Sunday, July 08, 2007

Gearing up for the RWA conference

I've been blogging "lite" for the past couple of weeks because I was hustling to meet a book deadline (a long synopsis and the first three chapters of my September 2008 book, At His Command.) Yesterday, at last, I got that puppy in the mail. Now I'm shockingly behind on my e-mail and other internet chores, but it could take a while to catch up because I'm fixin' to (as they say in Texas) head to Dallas for the annual Romance Writers of America Conference.

I now have two days to pull my schedule together, make business cards and decide what promotional items to take (I can usually be counted on to provide a snazzy purple pen and some Dove chocolates to anyone who asks), pack my clothes, and teach my flowers how to water themselves while I'm gone. I'll be leavin' outta here (as they say in Texas) on Tuesday.

Yes, I'll be blogging from the conference. I'm always a little surprised that so many people are interested in such posts, especially as I'm not certain how representative my conferences are of the typical romance writer's experience. I'm not big on attending workshops, for example, and there are always well over a hundred different workshops offered at this conference, which usually draws more than 2,000 writers. Most of my time is spent networking, which is basically just seeing old friends and making new ones. Of course, those friends are my fellow writers and editors, and we have juicy discussions about the craft and things like trends and marketing. I've heard some writers complain that the annual RWA conference is an expensive way to see friends (it costs me about $2,000 a year for registration, airline tickets, and accommodations), but the conference is a once-a-year business expense that enables me to keep my finger on the pulse of the industry I'm involved in.

When I sold my first book in the spring of 2002, I immediately joined RWA. Since then I haven't missed a conference (Denver, New York City, Dallas, Reno, Atlanta--see proof of my attendance in the photo up there on the left). I don't participate in any other writing conferences, so this is a big deal for me; the only time all year I get to see my writer friends and my editors face-to-face.

Some people make detailed schedules for the RWA conferences, while others just drift with the current. I don't offer any advice on that except to suggest that you ask yourself exactly what you want to take away from the conference and then plan accordingly. Newbies often seem to feel that they must be everywhere and do everything, but I'm telling you, kids, that's just not possible. You can't do everything at the RWA conference any more than you can see Disney World in two hours.

I usually make up a fairly detailed schedule before I leave for the conference. That's necessary in part because I arrange to meet so many people for meals and coffee. But if you're a first-timer heading to the conference, please, please don't worry about not having any friends there. We're all writers, so plunk yourself down at a table and ask a couple of strangers what they write. Trust me, you'll make friends fast because we writers would talk to brick walls if we thought they'd care to hear about our novels.

Tomorrow I'll post my conference schedule. Stay tuned.

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