Friday, March 2, 2018

A Conference Quiz

by Amanda Cabot

As the weather improves and travel is less challenging, it seems as if conferences are springing up as quickly as the dandelions in my yard.  Should you attend one?  Probably, but before you invest your time and money, why not spend a few minutes with my simple five-part quiz?  The questions – and their answers – may give you a different perspective.
Let’s get started.  The statements are designed for a “true” or “false” response.

1.      The primary reason to attend a conference is to meet agents and editors.  False.  While an agent or editor appointment can be extremely valuable, in part because it might shorten the query process, your primary reason for attending a conference ought to be to learn more about the craft, marketing, or simply the state of the publishing industry.  This is a learning opportunity. 

2.      To get your money’s worth from a conference, you should attend every possible workshop.  Since I told you that the reason for attending a conference is to learn, you might think that the answer to this is “true.”  Not so.  While I urge you to attend many workshops at each conference, you also need to consider the very real possibility of brain overload.  Take time to relax and absorb what you’ve learned.  Sometimes this means retreating to your room.  Other times, a few minutes chatting with other attendees might be enough.  Be careful not to overdo.  The last thing you want is to return home exhausted, with all the workshops starting to blur in your mind.

3.      The larger the conference, the better.  If you were expecting me to say either “true” or “false,” I’m going to disappoint you.  This is a “maybe.”  While it’s true that larger conferences typically offer more tracks and, therefore, more workshops from which to choose the perfect ones for you, if the thought of plenary sessions with thousands of other attendees makes you cringe, you’d be better served by attending a smaller conference.  Consider your comfort levels before you make any decisions.

4.      It’s not easy being a newbie at a conference.  Definitely true.  Many conference organizers make a special effort to identify first time attendees and ask their members to include them in conversations, at meals, etc.  But the reality is that most writers are introverts, which means that facing hundreds – perhaps thousands – of strangers is daunting.  The best way to avoid this problem is to ask one of your writing friends to attend with you.  Sometimes, though, that’s not possible.  What to do then?  Look around.  You’re likely to see others who are sitting or standing alone.  Why not approach them?  One time when I did that, it became the start of a friendship that’s spanned decades. 

5.      Every workshop you attend will be valuable.  Oh, if only that were true!  I’ve attended a number of workshops where the blurb sounded fabulous, the speaker had outstanding credentials, and I found myself nodding off from boredom.  My first reaction was anger, as in “What a waste of time and money,” but then I realized that the problem was mine.  I’d set unrealistic expectations.  Not every workshop will be perfect for you, just as not every conference is the right one for you. 
What should you expect from a conference?  My new criteria for judging whether or not a conference was worthwhile is this: if I learn one thing or make one good contact, it was a success.  I can’t remember a single workshop I attended at the conference where I met the woman who became my friend and critique partner.  In fact, I remember returning home and telling my husband that it was at best a mediocre conference.  And yet, meeting Diane made it one of the best conferences I’ve attended.

So, my friends, consider what you hope to gain from a conference, calibrate your expectations, choose carefully, and then have fun.  Because, when it’s all over, what you’ll remember is whether or not you enjoyed your time at the conference.


Blurb
There is no such thing as an impossible dream . . .

Catherine Whitfield is sure that she will never again be able to trust anyone in the medical profession after the local doctor’s treatments killed her mother. Despite her loneliness and her broken heart, she carries bravely on as Cimarron Creek’s dutiful schoolteacher, resigned to a life where dreams rarely come true.

Austin Goddard is a newcomer to Cimarron Creek. Posing as a rancher, he fled to Texas to protect his daughter from a dangerous criminal. He’s managed to keep his past as a surgeon a secret. But when Catherine Whitfield captures his heart, he wonders how long he will be able to keep up the charade.

With a deft hand, Amanda Cabot teases out the strands of love, deception, and redemption in this charming tale of dreams deferred and hopes becoming reality.


Author Bio
Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of more than thirty novels including the Texas Dreams trilogy, the Westward Winds series, the Texas Crossroads trilogy, A Stolen Heart, and Christmas Roses. A former director of Information Technology, she has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages.  Amanda is delighted to now be a fulltime writer of Christian romances, living happily ever after with her husband in Wyoming. 


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89 comments:

  1. Amanda, this is valuable points for our writers here! I'm not one myself, but if I were, these would be great to help me evaluate whether or not to attend a conference. Motivation is always a great factor in deciding why or why not to do something. I love your first point; you should attend with the attitude of wanting to learn more about the craft, marketing and etc. If you happen to meet agents & editors, I'd say that would be the frosting on the cake! :-)

    Thanks for the insightful post, I enjoyed it even as a reader!

