How To Conference

I learned so much at this year’s RWA Conference, met a ton of people, and had more fun than I can chronicle in one blog post. However, one thing stood out to me, more so than at any writer conference before: We all conference in our own unique way. (Yes, I’m using conference as a verb here. Just roll with it.)

First, a blanket statement: There is no wrong way to conference, and how you conference will change from year to year, evolving with your career and personal life. It goes without saying you need to be polite and use your manners. I’m not talking about basic human civility, I’m talking about how you participate and manage your time at a writer conference. There’s no right or wrong way, there are only different ways – and the differences are beautiful.

Bad Girlz do San Diego!

Bad Girlz do San Diego!

You have the writers who treat the conference as roughly 80% a learning event, 10% networking, and 10% social. They attend as many workshops and presentations as they can pack into their schedule. They will walk away from a conference with a notebook full of notes, a hand full of business cards, and a brain bursting with knowledge.

There are the writers who attend conference primarily for professional networking. A national conference in particular is perfect for meeting with their editor(s), agent, the online chapter they rarely see face to face, that author they’ve been meaning to connect with about collaborative promo. These writers might attend a workshop or three, but mostly they’re there for meetings and planning.

There are also the writers who go to conference to connect. By connect I mean not only the professional networking with editors, bloggers, etc., but also social connection. All year they write in their bat caves, and this is the one time of year they are in the same room with dozens of like-minded individuals. They are energized by simply being around other writers, soaking up all the creativity and romance-positivity. You can find these writers in the bar, at the coffee shop, by the pool (if it’s San Diego) talking to EVERYONE. They don’t meet a stranger, if the person has on a conference badge.

Taking a break and socializing on the veraaandaaah.

Taking a break and socializing on the veraaandaaah.

Then, there are those writers who split the difference right down the middle. That’s where I fall. I like to walk away from every conference having attended at least one workshop that teaches me something new, or gives me a fresh perspective. I’ll take it even further and say, I prefer to walk out of every workshop with at least one nugget of wisdom. This year? SUCCESS! Every workshop taught me something or reminded me of a forgotten fact. I don’t feel like I’ve conferenced right if I don’t learn a little something along the way, but that’s just me.

I also go to network. I’m that weirdo who loves to network, but only when it’s about writing. I want to meet people and put faces with names, learn who’s who, build some kind of Romancelandia yearbook in my brain, so I’m not wandering the halls, clueless about who heads up what blog and which editor took over what line. The thing that really gets me excited about a conference though? Connecting. I love to socialize with writers. I don’t even care if I’m talking. I can sit by the pool and listen to other writers discuss their pitfalls and triumphs and I’m happy. I live in a world of money and numbers. Nobody is talking about character arcs and resolution. Absolutely NO ONE discusses hero inspiration or sex scenes, and whether or not the F word is okay for steamy contemporary, but not small town. I don’t get to have these conversations with anyone else except writers! So bring on the connecting! In the bar, at the sandwich shop, in the elevator, getting lost trying to find Salty’s restaurant. Wherever. Writer talk. Gimme!

Me at the Kensington signing, dorkin' with my book covers. Shiny!

Me at the Kensington signing, dorkin’ with my book covers. Shiny!

How do you conference? How do your friends conference? By the way, none of the Bad Girlz conference the same way. We cover the spectrum, and I think it’s awesome! 😀

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