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?


To conference or…not — 6 Comments

  1. I haven’t been to a national or regional conference, yet. This year I’m going to a small writer’s conference and retreat–Babes on the Beach–and I’m participating in a reader’s event in the fall. I’m really looking forward to both events. Next year I plan to go to a major conference, but I haven’t settled on which one will be most advantageous. We’ll see. They are expensive, but if the benefits are there, it’s worth the investment.

  2. I work on a zero budget. No conferences, retreats, RWA, etc… I’ve never even met another writer face-to-face. I see the pictures and read the posts. They sound like a lot of fun. If I could go, I’d probably stick with the smaller ones just so I could attend more of them.

    • I gotta say, Sandy, you amaze me, because as great as on-line friendships, critique groups, and brainstorming are, I love face-to-face with writer friends. I don’t see them often, but when I do, I really enjoy and profit from it. I love the small conferences because, at this stage of my writing game, it’s where I get the best bang for the buck.

  3. I’ve never been to RWA National, mainly because of the cost, and also because the size of the thing intimidates me. I haven’t been to a major conference since 2009, but I’m planning to go to the Surrey International Writers Conference in suburban Vancouver this October. The conference is for all genres of writing but they usually have some very good romance authors, as well as agents and editors looking to acquire romance novels. The year I went I had an blue pencil session with Susan Wiggs who gave me input on my book, and a agent interview with Donald Maass.

    • Oh, wow. Did I mention starstruck? :-) The cost is earthshaking, though, on National. That alone would keep me from going, I think, unless it ever came to Indianapolis, which doesn’t seem likely.

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