The best thing to take away from a writing conference

Hands up—how many of you went to RWA’s National Conference in Anaheim last week?

*raises hand*

I heard there were about 1,700 romance writers gathered there, and I had a brilliant time meeting as many of them as I possibly could. What an incredible atmosphere!

It was only the second writing conference I’ve been to (the first being Nationals last year in New York), and this year I felt much better prepared and more confident. After four days of workshops, pitch sessions with agents and editors, and chatting with new friends, these are the biggest things I took away from the conference.

1. Craploads of free books!

Free romance novels from RWA NationalsSeriously, if ‘crapload’ were a unit of measurement, I’m sure I’d have at least two or three craploads in books. And guess what—I’m going to be giving lots of them away to my blog subscribers and Facebook fans. (Hint hint)

Last year I discovered several new-to-me authors, thanks to the free books given away at Nationals—including the very talented Jane Graves who was a double RITA finalist this year.

As wonderful as these books, they’re not the most important thing I took home from the conference. So what else did I get?

2. Increased confidence and new energy for my writing

This is crucial. I was struggling a little bit before the conference, for various reasons. But getting to talk to other writers about my story, listening to amazing authors like Julia Quinn discuss writing, and receiving enthusiastic responses from agents and editors to my pitch all helped me feel a renewed love for my work.

Because I don’t live within 3,000 miles of an RWA chapter, all of the conversations I have about romance are online. That’s wonderful, and I truly appreciate every single friend I’ve made online, but being able to talk to people in person and gauge their facial expressions is invaluable in being able to figure out how to improve my stories.

Is that the most important thing to take away from a conference? Maybe. But maybe it’s really…

3. New connections with writer friends and industry professionals

Just before heading to conference, I made plans to meet up with a couple of friends I’d only met online—Jami Gold (if you’re a writer, you have to subscribe to her fabulous blog) and Rose Lerner (love gorgeously written historical romance? Do yourself a favor and buy one of Rose’s novels).

Through a twist of luck, I also got to meet my talented blogger friend Angela Quarles and the magnificent historical romance author Samantha Grace. Plus, I made a new friend—Lila Gillard, who’s writing a historical romance I’m dying to read—in Carrie Lofty’s pitch workshop. Lea helped me hone my pitch, and she’s someone I know I’ll keep in close contact with. You can’t get better than making new friends.

But I also got to meet other industry professionals I’ve followed and admired forever. How can you beat the opportunity to learn about writing dialogue from Julia Quinn? Or bypassing the slush pile by pitching to your dream agents and editors in person?

I feel so lucky to have been able to go to this conference. I probably won’t be able to make it to next year’s, since the transatlantic flight in summer is so expensive, not to mention the conference fee and hotel. This year, I got to attend the conference for FREE because I volunteered last year and I won a raffle for a free conference. So this one means all the more to me.

Have you ever been to a writing conference? What’s the most important thing you took away?

24 thoughts on “The best thing to take away from a writing conference

  1. Never been to a conference; hope to one day.

    And glad you discovered Jane Graves. She is great. Loved Black Ties and Lullablies.

    And craploads of books – awesome. LOL.

    1. Black Ties and Lullabies is one of my favorites of hers too.

      Hope you get to a conference one day, Pat! It would be lovely to meet you in person.

  2. That about sums it up! It was so great meeting you, and I’ll never forget that moment in the hotel room when I was showing you that agent cheat sheet and your name was on there as a bullet point–I’d made that sheet so long ago, I’d forgotten! That was funny….

    I really wanted to go to Quinn’s workshop, as I adore her dialogue and humor, but I went to a different one instead as the other’s handout wasn’t as comprehensive and I felt like I had to be at the workshop to understand it. Now I don’t even remember what it was–I should’ve gone to Quinn’s 🙁
    Angela Quarles recently posted..Why Packing for a Trip is like Writing–Do It with Purpose or It Can Cost YouMy Profile

  3. Hii Kat! So glad you were able to go to the conference. I have never been to one, but would love to go.

    I love Jane Graves and craploads of books. Lol!

    1. Book sluttery is one of the healthiest forms of sluttery, Jami. 😉

      It was so great meeting you and Angela. If we’re all able to make it next year, we should definitely plan more time together – pitching and eating. 🙂

    1. Jane, I know what you mean. The only way I could go this year was because I won it for volunteering last year, and I could combine it with a visit to my family. They’re really expensive, and I’m trying to see it as an investment in my career.

      Samantha Grace is wonderful, isn’t she? And just as lovely in person as you’d imagine from her books.

  4. Love conferences! I’ve been to RT twice and several smaller ones. I plan to attend RWA next year in Atlanta. I always feel that it’s encouraging and writers are on everyone’s side. So supportive! It’s also an excuse for me to buy new clothes which I enjoy the rest of the year.
    Those piles of books are SO pretty!

    1. Amie, that’s only about HALF of my lovely book pile.

      You’re so right about how encouraging the environment is. I don’t know about other kinds of writers’ conferences, but romance writers are incredibly supportive. What a great group of professionals.

      If I make it to Atlanta next year, I’d love to meet you!

  5. Oh, I was suppose to go to the one in Pittsburgh but my sister canceled out on me at the last minute – she just decided not to go and she was half of my transportation (sigh). They always sound like so much fun.

  6. It was great meeting YOU. Someday I’m going to be saying, “Kat Latham? I totally know her.” It will be while you’re up collecting a RITA (my mouth will be full of cake). Love the blog, I’ll come back and play again soon!
    Lila Gillard recently posted..Coming SoonMy Profile

    1. Lila, if you’re in the audience shoveling cake in your mouth, it’ll only be because you’ve already picked up your statuette for best historical. Can’t wait for that day to come!

  7. I have never been to a conference but I do hope to get to one soon. Since I am just a reader, I think the “Crapload of books” and just the experience of meeting so many of my favorite authors would be what was the most important parts I would take away.

    1. I think a readers’ conference would be AMAZING, June. Is there one you have in mind? Every time I see photos from RT, I think it must be a massive party.

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