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