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Conferences

Paying It Forward

This year’s RWA National Convention in San Diego was one of my favorites I’ve attended for a lot of reasons. To my surprise, one of the highlights of the conference was also one of my biggest sources of stress leading up to it. Namely, teaching a workshop.

To be fair, this wasn’t my first time teaching a workshop. It wasn’t even my first time teaching this workshop. I’d given it for my local chapter and then for a small group at Chicago’s Spring Fling conference. And yet, giving it at Nationals?? That was a whole other ballgame.

It’s hard to believe I attended my first RWA only three years ago. At the time, I was still at the beginning of my career. Every workshop I went to, I sat in rapt attention, soaking up the wealth of knowledge being laid out for me. I was in awe of the people who stood at the front of those rooms, speaking so authoritatively about things I was only just learning. I won’t pretend to be so humble that I never imagined I might someday be up there, doing the same, but it seemed like something for a far-off, distant future. Surely, I could spend decades and still not know enough to be able to pretend to pass that knowledge on.

Funny how time passes.

In the intervening three years, I’ve been to a lot of workshops, both at conferences and at local chapter meetings. I’ve worked with three different editors and a half dozen critique partners, received lots of feedback from readers and reviewers, and spent hours talking with my peers about the intricacies of what we writers do. Basically, I’ve learned a lot.

And in the end, the thing I decided I knew enough about to pass it on to others was one of the things I used to be the weakest at: writing in deep point of view.

I believe it was fellow Bad Girl Tanya Michaels who first gave me the advice that it’s easiest to teach others about topics you once struggled with. If you’ve always been good at something, chances are it came to you naturally, and it’s going to be difficult if not impossible to put your understanding of the skill into words. By contrast, a skill it took hard work and patience to develop? You remember every hard-won inch of that slog. You already know how to explain it to someone else because you know how you wish someone else had explained it to you.

Me in front of the packed house for my Deep POV workshop at Nationals

Me in front of the packed house for my Deep POV workshop at Nationals

So it was that I found myself at the front of a packed auditorium, laying out the wisdom I had gained through years of practice and education to over a hundred people, many of whom were probably at the beginning stages of their careers, listening to me the way I had once listened to others. It was a heady feeling. Look how far I had come.

Look how much good I could do, helping others.

The romance-writing community has always been a special, amazing place, and a huge part of that is the sense of comradery and cooperation. The feeling that we’re all in this together—that one person’s success is not another’s failure, but an opportunity for all of us to learn and grow. Where else do best-selling authors take time out of their day to travel to chapters or present their wisdom and share their stories at conferences? What other genre has such a tradition of writers helping writers?

Paying forward the things I’ve learned from this community has been such an incredibly rewarding experience. I loved getting to share what I’ve learned. I loved the conversations I got to have with the people who came up to me after the workshop. I love feeling like I can give something back after everything this community has given me.

Have you ever thought of presenting a workshop? What topics would you want to teach?

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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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To Conference or Not To Conference…

Conference Badges Galore

Whoa, that’s a lot of badges you have there.

As we’re in the midst of conference season, I’ve been seeing a lot of opinions on the pros and cons of going to them. It seems people are as passionate about this as they are about either traditional or self-publishing. But here’s the thing—it doesn’t have to be all or nothing (with publishing or conferences!). Since I just came back from Spring Fling, a mid-size writing conference held in Chicago, I thought I’d share a few tips and tricks on how to decide if going to one is the best for you and your career, how to choose which one(s) to go to, and how to get the most out of them while you’re there.

Do I have to go to a conference to get ahead in this business?

I’d say that’s an unequivocal nope. Sometimes it helps, especially if you’re a fairly new writer who is interested in pitching an agent or editor. In person pitching, while terrifying and vomit inducing, is a great way to stand out in the slush pile. So, yes, it could help you get ahead, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

Is a conference the best use of my time?

So this seems to be the hot-button issue that I’m seeing discussed everywhere. Some people believe it’s never the best use of your time and you should instead be writing. I’m not one of those people. While, yes, writing the next book will always be the single most important step you can take for your career, going to conferences can give you a boost in many other ways. Liiiiiiike:

It connects you to people who are in the same boat as you. Sometimes these connections will lead to long-lasting friendships, CPs, betas, or bitch partners (every writer needs at least one). Cling to them, because you’ve found your tribe.

