Each day learn something new, and just as important, relearn something old. ~Robert Brault
One of the greatest benefits of conferences is the ability to attend workshops to learn new things and rethink things you already know. RWA provides an astounding amount of workshops to pick from, and, like most conferences, oftentimes there are several engaging ones all at the same time. Luckily, RWA records many of the sessions and makes them available for purchase, so attendees can have access to nearly all the content after the conference. RWA also tags sessions into various tracks, such as Craft, Publishing, Writer’s Life/Muse, Research, and Career, to help attendees focus on a particular area during the conference if so desired. Some of the most informative sessions are done by the publishing houses, offering spotlights on their lines presented by editors of the house, highlighting upcoming releases and talking about what they’d most like to see in submissions. And the signings, where authors of specific publishers sign free books. If desired, attendees can end up with extremely large amounts of books to haul home!
On the first afternoon, workshops I attended focused on making the most of your pitch appointment and a fun and engaging session on “Can You Do that in an Inspirational?” which covered what you can and can’t do when writing inspirational romance. The last session of the day was an editor discussing the importance of romance fiction, and she was full of practical advice for writers at all levels. And keep in mind, each of these sessions were just one of nine or ten options being offered each hour!
Thursday brought workshops all day, from 8:30 in the morning until 5:30 that evening. Sessions I went to included information on world-building, e-books, contracts, and romance review websites. This day was also the Harlequin book signing and the spotlight on Harlequin single title books. One of the sessions I most enjoyed was the one by Beth Adams, Senior Editor at Guidepost Books, who presented on “Using True Facts from History to Spin a High-Concept Story.” Not only was the topic intriguing, but I was totally unfamiliar with Guidepost Books prior to this session. I was also able to contribute a comment about the benefits of using and partnering with archives when writing historical fiction, a topic I previously discussed here on the blog. Without question, however, the highlight of the day was the Awards Luncheon and the very emotional keynote given by Sherrilynn Kenyon, which left many in tears. In contrast to the emotional highs of the day, Thursday also brought the moment where I left a session going, “Did she really just say what I think she said?” In one of the sessions, the presenter unfortunately chose to introduce her comments –not just once, but twice– with the phrase: “Well, let me put this in dumb people’s terms…..” I was certainly not the only one offended by that one. But overall, an amazing day!
Friday was the last workshop day, again filled from morning to early evening with more sessions than I thought possible to absorb. If you aren’t familiar with Deb Dixon’s book, Goal, Motivation, and Conflict (GMC), it is worth every penny. Dixon presented a condensed workshop focusing on the “Big Black Moment” that offered suggestions on building and creating the BBM in your writing. Other great sessions focused on one-page plotting, revisions, submission packages, critique partnerships, punching up the emotion of your story, and historical clothing. Finally, Tara Taylor Quinn packed the house for the last session of the conference with her highly informative workshop on creating a successful blog tour. After her Chapman Files tour and the recent tour for It Happened on Maple Street, she was full of excellent advice, and attendees peppered questions to take advantage of learning the best practices of creating a successful promotional blog tour for their own books.
Friday night brought an end to the conference with the annual RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony where the best of both unpublished and published works are honored. For romance writers, this is our Emmy, Oscar, and Tony awards all wrapped up into one big evening. Emceed by Meg Cabot, the evening always brings emotional speeches and memorable moments.
Each year always brings, as the above quote suggests, the chance to learn new elements of romance writing as well as the opportunity to relearn (or better learn) things writers already do. I come away inspired to do more and to do better. And looking forward to next year’s conference.
Tomorrow I’ll share some of my favorite moments and a RWA 2011 wrap-up, including my visit to Broadway!
What kinds of things do you take away from conferences? Do you think they’re worth the money and time to go?