Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the always fun Readers & Ritas conference in Dallas. It's put on by the wonderful folks at Fresh Fiction and they've been sponsoring the event since 2008. I'd attended a number of these in the past, and always had a fabulous time, but then I had to miss it in 2016 and 2017 due to schedule conflicts. So I was really excited when things aligned perfectly for me to be able to return this year.
When I looked over the schedule I discovered that the organizers had made some great changes to the event offerings that increased the value for everyone. For instance, you can now register for writing workshops that are held on the morning and early afternoon on the Friday of the event. And there is a Scavenger Hunt on mid afternoon Friday that wasn't there before - a great opportunity for the authors and readers to meet and interact in a fun way. So here is a quick look at how my weekend went.
My first activity was the Scavenger Hunt. The way this was set up, each participating author was assigned a station in one of two large rooms and the attendees went around to each station, collecting signatures and tokens to be entered into a drawing for a prize. Each author had some sort of activity for the readers to perform during their stop - for instance some had bean bag toss games, some had quick craft activities, others had guessing games and such. For my station I decided to do a tea-themed event. I found some cute little teaspoon favors with conversation starters on them and a teapot shaped spinner, so I had each person pick a spoon and answer the question, and then they got to spin the arrow on the teapot. Whatever color spot the arrow landed on determined what prize they won - candy, a small tea-themed Christmas ornament, book lover button, etc. Everyone seemed to have fun with it.
Later that evening, four other authors and I (Sasha Summers, Tracy Wolff, C.A.Szarek and Sherry Thomas) sponsored an author bingo. It's played like regular bingo except instead of the letters B-I-N-G-O across the top you have the author names and instead of numbers down the columns you have book titles. We had a nice crowd show up, lots of prizes were distributed, and much fun and hilarity ensued.
The next day kicked off with a breakfast with hosted tables and a Q&A session with one of the attending authors. Afterward I sat on a panel with the lovely Becky Wade and always fun Piper Drake where we talked about our various experiences with research - I know our attendees must have picked up on some good info because I learned quite a bit from listening to these two savvy ladies!
At lunch it was my turn to host a table of readers. Since I have a Christmas reissue this year I decided to go with a Christmas theme for my decorations. Below is a photo of how the table looked before the doors opened. Unfortunately I was having so much fun chatting with everyone I forgot to snap a photo of my guests.
After lunch I spent time in the Author Lounge chatting with more of the reader attendees and getting to know them better, then it was time for the big book signing.
That evening we had a special treat. Author Nancy Naigle was there to speak about her experience having some of her books turned into movies and how it has been working with the folks at Hallmark. We also got to see previews of some of those upcoming movies, a real treat!
There was a brunch and closing activities the next morning, but unfortunately I had to leave early and missed out on that. But all in all it was a really great weekend.
Here is a group shot of some of the authors in attendance - there I am, right smack dab in the middle of the pack! Can you pick out any other familiar faces?
So have you attended any reader-focused conferences yourself? Do you have any favorite experiences with them you'd like to share?