It also connects you to people who aren’t in the same boat as you, who are much smarter than you, and who know what the hell they’re doing in this business. Sometimes these connections will also lead to long-lasting friendships, or they might lead to a mentor, or a person with which to bounce ideas off. At the very least, it leads to a new Twitter or Facebook friend, and you’ve soaked up some real life knowledge you could never, ever find on the Internet.

You can also learn a shitton at conferences, if you go with that goal in mind. If you go in knowing you’re not going to get anything out of it, you’re probably not. And, depending on where you are in your career, that might be fine for you! If your goal is only to hang with your tribe, that’s a totally plausible use of a conference. I always go with the hope I will learn new things, but I’m also cool with walking away having only had casual conversations with fellow authors. Me now is very different than me circa 2013, when I attended my first conference and went to ALL THE THINGS! My goal at that conference was to learn every.single.thing I possibly could, and my body and mind felt it. Since then, I’ve learned to tailor my conference experience a bit.

Depending on the conference(s) you attend, it could also be when you meet your agent/editor/publicist for the first (or fifth) time. Getting that face-to-face time with any of those people, while unnecessary, is nice. If that’s the only reason you’re going, though, I’d maybe rethink.

Bad Girlz Laura, Elizabeth, Jeanette, and moi at RWA 2014.

Bad Girlz Laura, Elizabeth, Jeanette, and moi at RWA 2014.

And finally, for those rare few of you who are fellow extroverts, conferences are like brain, body, and soul fuel for this ENFJ. I get revitalized being around all those people. I get pumped up to work, to discuss, to plan with others. There is absolutely nothing else that I’ve found that gives me this sort of juice straight into my writer veins. And I need it. Just like the introverts who crave silence and solitude in order to function/work/live, I crave the energy that comes from a conference. Plus, yay for getting time with your tribe!

How do I get the most out of a conference?

This is a tricky question to answer, because it will vary for each writer at each stage of their career. Maybe your strength is character building and your weakness is plotting. Obviously going to a workshop on character building isn’t going to be the best use of your time. My advice? Take a gander at the listings of the workshops that are being offered. Have a tentative plan on which ones would benefit you most where you are right now. (<—— That’s important, folks. That workshop on military men might be great, but not if that military series plot bunny you have isn’t going to be in your writing queue for three years.) Then talk with your conference buddy. Probably, there will be at least one session where you’d like to attend two or more workshops. Split up, cover more ground, and share your notes (speaking of which, AJ, I need to get you some notes!). If, alternately, there are sessions when none of the workshops look good, use that time, too! Hang out in the lobby/main area of the conference venue. Find new people to talk to, or find friendly faces. Maybe there’s a plot point you’ve been stuck on, or a question you had about Facebook ads or a particular publicist. Use this “down time” too. Oftentimes, these down times are when I get the most out of a conference.

Should I give a workshop?

If you have a topic on which you’re qualified to speak, this is a great way to get a bit of your conference fees knocked off. It’s also a great way to spend the days leading up to it terrified you’re going to lose every meal you put in your mouth. No? Just me? Honestly, this is just as much of a personal choice as all the others. If you’re good with public speaking, put your thinking cap on and figure out what topics you could talk about. Or grab some friends and put together a workshop with multiple people. Best case scenario, people hear your workshop and get something out of it, and they buy your book(s). Worst case scenario, you got some fees knocked off and lost your lunch prior to the workshop. Kidding.

How do I know what conference is best for me?

Again, this depends on where you are in your career, where you live, and what your financial and family/life situation is like. Maybe you can’t take off a week to go to a conference, which means the big ones are probably a no-go for you. Maybe you hate flying, so traveling from Florida to Seattle for the Emerald City conference is going to be out. You just have to do a bit of research here. Talk to other writer friends, look at blog posts, take a peek at previous years’ schedules if they’re still listed, and see what would be a good fit for you, this year. It may change from year to year, and it probably will. In fact, I’ve not once gone to the same conferences every year since I started. Shake things up a bit and see what sticks. But also, don’t write a conference off after only going to it once. It might have been an off year—for you or for them.

Bottom line? Take a look at your circumstances, where you are in your career, and what you want to get out of it, then set forth and pick and choose the perfect conference(s) for you!

Are you a conference goer? Do you love/hate them? What do you get out of them the most? And what’s your favorite one to attend?

