful it was. I did get to meet my agent and some writer friends and their editor =) because I live here but I didn’t go.

    With that said, I am planning on hitting a small one in Dallas and the Merritt in San Antonio (both in April).


  5. I’ve never been to a conference, but I SO want to go to one. I’d LOVE to go to national, but I swore I’d wait until I sell. Or until it’s close to me! *g*

  6. Good topic. I think that especially for the newbie writer, conferences are so very important. As a published author, we learn as well, get to network, and actually get to be around people! LOL. Writing can be so isolating. I think that’s one of the reasons that I started writing in coffee shops and bookstores, is because I need to GET OUT of the house and be around people.

    Glad to hear you’re going to RT! I love it. My favorite part is meeting the readers and getting to know other authors. Yes, it is becoming more geared to writing as well as to readers. I’m on 3 writer panels this year, so it’s going to be a little hectic.

    As far as RWA Nationals, Dallas was my first, and what Larissa said about the Mary Kay ladies! LOL. I didn’t get a warm fuzzy about it, and it wasn’t “fun” like RT, but for the most part I enjoyed it. I got to meet (at that time )my soon-to-be editor for St. Martin’s Press and had a drink with her. She’s terrific. So that was a real positive.

    I think you’re right about the local conferences, or at least the smaller ones. Desert Dreams is a fabulous conference to go to, and definitely one I’d recommend for newbies and oldies alike. 🙂

    Anyway, I love conferences and really look forward to them!


  7. I agree with Jordan’s take on the mentioned conventions. I actually met her at last year’s National RWA, one of the high points of that conference. I agree that was a tense conference. I too went home depressed. I have been to at least five RWA Nationals, maybe more. The first was overwhelming and intimidating. It’s all business. I don’t mind that part, but there is a competitive and political edge that I am not fond of. But that’s just me. That said, the workshops are invaluable. The editor/agent appointments worth taking advantage of. The opportunity to network and sheer wealth of information priceless. I’ll be in Reno.

    The Romantic Times Convention, as Jordan said, is FUN! The atmosphere relaxed. I have attended nine of these. There are not as many workshops to choose from as with RWA, but they are there. The networking possibilities with editors and agents are not as numerous as at RWA, but again they are there. The real perk is in mingling with very avid romance readers. Of building your fan base.

    I have benefited in one way or another from both of these conventions. I highly recommend both for different reasons. However as I get further along in my career, as my writing grows, I find I am curious to explore new conferences. This year I am attending ‘Celebrate Romance,’ another fan-based conference, and BEAa bookseller/publisher tradeshow. Ill let you know. Thanks for the topic, Jordan. Sorry I rambled! (See you at RT!)

  8. Man, Cece, I’d completely forgotten about the Mary Kay ladies. They stopped me a couple of times to ask directions and remind me that I needed to wear pantyhose. LOL! I told them I was a Lancome kind of gal. 😉

  9. Larissa, National is a good place to meet a lot of editors and agents. I’ve definitely seen many people bypass the slush pile that way. Fingers crossed a conference comes to a town near you.:-)

  10. Like Chey said, RT is much more fun, but it’s focus is completely different than RWA National. I do think it’s hard for any conference to be perfect for everyone, but you can certainly make informed decisions based on what will work best for you. Writing is solitary. Just to be around people who understand your insanity is a VERY, VERY good thing. (wg)

  11. Beth, It’s great to ‘see’ you again. We laughed so hard in the bar I had tears in my eyes. It was wonderful meeting you and my critique partner for the first time. (National is good for things like that.) I agree that there is a competitive/political vibe to the National conference. I really enjoyed the one held in Denver, but Dallas was a completely different ballgame. At some point, I’d love to go to BEA. I know this year it’s in NY. I’m just not sure when. (Not that I’m going to be able to make it.) It’ll be a miracle if I can go to National after paying for RT. Oh well… Everything is a choice. See you at RT! You too Chey!

  12. I love RWA conferences. I actually don’t attend a LOT of workshops, but the ones I go to are always fantastic. And EVERYONE is there. I love getting together with my friends. Which is why I don’t attend a lot of workshops–I’m off having fun! LOL. It’s also a good work conference, seeing editors etc.

  13. Suzanne, I hear you. It’s great to see everyone. I just can’t justify spending the money simply to hang out with friends. :-/ I wish I could. Believe me. 🙂 I did try to attend as many of the workshops as possible. I actually think I got more out of the tapes I purchased. They were fabulous. I do recommend National for the just published or near published because I think it can be extremely helpful. I’m sure I will go again, if not this year, then maybe next.

  14. I’ve only been to one conference, last year’s GRW Moonlight & Magnolias. For a first conference, it was a wonderful experience. I’m really looking forward to this year’s. I’ve never been to an RWA National conference, and I won’t be going this year. However, next year it’s in Atlanta, and since that’s my backyard . . .

  15. Lynn, The smaller conferences are great. I think it’s much easier to talk and network when everyone is relaxed and enjoying themselves. Can’t wait to hear what you think of National next year. 🙂