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    1. Good points, Trixi. Conferences have become very pricey - at least on my budget. Check out what the workshops will be ahead of time. I always learn something, and at the least, I come home so motivated to write, my husband doesn't step into my office for at least a week!

      That's a very good thing :)

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    2. Trixi -- Some of the point apply to any conference. One of my sisters is an artist and attends conferences that teach different techniques. She's had the same burn-out that writers do when she tries to attend too many workshops and doesn't allow herself downtime.

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  2. Good morning Seekerville and Amanda! This is an excellent post, especially for those who have never been to a conference before. There's nothing worse than setting unrealistic expectations and coming away disappointed.

    Don't know where Ruthy is with the coffee, but I've brought a pot of tea and an assortment of doughnuts. Glazed, chocolate, filled, blueberry cake... It is Friday, after all, so we may as well start the weekend early.

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    1. Great. Mindy outshines with DONUTS no less, LOL! Well, it is Friday. And if you cut them half, rumor has it, most of the calories spill out before you take that first bite, LOL!

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    2. I'm drinking cocoa shell tea -- smells as good as a donut but far fewer calories.

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    3. Oh, Mindy, I'm glad these are virtual. I've already had my doughnut quota for this week and it was a beaut. A country store in Chichester, NH makes the best cider doughnuts in the state, they're like famous, and in honor of maple month they put some out with Maple Frosting. To.Die.For. Two iconic flavors in one treat. #LoveNewEngland

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    4. Kathy, those cider doughnuts sound AMAZING!

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    5. Coconut shell tea? That's a real THING? Wow!

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    6. That is the best part about virtual doughnuts--no calories. Yum! And Kathy, you had me at cider doughnut. I have some very fond memories of those. I grew up in Michigan and there was a cider mill just outside of town that the best cider doughnuts I've ever tasted. They still live in my memory.

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    7. Amanda, as an avid tea drinker, I'm very curious about this cocoa shell tea.

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  3. Good morning, Amanda! Thanks for joining us in Seekerville today.

    Conferences are always a hit and miss with me. They're a hit because I get to see my warm-bodied friends and actually give them a physical hug rather than a {{{hug}}} and for that gift alone, I'm grateful! Of course, I always meet new friends too, which makes me always consider saving my pennies throughout the year to attend a conference.

    I usually come away learning something in a workshop or two. I tend to order the series of workshops and have them on a flash drive so I don't feel so guilty about choosing a cup of coffee with a friend over sitting in a conference room taking notes.

    I loved the post, Amanda. So many points to think about!

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    1. I'm glad you found some of the points helpful. A good conference can be incredibly energizing. A bad one ... Let's not go there.

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  4. It's a gorgeous day along the Front Range of Colorado this morning! I've brought a crock pot full of my Cherry Almond Oatmeal simmered overnight to perfection with toppings galore! And have you ever tried Sumo oranges? OMG, they are the sweetest! I've set a tray to the side with orange slices and strawberries. Help yourselves!

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    1. It IS beautiful this morning. :) Have a great day, Audra!

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    2. The oatmeal sounds fabulous. Will you share the recipe or is this a fictional dish?

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    3. Audra, you're making me hungry!

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  5. Amanda, what a practical post. I appreciated your five points. And the perspective you shared about each. It seems like, in some ways, we can gain from a conference if/when our mind is set on gaining from it. Great conference, or mediocre. I liked your example of gaining a friend from a "mediocre" conference. And your thoughts on workshops...loved that. I find that, even if the workshop wasn't what I thought it would be, there's at least one thing I can learn from the presenter. :)

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    1. Your attitude is terrific, Jeanne. I have to admit that I've walked out of workshops when they didn't meet my expectations -- definitely rude to the presenter, but it taught me not to be upset when attendees walked out on mine.

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  6. I couldn't agree with you more, Jeanne. Go with an open mind and come home surprised :)

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  7. great post, Amanda. I agree with your points, especially 4 and 5. The first conference I ever attended, not knowing anyone, I met two amazing authors who have become life long friends and beta readers for all my books. The conference was worth the price just to make those connections:)

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    1. What a great story. It proves that there are multiple reasons to attend a conference, and the workshops are only one.

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  8. This was a great post, Amanda!

    I went to my first conference not knowing what to expect, but I learned so much! (yes, I attended workshops and took notes!)