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I Read It For The Articles

From the moment I walked into my very first RWA chapter meeting some four odd years ago, I was hooked. I met amazing people who thought it was perfectly normal to talk about crazy writer eyes and drink mimosas while discussing marketing and beat sheets. Ladies who wanted to talk plot bunnies and gentlemen who were prepared to compare lists of dream agents at a moment’s notice.

stepbrothers-did-we-just-become-best-friendsSimply put, I’d found my tribe. The folks who understand me and accept me, and who I understand in a way I don’t think I can entirely explain.

These people are the reason I get up on the second Saturday of every month and trek all the way across town to go to meetings. They’re the reason I make every effort possible to get to as many conferences as I can. Not workshops. Not networking. But people. Friends.

But the funny thing is that no matter why I go, I go. I attend at least half a dozen workshops per year at my local chapter meetings, and that many again in a single weekend at a conference. And in spite of myself I keep learning things.

When it came time to plot my latest book, what did I do? I found the handouts from four different plotting workshops I’d been to. Crafting a synopsis? I referred to my notes from the synopsis clinic my chapter-mate put on. Trying to get excited about writing yet another love scene? I even have a handout for that. Self-publishing, copyright law, writer software, editing. You name it, I’ve probably seen someone speak about it.

The business and craft of being a writer are complicated, nuanced things, and the simple fact is that at any stage in a person’s career, there are still new things to learn. We have to keep growing and evolving and finding ways to keep our practice as writers fresh.

I may not have thought I was going to all those meetings and conferences for the workshops. But damn if I haven’t accidentally learned a lot from them all the same.

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Moonlight & Magnolias 2014

This past weekend, most of the Bad Girlz attended Georgia Romance Writers’ annual conference: Moonlight & Magnolias (M&M for short). It’s always a favorite, with great workshops, pitch opportunities, warm atmosphere, familiar faces and a kickin’ awards ceremony and dance party the final night. The conference was Awesome! You can see from the pictures below, good times were had, learning moments and epiphanies were shared, but most importantly, there was a lot of quality writer time and good-for-the-ole-mental-health socializing. 😀

M&M technically begins on Friday morning, but most writers arrive Thursday to register, check-in, etc. We have absolutely NO pictures from Thursday, so let that lend credence to how hectic and FUN that first day is. It’s like a giant writer reunion!

Friday starts at 9am with workshops and pitch appointments. Our very own Jeanette Grey led a workshop on building an author website using WordPress (she’s our BadGirl tech guru too). Many of us attended, and all of us were too engrossed to take pictures. Trust us, she oozed technical authority, and looked MARVELous while doing so.

Next up was Frances Fowlkes’ workshop on historical fashion, from the inside out. She made over half of the outfits herself and everything was historically accurate, right down to the under garments. You’ll have to take our word on it. How great do they look all dressed up though?!?

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From left to right, Sydney Carroll in Regency, Jeanette Grey in Victorian, Chudney Thomas in Edwardian, and Frances herself in 1920s.

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Some attending Bad Girlz, in modern dress, with the models. I think we all agreed that we’re happy to be 21st century women.

Lunch featured the GRW speaker: Wendy Wax with a humorous and encouraging talk about the life of a writer and the people who are on this journey with you.

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Speaking of modern 21st century women, Jeanette, Heather and Fran went with a futuristic and heroic theme for the day. Marvel, Star Trek, and Star Wars. The trifecta of fangirling!

Once the first day, chock full of information and activities, is over, there’s time for dinner and socializing on your own. We made dinner reservations at a nice restaurant and the Scorpion Bowl happened.

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At its core, it’s a rum punch, but with a disinctive mid-century Polynesian-inspired flair. And sting! That little part in the middle? That’s the volcano of Bacardi 151. There was volcanic flame and some Nigerian funk music. Idek, but it was epic. For details, contact Sydney Carroll, our queen of all things entertaining & obscure.

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This may become a conference tradition.

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JennaP & McGovy at dinner.

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Cheers to the Bad Girlz!

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Group picture!

Saturday, Elizabeth Michels & Heather McGovern led their workshop on mastering the Big Black Moment. There were wands and Disney clips, but regretably, no tap dancing. Workshops filled the rest of the morning and lunch included an uplifting keynote speech by Marie Force. The afternoon offered more workshops, editor/agent panels, and Marie’s panel. That evening was the Maggie’s Awards Dinner and After Party. We were much better about taking pictures on the last night. 🙂

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Group picture with Killion Group’s cover model, Sergei.

