Sunday, May 01, 2011

Attending a Writer’s Conference: New England Chapter of Romance Writers of America

In the shadow of a calling I found myself . . .

Grateful I am not a total control freak.

Musical Moment
~ “Anyone Out There” Duran Duran

I am a proud member of the New England Chapter of Romance Writers of America (NECRWA) and this past Friday and Saturday, I attended their “Let Your Imagination Take Flight” conference. The conference did what it promised and my imagination flew high with the birds, and I could not wait to get back to my keyboard. I had a wonderful time amongst hundreds of writers, readers, agents and editors. We milled about the charming Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Massachusetts and, given the general air of geniality, a great time was had by most (while I didn’t hear of or personally experience any negatives, I won’t assume “all” cause that never happens).

If you are a writer and have ever wondered about writer’s conferences I would suggest you attend one. The experience of being surrounded by like minded and supportive people is almost indescribable. I have never been in an environment where people are willing to give advice, cheer you on and are genuinely interested on your experience, both good, but especially bad, and are willing to share insights, tips and even their agents and editors with you.

There are many reasons to attend a conference but the primary ones are:

The workshops - Whatever you as a writer are interested in and wherever you are in your career, there is a workshop for you. The conference coordinators found amazing presenters for subjects on craft and the business of publishing like plotting, the submission process, finding one’s voice, research and promotion to specialized interests such as psychopaths, the young adult market, writing novels with a medical theme, and even the basics of witchcraft and ghost hunting.

The guest speakers (and we had a great lineup) - Donald Maas (expert speaker, writer and literary agent extraordinaire) gave a great workshop where he asked us to think about our current works in progress and helped us to see our novels in a different light by asking us pointed questions, and pushed me into asking myself:

- Will my readers care about the character(s)?
- What personal experiences and emotions can I bring into my novel to make the story real and relatable?
- Am I holding back?
- Are my characters being who they really are or am I manipulating them into being who I think they should be and potentially stunting the flow or (heaven forbid) ruining my story?
- Am I being boring and predictable?

I walked away from Maas’ workshop realizing I needed to push myself even harder and allow myself to go with the characters flow and give free reign to the surprises, the twists, the horrifying and even shameful things to come to life in my work as these things will keep the readers hanging on. The last thing I want is for anyone to easily go to bed because they don’t care what happens next.

The featured, and dare I say celebrity, authors to speak were my fellow NECRWA-sister and national bestselling author Annette Blair, and New York Times bestselling authors Lani Diane Rich and Anne Stuart (who dressed like a queen in honor of the royal wedding). What is better than listening to your favorite writers talk about their journeys to becoming writers, their struggles and their successes, the realities of publishing, glimpses into their own lives and their love and devotion to the craft and the Romance Writers of America organization? To listen to these successful writers encourage you to never give up, to believe and to write, and write what your heart tells you to whether the audience is your self or the reading public, is apart of the magic of conference.

Networking - Not just the networking opportunities, but the friendships discovered, renewed and strengthened. I sat with people who, like me, were there to network, learn and be inspired. Some of them were pitching their books to agents and editors and the nervous energy and excitement was palpable. I know of at least one wonderfully warm writer who received a request of her full manuscript after her agent appointment. I am hoping she gets the green light and I get to cheer her on and support her by buying her books. There is nothing better (for me at least) than seeing someone get “the call.” It lets me know that there is a possibility that I too will one day pick up the phone and receive an offer of representation be it by a publisher or literary agent. (Hint, hint Donald Maas - LOL.)

I must not forget to mention the location of the conference itself. Being in the historic town of Salem, you cannot miss having otherworldly experiences and the conference organizers did not disappoint with psychic consultations with Carolyn Sullivan and a Ghost Hunt tour with writer Marley Gibson and Patrick Burns.

Great job ladies of NECRWA. I look forward to next year’s festivities.

Two points of interest:

I have to give big props to the two men who attended the conference and not as someone else's +1 (dragged kicking and screaming all the way). Men who read or write romances are sexy. Kudos to you gentlemen.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Deborah Blake. Deborah is the woman who upset my plans for using “my” name, but she was such a lovely woman that I had to resign myself to the fact that someone would rock that name out on book covers. Deborah is a real life witch and writes Urban Fantasy (fiction) and Pagan (nonfiction) books. How cool is that?

I’m really okay with the name thing. I am. Really. It was worrisome, but I have chosen a nom de plume for myself and had the foresight to register the website domain before I lost that bad boy. Now, I only have to find a publisher. Oh, and finish my edits.

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