To conference or…not

Spring flingI’m sure this is a subject that we’ve covered before, but I’ve been thinking about it because I have one coming up. Conferences. Do you go? Why do you go? What do you get out of it? Which ones do you go to?

Okay, we’ll start with me.

I’ve only ever been to one national conference. It was in Chicago in 1998 or 1999–whichever year my first book was out. I went with friends and had so much fun that even now I love remembering it. I remember seeing long-time favorite authors in person. In person! I remember going to workshops but not what any of those workshops were. I learned firsthand the meanings of terms like sensory overload and schmoozing and self-promotion. I learned a few new things about drinking. I learned that this country girl is uncomfortable and alone in crowds the size of ones at National. I’m envious every year of people who go–I’m also relieved not to be among them.

I’ve been to numerous regional conferences. In May, I’m making my second trip to Chicago’s Spring Fling. I love the intimacy of small conferences, the schmoozing (remember, I learned about that at National), and the camaraderie between authors. Regardless of that sense of sorority, my friend and I laugh because she feels like a second-class citizen due to her indie status and I feel the same way because even though I have a few indie projects, my publishing heart is still traditional. Sometimes it seems as if the two factions are trying to convince the others that they’re wrong when they’re not–they’re only different. Conferences are good places to embrace differences, although I’m not sure it actually works out that way.

I like the workshops and am appreciative of the authors who develop and present them. I love listening to the speakers. Two years ago, I got to hear both Kristan Higgins and Mary Balogh–I was starstruck for…well, I’m still starstruck. Beyond writing fabulous books, they were funny and generous. One thing that I will never forget, that made me happy to be a part of the sisterhood of romance writers was when many of us were in the common area downstairs in the hotel, the one filled with tables and chairs with Starbuck’s lurking in one corner, Kristan Higgins was working on her laptop. And no one bothered her!

I have meandered long enough, but those questions remain. Do you? Why? What do you gain? Which ones do you go to?

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