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Our group shot that’s equal parts pageant elbows, cheerleading stance, sorority shot and rushing to take a pic before the ceremony begins. We tried! 😀

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Jeanette & Brighton looking fabulous.

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Robin & Lori are dazzling. #selfie

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McGovy & EMichels getting their fancy on.

That’s just about it for Moonlight & Magnolias 2014. One last thing, we did a raffle basket for GRW’s literacy fundraiser. Someone won it, but we have no idea who. Whoever you are, congratulations and we hope you enjoy! 🙂

See you in Atlanta next year!!!

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A BadGirl Photo Diary of #RWA14

A couple of weeks ago, four of the members of BadGirlzWrite traveled to San Antonio, TX, to attend the national convention of the Romance Writers of America.

One survived.

No, I’m kidding. Everyone made it home, and everyone had an amazing time.

Laura Trentham, Elizabeth Michels, Jeanette Grey, and Brighton Walsh

Laura Trentham, Elizabeth Michels, Jeanette Grey, and Brighton Walsh

Elizabeth Michels signing copies of her books from the Tricks of the Ton series at the "Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing

Elizabeth Michels signing copies of her books from the Tricks of the Ton series at the “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing

Jeanette Grey signing copies of her RITA-finalist novella Take What You Want at the Samhain publisher signing

Jeanette Grey signing copies of her RITA-finalist novella Take What You Want at the Samhain publisher signing

Even at a conference, there is always time for fashion.

Even at a conference, there is always time for fashion.

Elizabeth Michels, Jeanette Grey and Brighton Walsh, prior to the RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony.

Elizabeth Michels, Jeanette Grey and Brighton Walsh, prior to the RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony.

Jeanette Grey, Brighton Walsh, and Laura Trentham before the RITA and Golden Heart awards.

Jeanette Grey, Brighton Walsh, and Laura Trentham before the RITA and Golden Heart awards.

The Bad Girlz toasting a very successful conference.

The Bad Girlz toasting a very successful conference.

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The ABCs of #RWA14

As this post goes to press, yours truly is getting ready for the biggest romance writers’ convention of the year: RWA 2014. I know without a doubt that I’m going to have an amazing time there. I love going to workshops, catching up with old friends, meeting new people, and just generally immersing myself in a happy writer wonderland.

That said, right now, as I’m getting ready? I am a giant ball of stress. Packing, early morning flights, social overload, fashion anxiety. They’re all very real concerns for even the most experienced conference-goer. For someone who’s only attending for the second time?

It can get a little overwhelming.

So. For the sake of my own sanity, I started making lists. Then I looked at my list and wondered if it would look even more terrifying if I had an item for every letter in the alphabet. Then I realized making such a list would be an awesome excuse to procrastinate the rest of my packing.

Thus, I bring to you:

The ABCs of Preparing for #RWA14

A is for Alcohol: You’ve heard it before. One of the most popular activities at a big conference is drinking. The hotel bar and a bunch of the watering holes around it will all be prime networking locations. But if you’re one who prefers to drink a little more than a little in order to get past her social inhibitions, I highly recommend stashing a bottle in your luggage. Because let me tell you, the drinks at those places will not be cheap. You’ll have to buy one in order to have something in your hands all night, but avoid some of the worst of the bill by nipping a bit of liquid courage in your room with your buddies before you go.

B is for Batteries: All conference long, you’ll be live-tweeting and messaging back and forth with your friends trying to figure out where’s the best place to meet up. Heck, RWA even has an app this year. All those messages and tweets and schedules take up precious battery space, though. If your phone runs out of juice fast, make sure to bring a supplemental battery to keep you running, outlet or no.

C is for Coffee: VERY IMPORTANT FOR PUTTING YOUR BEST FOOD FORWARD ON LITTLE TO NO SLEEP.

D is for Drama: There’s always some sort of drama surrounding the annual general meeting. Things change. Decisions about membership and the future of the organization get made. Either inform yourself about the issues and participate, or decide to focus on your writing and ignore it. But either way, don’t let it keep you from having a great conference.

E is for Earplugs: Even the best roommates sometimes snore. Even the best hotels sometimes stick you next to the elevators. Even the thickest walls allow the sounds of partiers and night owls in. Better safe than sorry. Earplugs are your friends.

F is for Fabulous Shoes: Put a couple thousand primarily female conference-goers in one spot, and what do you get? One hell of a shoe parade apparently. Bring some comfortable kicks, but remember that this is a place to see and be seen, and there’s no easier conversation starter at this particular party than fantastic footwear.

