A Tale of Two Conferences

By Laura Drake

Laura, in her normal habitat.

I’m only beginning to come out of my post-conference fog, and to get my head around all the work I have to do! Before I jump into that though, I wanted to tell you what I learned from this conference. Hopefully it will help you decide if conferences are worth your time and money.

RWA National, Washington, D.C.

My first conference was the RWA National, three years ago, in Washington, DC. I was at the sophomore level then, having completed two books, and was pitching my most recent for the first time. It was an overload to the brain. I was a hyperaware, fangirl, sponge. Craft workshops, keynotes, networking, pitching, I soaked it all in, and went home with a sense of being part of a community of writers, and a renewed belief that I could do this!

Spring forward three years.

We were lucky enough to have the National RWA Conference in our backyard this year, ten miles from my house. I expected my experience to be a bit different, since I’ve now sold, but I didn’t realize just how different.

Grand Central Book signing Event

I’d planned out my time, chosen the career-track workshops I wanted to attend, and was organized. I thought. Well you know what they say, “Man plans, God laughs.”

Women’s Fiction Chapter Mini-con

Being the President of the Women’s Fiction Chapter made it even better – and crazier. We’d planned a packed mini-conference that didn’t have much “mini” to it. A twelve hour agenda seemed like a great idea in the planning stages; in reality, it was crazy!  Thanks to Fae Rowen and a ton of hard-working WF volunteers and great hotel staff, it came off almost without a hitch, and I think everyone got something from it.

We had two knowledgeable panels of authors, editors and agents, who discussed the market for women’s fiction.  Margie Lawson was brilliant in her two hour craft session, and Kristen Lamb’s Social Media Keynote was riveting – galvanizing a crowd that had been thinking hard for eleven hours (not to mention myself, who had been up for twenty hours at that point.)

WITS Bloggers at the Mini Conference

Thank goodness for girlfriends with makeup skills…

The rest of the conference was a blur of lights and action, like squinting your eyes on a Merry-go-round. I met with my agent for the first time, and both my editors. I literally ran from one thing to the next, and still missed a Pajama Party, Meet & Greet, and most of the workshops I wanted to attend. I’m not complaining – I made it to a publisher dinner, the GH/RITA ceremony, and the Harlequin party!

Duded up for the Grand Central Dinner.

My WITS roommates helped me dress up each night for an event (you know I’m not a glitter-gal, right?)

I felt like Cinderella, the entire week!

To make it even more exciting, I’m so proud of my local Chapter! OCCRWA was well represented at the Awards Ceremony: Diane Pershing received a Service Award, Kara Lennox (monthly WITS blogger!) was a DOUBLE RITA Finalist, and Tessa Dare walked away with a RITA!

Well, Cinderella is now home, facing a two foot wall of laundry, a sink full of dishes, and a $57 dry cleaning bill. Sigh.

My point to this rambling though, is that no matter where you are in your journey, writer’s conferences are invaluable. There is a lot available for everyone, at any stage of their writer’s journey.

Kudos to RWA. The Marriott Hotel was superb, the staff friendly and helpful, the food on time and delicious. I can’t imagine the logistics and grunt work that goes into putting on an event of this kind. And they did it without breaking a visible sweat. Great job!

So, what do you think? Have you attended an RWA conference? Another Organization’s conference? What was your experience?

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21 Responses to A Tale of Two Conferences

  1. I’m glad you had a swell time, Cinderella. I agree about the writers’ conferences–I have found them invaluable. Fun post!

  2. PMDrummond says:

    I thought the RWA conference and the RWA-WF mini-conference were awesome this year and a great benefit to my writing career. I learned a lot, made great connections, found new resources, and came away with loads of books to read. I managed to trip the first day and throw my back out, but the muscle relaxers helped during my agent appointment. I was so not nervous I remembered everything I wanted to say and did very well.

    • Yikes! You made me laugh – I met with some friends outside the pitching room, getting ready to go in…you could have made a FORTUNE selling those muscle relaxers!!! So glad it went well for you!

  3. Jann says:

    Laura, I also had a great time at the RWA Conference and the WF Mini-Conference. Great pictures.

  4. Every conference I’ve attended has always been worthwhile. And exhausting. And did I mention worthwhile??/

  5. vicki batman says:

    It was a pleasure to meet you at the mini con. Congratulations on your books too! You look beautiful in the picture. Keep on working.

  6. I was at the Anaheim conference and I think I sat with you during lunch on Thursday. I just didn’t realize at the time you wrote for the blog that I follow.🙂

  7. C. K. Crouch says:

    I see all the blogs and things on Nationals and I so want to go. I have hopes for Atlanta next year but a definite yes on San Antonio in 2014. I live close enough to there I can be down there in 2 hours max 3.

  8. Laura, you look gorgeous all dolled up for the conference parties. Love the photos of you! I’ve only attended one RWA conference and it was awesome. Other than the Rita/GH night, which was just like the Academy Awards🙂 the thing I remember most is riding down the elevator the first morning and as I got closer and closer to the main lobby, the swell of 1500 voices all talking at once. Truly great memories. I’m glad you had such a wonderful time!

    • Sheila, you described so well, the best part of conference, no matter where you are in your journey – the potential and electric excitement in the air is worth the price of admission all by itself! It can fuel your entire writing year!

  9. Absolutely conferences are worth the time, effort, and money. That being said, you still have to pick and choose. Most of us don’t have enough of the afore mentioned 3 items to attend every conference out there. I’ve been twice to RWA (not this year) but expect to go again. If you’ve never attended a national anything you really must. It is inspiring to be around so many like-mined (but at the same time different individuals.) I’ve attended other natioanl conventions–National School Board Association numerous times, Presbyterian Chruch General Assembly once , and even a Mary Kay Convention. Touching base with folks from, all over broadens us in unimagined ways. So plan ahead, put the money aside, and pick a national that’s in your part of the country. Then go.

  10. Laura Drake says:

    Well said, Marsha!

  11. It was an honor (and fun!) to share in your Cinderella experience. You deserve it all!
    -Fae

  12. This was my first Nationals, and I was in charge of my chapter’s AGM. It was, fun and crazy. I can’t wait until next year. BTW, you cleaned up nicely.

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