    One of the things I learned was just what you were saying in your post - a successful conference is the one where you plan to get something from it. At my last conference, I planned down time after a workshop to go back to my room and rewrite my notes while they were fresh. The quiet, the time to reflect, and the review of the material made that one of the most valuable workshops I've ever attended. :-)

    And I agree with your point about approaching people who are alone. I've met some great people that way!

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    1. It's not always easy to approach strangers, but isn't it wonderful when you meet someone and just click with them?

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  9. Great post, Amanda! One day I would love to attend a readers conference.

    Happy Friday!

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    1. Hmmm ... I wonder if the Seekerville team wants to organize one.

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    2. One day I hope to attend the Christian Fiction Reader's Retreat that Carrie and Annie JC helped organize & put together!!! Now THAT I could totally go for :-)

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    3. Amanda, we love to take part in them but haven't considered organizing one! :)

      I've really enjoyed attending one in Montgomery, AL, and also one that Harlequin organized for Love Inspired authors and readers. I also look forward to attending CFRR someday!

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    4. Thanks ladies, would love it if y'all can join us!

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  10. Amanda, welcome to Seekerville! I agree with your conference takeaways, and so, so true about downtime. While I've enjoyed many workshops, not all of them are for everyone. Sometimes, rather than over-schedule ourselves, it's more relaxing to hang out with friends over a cup of coffee...and chocolate pie. :-)

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    1. Cynthia, good points, I tend to look at it as a vacation -- with content. No use killing ourselves, if we trust the Lord He'll put us in the rooms we need to be in. The hanging-out is valuable too.
      KB

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    2. And while you're chatting over that piece of chocolate pie (with meringue or whipped cream on top?), you might get an insight you hadn't expected.

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  11. Thank you, Amanda, for posting about conferences. Last year, I felt led to lead a small conference in our area which I called a writers' retreat. We had 60 attendees and 10 faculty members. God blessed the conference beyond belief, and many, including faculty, enjoyed the small, more intimate setting and slower pace than that of large conferences. I've attended both, and I believe there is a place for smaller, more affordable conferences. Because of the positive response and evaluations I received, I'm directing the conference/retreat again this year, May 2-5. It in southern Alabama, very close to the Florida state line. Anyone who's interested, please check out our website at http://bluelakecwr.com.

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    1. What a wonderful faculty to attendee ratio! I wish I lived closer and could attend or volunteer to teach.

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    2. Marilyn, thanks for letting us know about your conference! That sounds like a wonderful event! That's probably not too terribly far from me. :)

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  12. Great tips on attending conferences, Amanda. Please enter me in the drawing.

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    1. I'm glad you found it helpful, Sandy.

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  13. Hi Amanda - thank you for this informative post. I will be attending a small local conference in April. I attended once before two years ago. At this point, I am also planning to attend ACFW in September. It will be my first time and I am scared to death. And excited as I can be. We'll see how it goes because I am such an introvert, uncomfortable meeting people, would rather stay in a quiet little corner all by myself and talk to no one. Wow - talk about leaving my comfort zone! I will be so glad for any "familiar" faces from Seekerville. Seek me out - I may not seek you!

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    1. Cindy, if I go you can hang out with me.
      KB

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    2. Thanks Kathy - I'll take you up on that!

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    3. I haven't attended an ACFW conference, but Audra assures me that there are many friendly groups there.

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  14. Excellent post Amanda! I agree wholeheartedly with your points. My first conference 9 years ago was one of the most beneficial I have ever attended, and it wasn't for what I learned, but for the most valuable contact of all -- yours, as facilitator for a local writers group. Thank you Amanda for taking the helm and being the backbone and support for an incredible group!

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    1. Karen -- You're making me blush, but thank you!

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  15. Amanda, really good points, and I can especially relate to Point 1 and Point 4, for different reasons.
    My younger self was pushy at conferences, and while it got me some contacts and a couple of requests, it didn't do me any good in the long run because My Work Wasn't Ready. I think we tend to view conferences as a "now or never" thing, especially if they're large ones or we spent a lot to get there. Realistically, I've had as many requests for fulls from Contests or friends of friends. My advice is to make the most of those 15-minute pitches, and then if you meet anyone else it's icing. Or gravy.
    I'm reserved if not shy, and I've gone to several conferences alone and never felt lonely. Christian writers are loving people. I always had someone to eat with, etc., and I took home dozens of business cards. My one regret, besides the early pushiness, is that I didn't keep up with these contacts. It really is about the people.
    This is my "business" day and I'm working on blogs and contest entries. We are right in the middle of the Northeast's Nor'easter and I'm terrified about losing the power. The roads are lousy, not going out today.
    Kathy Bailey

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  16. I've never been to a conference, so these are great tips. Thanks!