G is for Granola Bars: The conference is only providing one lunch this year, and there’s not always time to grab a real meal between meetings and workshops. Stash a couple snacks in your bag to tide you over, just in case. (more…)

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A Conference Vacation

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…and sometimes you don’t.
(Yes, I totally sang that as I wrote it. *grins*)

I spent this past weekend at Georgia Romance Writers’ Moonlight and Magnolias Conference. This was my third time attending this conference, and if you haven’t been before, I recommend it. It’s a great conference with workshops, a book signing, agent and editor pitch appointments and a semi-formal awards ceremony with dancing. It’s a rocking regional conference and normally the Bad Girlz rock the fashions while there.

This trip, however, Jenna P and I decided to be “Low key.” Were there still sparkly necklaces that matched our outfits? Well, yeah. We were low key—not dead. But, we wore flat shoes and studious looks on our faces as we attended workshops. We waited until at least 2pm before we went to the hotel bar, and we’re pretty sure we were *not* the reason security was called to break up the Maggies after party.

Why the sudden change to our standard conference protocol? We needed a writer vacation.

I can’t speak for Jenna P here, although I’m sure she’ll speak the truth in the comments section, but I needed a break. I’ve spent the past year on a deadline, pushing to get 2 books written and edited. Then, the day my vacation began, I dove straight into a renovation project on my new house so that I could have a roof over my head. After a month of moving boxes, painting, and in general doing all the things that make you say, “Wow! I really need a manicure.” I was done. My house? Not so done. But, I needed to walk away, and not while wearing 6” heels.

What’s the point of this story? Sometimes you need to step away, take a break.

Whether you’re staring at blank paper, unsure which project to start next, or just worn down by real life, sometimes it’s best to take a guilt-free vacation. I attended a workshop by the awesome Tanya Michaels last year where she talked about feeding your muse. Before Moonlight and Magnolias this year, my muse was buried under piles of moving boxes. But, after soaking up the fabulous writer vibes that can only be found at a writers’ conference, now I’m excited to start my next book!  My muse has been fed!

So next time you’re stuck, try feeding your muse. I recommend a “Low key” trip to a writers’ conference like M&M. But if that’s not possible, try reading a book, going to a movie, or meeting a writer friend for coffee—trust me it helps! Sometimes writing is just as much about perspective as it is words in a story. Go write something…or don’t. But, whatever you do, live it, own it and enjoy!

Do you need a writer vacation? Where would you go?  I’d love to hear from you.

~ E. Michels

@southerntart on Twitter

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National Conference – It’s a thing!

Originally, I was going to have today’s post be something I wrote a month back and pre-scheduled. Then I thought, “The first post back after RWA Nationals? And you’re not going to blog about it? That’s pretty weak.” So I scrapped the other plan and decided to blog what’s on my heart:

Stuff I learned about myself and others, but mostly about myself, at RWA’s 2013 National Convention.

Firstly, most of what I learned was outside of workshops. The match-strike of knowledge may have occurred within a workshop meeting room, but the flame of understanding came later. Realizations were fully formed while sipping over-priced martinis near the bar (not at the bar, because the place was crawling with creepers from another con). Understanding and epiphanies dawned while wandering the halls and finally finding the ice dispenser kept hidden in the depths of the mother ship hotel. Honesty with myself about my writing and the industry finally occurred when standing at the wrong bank of elevators that only go to floors 2 through 17, when I was trying to get to floor 25.

Allow me to explain. This may reveal the odd way in which my mind works, but that’s not really a secret anymore, so what the heck…

  • I write (WE write) what we write and it’s defined not by topic or even genre, but by our voice. I may pay $17 for a Grey Goose martini, served in one of those trendy glasses with no stem, and sip it while standing in 5 inch heels OR I may pay $6 for a Goose ‘tini and sip it from a short while sitting at a beach bar in flip flops – but I still know it’s a Grey Goose martini. I know it’s got a twist and not an olive. I know the flavor and voice of that drink, regardless of how it’s mixed or stirred, the presentation or the setting. If Sydney Carroll wrote a historical, I’d still know it was her. If EMichels wrote a rom-com, I’d still know it was her. Genres may change for writers, and often they do (hello, successful JR Ward)…but the way that writer tells a story, any story, is what her readers know and love.

