Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Conference Rocks

I recently attended the Romance Writers of American national conference. This year it was in Atlanta.

Last year was the first time I'd gone in about six or eight years. I'd become discouraged because I wasn't selling and real life was getting in the way of my writing so I went into hibernation mode. I cut myself off from a lot of digests and industry information, didn't attend any local writer meetings and basically just sat down and wrote what appealed to me. I still submitted, but that was the only contact I had with the publishing side of writing.

That was a healthy strategy for me at the time. There are periods when withdrawal from the publishing side of the business is a very good thing to do. The drawback came when I sold and I was a bit behind on industry changes. Although, I'm thinking that in the last few years the changes have been so frequent and great that everyone felt a little lost, not just me.

Today, fifteen months after I plunged back in, I feel I'm up to speed on today's publishing landscape. I'm using social media tools that I had ignored thus far. I'm fully informed on the pro's and con's of indie publishing vs. traditional and have a good idea what to ask for and deny if I decide to work with an agent. All of these topics were covered at National, which is part of the reason it rocks, but that's not the whole picture.

Last year when I went to conference, I was most excited about seeing, Cathryn Parry.
Cathryn and me after our workshop at RWA 2013

She was the only writer I'd stayed in touch with during my hiatus. We're so like-minded, we wound up putting on a workshop at national, talking a bit about strategies for coping when the publishing side of writing gets you down. I enjoyed last year's conference, but I had to cut it short because I was in the middle of a family reunion. I didn't engage with other writers as much as I could have and found it a bit overwhelming.

What I didn't appreciate until this year is how great it is to sit with other writers and talk craft and stories and industry gossip. There's a shorthand when speaking with other authors that you don't get when talking with your writer friends. You can get to the heart of the matter really quickly and often have a meeting of minds whereas when I talk to my husband about this stuff, I'm really just informing him. He's polite, but it's a one way conversation and he's not nearly as invested or interested as other writers are.

Someone asked me if I had come home inspired and yes, I am energized to write, but I wasn't inspired in the way of story ideas. (It was noted with dismay by many that there was an abundance of workshops on self-publishing and fewer on craft, but that's a comment on today's industry. Promotion has become as time-consuming as the writing.) Mostly I was inspired to stay in touch.

Conference is expensive. I won't kid you. Part of the reason I stayed away as long as I did was financial. If you're a writer debating the expense, I can say honestly that the best thing I did was stay home and write books. It's a matter of putting the time in on your craft. You don't need workshops and socializing. You do need to write and complete manuscripts if you ever hope to publish.

However, the moral support can be astounding. That's why conference rocks.


Anonymous said...

I have a local writer group I participate in and have become close to many of them. I can't go to the meetings every two weeks, just don't have the time, but I try to go about once every 4 to 6 weeks. I really enjoy the interaction and stay closely tied to several, including trading critiques both ways. I encourage all newbies to seek out local groups and at least try them.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

I agree with Mike. Writing is a solitary art. We need to connect with real humans so we have someone to write about. Uh-oh, I told.