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    1. Glynis -- It's all about expectations.

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  17. AMANDA!! SO fun to see you back on Seekerville, my friend.

    My first conference was SO traumatic, I wrote a Seeker blog about years ago entitled, "Conference CPR ... Cry, Pray, Repent," so that will give you an idea of the lesson I learned. :)

    All of your points above are excellent, but I totally concur with point #2 because just like a writer's work has to be well-balanced, so does the writer, and that includes the reasons she or he attends a conference in the first place.

    But I will have to say that the point that most resonated with me was #5: Every workshop you attend will be valuable.

    When I was a newbie, workshops were pretty essential, but I discovered that as I gained experience and ahem ... years ... fewer and fewer workshops appealed or seemed essential to my learning process. I became very selective from that point on and spent my time in other areas that were more appealing and essential to my career -- networking and building friedships. Oh, and fun. Lots and lots of fun, which is something every author needs to refresh.

    Great post, Amanda, and hope to see you at a conference one of these days!

    And MEGA HUGS to Audra for hosting you today -- MISS YOU, my friend!!

    Hugs,
    Julie

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Julie -- Good to chat with you again, even if it's only over cyberspace. How dreadful that you had a CPR experience at a conference, but it's good that you recovered enough to try again and find out what works best for you. That's the key, isn't it?

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  18. Hi Amanda-
    What a helpful post! I haven't been to a writer's conference in ages. Mainly because I 'hit the wall' halfway through and it becomes a blur after that. Not much fun and a waste of money. Now I'm thinking it's about time to try one again. But I'll dial back my expectations this time. And push myself to say 'Howdy' to someone standing alone. Might be fun :-)

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    1. Jenna, maybe a small conference would help. I attended Georgia Romance Writers conference, Moonlight & Magnolias, a few times before I ever went to RWA National. I think that helped me prepare. When I finally went to a big conference, I went with my critique partners. :)

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    2. That seems like a much calmer, more fun way to go. And just the sound of 'Moonlight & Magnolias'....so romantic :-)

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    3. I agree with Missy that smaller conferences can be beneficial. In fact, that's what I prefer -- ideally 250 attendees maximum. They seem more personal, and the plenary sessions aren't mob scenes. But, of course, it's all about personal comfort levels.

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  19. Amanda what great advice. The whole atmosphere of a writer's conference is so FUN and different for an usually isolated author.
    I mean that's what we DO right, sit alone, makin' stuff up.

    So to get together with other authors who also spend their time sitting alone, makin' stuff up, is really wonderful.

    Remember, when you go to a conference you can be a friend to everyone with these five simple words. "So, what are you writing?"

    Guaranteed 2 hour conversation neither of you will want to end.

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    1. The perfect icebreaker! Terrific advice, Mary.

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  20. My original comment vanished. Anyone want to look for it?
    Best,
    KB

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    1. I found it in spam, Kathy! I don't know why that happens. I released the comment.

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    2. MISSYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! What would I ever do without you?

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  21. It's probably on my end, I've been having a lot of computer trouble on account of the high winds. Sigh.

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  22. Amanda, the first time I went to RWA national, I broke one of your rules! :) I went with the goal of meeting a particular editor! :) I tried every day to go to a workshop where I might be able to meet her in person. A few days in, I was almost desperate to find her. LOL I finally was able to introduce myself to her on the LAST day. (whew!)

    Later, after she became my senior editor, I told her about that RWA conference where I was practically stalking her. :) It did make that conference a bit more stressful for me, but I think it was a worth going just for that meeting. She had judged me in several contest finals and I wanted her to be able to put a face with my name and to make a personal connection.

    Great advice on over-doing! I've learned the hard way by trying to go to a workshop at every single session at my first RWA National. I wore myself out and was almost sick when I got home. Since then, I still attend a ton of workshops. But I don't force going when I need to rest.

    I also love your advice to meet someone who is also hanging on the fringes. I was a terrible wallflower at my first couple of conference. At M&M one year, a published author, Patricia McLinn, noticed me clinging to the wall :) and came over to introduce herself. When I told her I was terribly nervous, she said she'd made herself a rule to meet 3 or 4 new people at every conference and challenged me to do the same. Over the years, I gradually overcame my nervousness. Now I try to make sure to meet new people, especially at meals.

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    1. Missy -- I'm glad that there was a happy ending to your almost-stalking experience! And Patricia McLinn's advice is stellar. We should all follow it.

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    2. Your stalking story was hilarious, Missy!