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  • Sometimes, not really knowing where you’re going or what you’re doing, results in you finding what you didn’t know you were missing in the first place. I’ve been at a crossroads – no, honestly it’s more like a stalemate – with my writing lately. A combination of too many ideas, too little time, a little too much rejection, and a whole lot of real life crap has left me floundering. I had to admit to myself that I am lost and struggling. This is hard for an alpha female (no longer in denial about my alpha female traits) when I normally know exactly what I want and where I’m going. But you know what? I’m nothing if not keeping it real, so yeah – I’ve been friggin lost! However, I figured that out last week. I realized why I’ve floundered and what I’d lost that makes writing fun and very much therapeutic for me. I hadn’t even realized I’d lost it, until I found it again. Now I am working toward fixing this err.
  • You can keep trying to get to the 25th floor at the bank of elevators that only go to 2 through 17, but it’s not going to happen. Not unless you know a special trick about going to the 10th floor and switching elevators up there. In more writer related terms: you may want to get your dystopian YA published next month, but unless you’ve already written and polished the next great Hunger Games (yet totally different of course), it’s highly unlikely to happen.  It’s not impossible, but almost. I had a very honest, open, refreshingly frank discussion with an editor from one of the big 6 (now 5?), not about trends, but about what’s not happening.

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What did I learn? If you have a shiny new adult, historical, or erotic contemporary tale ready to submit – NOW is your time to shine baby! Y’all better get out there and submit, submit, submit! If you have a paranormal romance or dystopian YA…good luck and bless your heart. Again, it’s not impossible, but it may be beat your head against a wall impossiblaaaah. And hey, I’m right there with ya, so I say bless heart without any condescension. Plus, markets change all the time, so chin up!

At Conference, I gained invaluable insight into my writing, writing in general, other writers, and the industry over all, but not in the ways I’d expected. I encourage every romance writer to attend the National Conference – at least once – because it’s an experience not to be missed. Besides, you won’t know what you’re missing until you attend and realize what you’ve missed!

Thank you for all of it #RWA13!

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Conference After Dark

writersconferences1

 

So you’ve memorized the Dos and Don’ts list from McGovy, weeded through the workshop descriptions and made a plan of action like Jeanette, shopped along side the E. Michels style guide, made-up your Syd inspired packing list, and prepared with Lori for the pitch room insanity.  What’s next?

CONFERENCE AFTER DARK!!

I believe there is just as much benefit from conference afterhours as there is the actual conference.  It’s a golden opportunity to meet other writers, mingle with agents and editors, rediscover what you love about writing, and market your books and your blog.  There are even some folks who can’t afford the $500 conference fee or simply don’t think it’s worth the cash, but still book a room or tag along with a friend to experience the benefits of afterhours.

Here are some ideas on how to spend your time after the name badge comes off, or if you don’t have one at all…

Head to the Bar 

The bar is a great place to meet folks in a laid back setting with the gift of alcohol to calm the nerves, so order a Cosmo, or a Coors, or a Coke – whatever floats your boat – and mingle!  Even if you’re not a drinker there are many people in this industry who are, but remember – this is their downtime too, so don’t come on too strong.  Unless they ask you to pitch, keep it for the pitch room.

Unwind at the Spa

Conferences can be draining – both physically and mentally.  By the end of the day, your feet will ache like the world’s worst root canal, you might sound like a forty year smoker, and your head could feel like it’s going to explode.  If you need a little peace and quiet, head to the spa for a massage and pamper yourself.  You’re worth it!

WRITE!!!

Maybe sitting in a workshop gets the juices flowing, so much so that you have to get it down RIGHT THEN.  There’s nothing wrong with heading to the coffee shop in the lobby and jotting down some notes.  After all, that’s what these conferences are supposed to do – inspire us!

If you haven’t registered, use the time your buddies are in workshops to hang back at the hotel room and catch up on some writing.  It’s a perfect time free of the distractions of home while you’re immersed in the magic vibe that only the presence of other writers can offer!

Meet up with your Cyber Buddies

Most of us are in at least one online chapter or loop.  Before you head to the conference, send out a post inviting folks to a happy hour, lunch, or even a morning coffee so you can finally put a face with a name.  Many chapters organize their own events, so take advantage of it!

I, for one, plan to take advantage of more than one of these next week at Nationals!  So look for me and the other bad girlz around the hotel, living it up in after hours!

Jenna P.

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