Thursday, March 29, 2007

Why Conferences?

Helen asked yesterday about conferences, so today, you're going to get my personal take on them - why go, what do you do and how do they help your writing career.

Why go? - Well, in the beginning, when you're doing the bulk of learning about technique, conferences are a fantastic place to essentially cram a year of learning into four days. RWA National Conference offer 5+ workshops every hour on different topics. The newer you are, the more there is to learn. Attend everything you possibly can before collapsing from exhaustion. Most of the workshops are given by published writers (or very highly skilled not-yet-published writers), so the knowledge base is definitely high.

Once you're more advanced, or have sold a book or more, you need less of the technique workshops that are offered, but you might gravitate more to the marketing workshops and learn a bit about how to increase book sales.

Publishers host workshops where the editors talk specifically about what they are looking for and the future plans for their company and its lines. This is a goldmine of information concerning market research and what is hot, what is not and what might be pretty soon.

There's also genre specific workshops - want to know how to write hot erotica? do you need to know everything about vampires? do you wonder what women's dress was in 1840 in England? If so, there's probably a class for you.

Next reason to go - networking. A lot of writers met their future agents/editors at conference and broke into the industry that way. Now, that's not to say that either of those professionals would take you on as a client if your work wasn't stellar, but if you've met someone face to face and they remember you, it might get you a faster read. In addition to agents/editors, conference is a goldmine of booksellers, librarians, publicists, web designers - just about any professional you might need in the field.

And then there's other writers. So many people meet their critique partners at conference. Why? Well, because you're attending a workshop on _______ and start talking to the woman next to you. You find you both write similar things and you hit it off personally, so you agree to exchange work - bingo, a cp is born. In my case, I picked up a fabulous new friend in the hot tub at the Dallas conference several years ago. We were both writing chick lit mystery at the time, both blonde, both accountants. We hit it off well and have remained friends ever since. In fact, that's the friend I mentioned dining with in Denver last week.

Then there's my out-of-town (and country) cp's and writing buds. Conference gives you a chance to hook up with people you love and may only see once a year. We spend TONS of time talking, catching up and in general having an absolutely awesome time. If you don't believe me - ask me about the gay karoake bar in Atlanta last year. :)

And as great as the things I've mentioned are (and there are literally tons of things I didn't mention that is great about conference) the most important thing I take away from conference is a renewed spirit and energy about my writing. Being around 2000+ writers (mostly high energy, dramatic women) is so uplifting it literally makes you itch to sit down and start writing your next book. I know some writers work in a vaccuum, but I don't know how or why you would want to. The company of other writers is what keeps me sane, focused and writing.

And if you can't afford the money/time/vacation days to attend conference, at least check out the conference cd available afterwards. Most of the workshops are taped and you can buy them on a single cd of mp3 files. So listen on your computer, translate them to seperate cd's and burn them or put them on your ipod and listen and learn.

Have a great Thursday!


Kim Stagliano said...

I met my agent at a conference. Worked for me! :) And it's such fun to listen to other writers and learn from the professionals. I'm fortunate to live outside NYC, a quick train ride away.

Jana DeLeon said...

That's a great location, Kim!!!! Well, except for housing costs. :) But I seriously need to make a trip to NY to visit my publisher - NOT going to be cheap. (sigh)

Jaye Wells said...

Conferences are definitley worth the cost. Plus, they're a write-off.

Jana DeLeon said...

Ah, yes, Jaye - thanks for reminding me of the tax angle. Not one I usually forget when I can actually deduct the cost of drinking beer. :)

Tori Lennox said...

I've only been to smaller, local conferences, but they've always been a lot of fun. :)

Jana DeLeon said...

Yes, tori, I agree - the local conferences are fun too. In fact, I have an all-day writing workshop this Saturday and am really looking forward to it. :)

Wendy Roberts said...

The bigger conferences are great for networking but I usually attend more workshops at smaller ones. Great topic!

Jana DeLeon said...

Wendy - I am soooooo bummed that you're not coming to Dallas - are you sure you can't swing it? It's been years since I've seen you. :(

Wendy Roberts said...

Jana, I sooo want to go to Dallas but I can't justify an expense to a romance conference when, technically, I write mysteries and should be attending mystery conferences instead. So why don't you meet Diana and I in NYC and we'll have one-on-one meetings with editors and then drink heavily :)

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