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  23. Wonderful conference advice. It's always such a balance, isn't it? Trying to 'get your money's worth' and also trying not to overdo and getting overwhelmed!

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    1. Erica, I agree that it's a balancing act and that it's sometimes difficult to realize that you get your money's worth even if you don't attend every workshop.

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  24. Amanda! Thanks for being here... and good advice came right along with you. I see good and bad about conferences, and I'm always looking at the return on investment so my first conference was ACFW when I was finally winning contests and attracting attention of editors... Going to conference was my reward for getting to that first step.

    It was fun and I learned a lot, a lot about industry that had nothing to do with classes and a lot to do with people... lessons that I've used ever since.

    You don't always learn what you go for... but I learned a lot at the few conferences I attended and I think even for the experience of being there, it can be fun...

    If you ask me if it's worth the money, that's a very different answer. But if you're after growing as an author, that can be done in so many different ways.

    And sometimes it's as easy as putting yourself "out there"... wherever you may be.

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    1. I agree that many times the benefits come from being with other writers. Actually, that's the reason I've always been a member of a local writers' group -- the opportunity to spend time with like-minded people is priceless.

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  25. Great information about selecting a conference and debunking some myths. I thi I would add that one of the purposes of going to conferences is to connect with other writers. We are s rare breed and it is so good to meet others like us and realize we are not as crazy as the work believes. Thank you so much for sharing!!

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    1. Crystal, isn't it wonderful when you meet new people who share the same interests?

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  26. Amanda, this was excellent. I take your advise whole-heartedly. It just makes so much sense. Cheers

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    1. Marilyn, I'm glad you found this helpful. I know writers who attend multiple conferences each year. For me, that's too many, but we're all unique.

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    1. I'm glad you found the post helpful, Natalya.

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  28. Great advice, Amanda! I've never attended a conference mainly because I feel guilty if I'm not writing during my time away from the day job. Thanks for visiting!

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    1. Jill, you might want to try a conference one of these years. I've learned new things and discovered insights into my own writing that wouldn't have happened any other way.

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  29. Amanda, I recall going to my first few RWA conferences and rushing from workshop to workshop, barely having time to hit the restrooms as the lines were uncomfortably long (and I was even more uncomfortable, but my choice was always the workshop).

    I’m attending this year’s RWA conference in Denver with my Florida retreat writing buddies and I fully expect to see old friends and catch up. Yes, I’ll go to workshops, but I’ll also hang out and people watch.

    Great post. And I can’t wait to read your latest book, it sounds like something right up my alley.
    Hugs,
    Leslie Ann

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    1. Ah, yes -- the first conference syndrome, where we feel compelled to attend as many workshops as possible. I'm glad you've gotten past that, Leslie.

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  30. Amanda, I'm late getting to the blog today. Thanks for a lovely post about a favorite topic. I enjoy writing conferences. RWA is a favorite. I learn so much there and love being able to connect with so many friends. My local Georgia Romance Writers RWA Chapter hosts the Moonlight & Magnolias Conference, which is a favorite as well. It's smaller, but the workshops are great and I always pick up new tips or techniques that help me with my writing.

    What conferences are you attending this year? Hope to see you at one of them!

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    1. Debby -- I wish I could attend Moonlight & Magnolias, because I've heard that it's a terrific conference. At this point, I haven't scheduled any conferences for 2018, but I'm thinking seriously about the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference in early September. It's always excellent.

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  31. Thank you for joining us today, Amanda. Such great conversation. I loved reading about conference experiences. Makes me want to schedule a conference in the upcoming year :) Yes, the RWA conference will be right in my back yard this year, but it's possibly the worst time for me to try and get time-off from work. Prayer works miracles. I'm praying for a way to at least drive in and visit with friends I haven't seen in a long time.

    Have a great weekend everyone!

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    1. Audra -- Thanks so much for inviting me to be part of Seekerville. It's always a pleasure!

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  32. Hi Amanda, you gave us some great things to consider when picking a conference. Thanks!

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    1. I'm glad you found the post helpful, Jackie.

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  33. Thank you for addressing this topic. I'm looking at conferences (my first) to attend this year, and I can see myself pushing too hard to learn everything. I will take your advice!

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    1. First conferences are sometimes intimidating. I've discovered that the key is not to overdo.

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  34. Very practical post! Thanks Amanda! For readers, I just want to meet y'all writers and chat and maybe gush over your books a bit! More fangirling?

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    1. So ... are the Seekers thinking about organizing a readers' conference. I think it would be a huge success.

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  35. This was so timely. I had been going back and forth over attending one this summer. Still on the fence, bit clearer. Thank you.

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