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To Conference or Not To Conference?
By Teri Wilson
I’ve gone rogue.
It seems I said I would be blogging today on great openings, but since I’m here in Anaheim at RWA Nationals as I write this blog post, I just couldn’t resist blogging on the conference. So, I suppose this might be the last time you see me blogging here at Seekerville. They might kick me off the island, Survivor-style. Let’s hope not. In any case, I’ll give you the scoop on what it’s like to attend the nation’s biggest conference for romance writers. And if you’ve already been to RWA, stay here! In the comments section, you can let me know if I left out anything earth-shatteringly important. Because considering the level of exhaustion I’ve reached on this, the last day of RWA, who knows if I will even make sense?
So, let’s get going. Before I collapse from exhaustion (more on that later), I give you the Top Six Reasons to attend RWA:
1. The Workshops – Every day of the conference there are loads of workshops to choose from, offering help and guidance for all areas of your writing, falling under the categories of Career, Craft, Research or the Writer’s Life. There are also chats with some of the most beloved authors in our genre (Nora Roberts or Julia Quinn, anyone?). This year at RWA, there were 96 sessions to choose from. Literally. That’s no exaggeration. I dare you to come here and not learn something new.
2. The Motivation – Simply being among the best of the best of our writing peers for 3 or 4 days is like a shot in the arm. The Keynote Address is always designed to motivate and uplift the attendees, and simply hearing from the RWA President that romance is not only the best-selling fiction genre, but it also sells more than mystery, sci-fi and fantasy combined, was very empowering. The past few days have inspired me to go home and write like I’ve never written before. And who doesn’t need a little motivation every now and then? Writing is hard…and lonely. Attending a conference goes a long way in making you believe you can do it and you are not alone!
3. The Networking – this is true whether you are published or not. After I signed with Love Inspired, I met my editor for the very first time at a conference. Believe it or not, I know writers who’ve been published for years who’ve never met their editors. I cannot even imagine. If you are not yet published, there are scores of opportunities to meet editors from all the major publishing houses, as well as agents seeking new clients. Even if you don’t manage to get a coveted pitch appointment, many of the editors will gladly talk to you about your writing at the various Open Houses and Spotlights that the publishers host. As if the editors and agents weren’t enough of a draw, you will meet other authors just like you! Many, many lifetime friendships have started at writing conferences. These are your people! They get you!
4. The Secrets – Every publisher in attendance hosts a Spotlight session, where they share their plans for the upcoming year and let attendees know what they are acquiring. The editors take questions and are anxious to share information. In addition, some specific lines even have Open Houses, where you can learn more about what their editors are specifically looking for. Published authors usually have closed meetings with their publishing houses where new lines are announced or exciting plans for the future are shared for the first time.
5. The Books – I cannot emphasize the sheer volume of books you will take home. And guess what? They’re FREE. My conference tote bag came with 10 books inside, and that was just the start. All the major publishers host book signings and again, the books are free. Tomorrow I will go home with signed books from Nora Roberts, Julia Quinn, Amanda Quick…and the list goes on and on.
And on. I had to ship them home. And I still have 10 more books in my suitcase that I got this afternoon after I mailed my box.
6. It’s Fun! As with the mountain of books you’ll take home, I can’t possibly emphasize the amount of fun you’ll have! There are parties, parties and more parties.
Did I mention the parties?
Last night I learned a dance called “going shopping”. Grab, grab, push, push…bananas, cereal, push your cart, push your cart. Hmmm. Perhaps this doesn’t really translate. Trust me. It rocked. Most of the publishers host parties for their authors, but there are plenty of opportunities for everyone to socialize, from chapter get-togethers to big public events like the Harlequin Online Community Pajama Party. (Like I needed an excuse to get those Minnie Mouse PJs in the hotel gift shop.)
Parties aside, the conference is always held in a fun location. This year it’s in Anaheim, California. Yes, I did somehow find time to go to Disneyland. I wore mouse ears and the whole deal.
|[note from Missy: Here's a rogue photo I swiped from Facebook!]|
So, are you ready to sign up for next year?
If so, here are two important tips (just a couple…this could really be an entirely new blog post):
1. Plan your agenda in advance or you will be overwhelmed by all the choices. RWA is very good about sending you emails before the conference letting you know what will be going on. Don’t wait until you get to the conference site to look at the schedule. That being said, be flexible. You can always change your mind, or even decide to sit out for a session.
Which leads me to number 2…
2. Take care of yourself at the conference. Get a decent amount of rest or you will fade at the end.
Hydrate. Drink lots of water. Susan Mallery told me this just yesterday. (I must have been looking particularly shriveled when she was signing my book.)
And the most painful for me personally, being the shoe-lover that I am, wear flats. Seriously. Don’t try and show off your Jimmy Choos 24-7. We all know you have great shoes. Of course you do—you’re a romance writer. Save the stilettoes for evening, but opt for comfort during the day. You will walk more than you can imagine.
Don’t overdo it! Face it – you can’t do everything. Besides, you want to go home refreshed because you’ll be anxious to get started on that new manuscript. So, don’t try to do it all. That’s what next year is for!
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Teri Wilson grew up as an only child and could often be found with her head in a book, lost in a world of heroes, heroines and exotic places. As an adult, her love of books has led her to her dream career—writing. Now an award-winning author of inspirational romance, Teri spends as much time as she can seeing exotic places for herself, then coming home and writing about them, of course. When she isn’t traveling or spending quality time with her laptop, she enjoys baking cupcakes, going to movies, knitting and hanging out with her family, friends and four dogs. Teri lives in San Antonio, Texas, and loves to hear from readers. She can be contacted via her website at www.teriwilson.net.