Go for the books, stay for the adventure
What I’ve learned about writers’ conferences can be boiled down to the simple principle of: expect nothing, be curious, and you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised. At least in my case, what ends up happening is rarely what I planned for. I personally think there’s a Chaos Fairy assigned to writers’ events.
Once, when I was in the planning stages of going to WorldCon, I joked with my to-be-roommate about the cost of renting a suite instead of the standard double-double—the difference in this particular hotel was so outrageous, we surmised the suite’s bathroom must have gold-plated taps. Then, when the time came to check in, there was a room screw-up and no place to stay. We protested vigorously at the reception desk, and finally were given a partial suite at a bargain-basement price. Yup, it had gold taps. The poor porter must have wondered why we were laughing so hard. I spent most of the conference writing in the room, with its full dining area, living room and two elegantly-appointed bathrooms, because it was just so darned nice. Dream—or at least joke—come true! On the other hand, most of the writers I had gone to see never showed up. Win some, lose some.
Maybe I appreciate the random quality of these events because my life is usually overbooked. Sure, conferences have schedules, but after a few years the listed offerings pale beside the impromptu sideshows. I don’t need another seminar to inform me that I need a web page. What I need is a shake-up. Something surprising.
I certainly got surprises during the Orlando conference. For one thing, the blue, hot, steamy Florida atmosphere is the polar opposite of what I’m used to. It was green and beautiful, but a sauna. It forced me to stop racing around at my usual pace—and that’s not a bad thing. Besides all that:
• I met readers! Bless you for coming out to the signing! I was thrilled.
• For the first time ever, I met my editor and she fed a flock of her authors a very fine meal indeed.
• I had a fancy purple cocktail that tasted like cough syrup, but it was very pretty to look at.
• I danced, much to my surprise. Probably had something to do with that martini.
• One of my roommates, Jacqui Nelson, won a Golden Heart award for her unpublished manuscript. You go, girl!
• I met tons of people, including a first face-to-face with Jessa and Kim.
Plus, I got all the usual mixed messages about the future of the publishing industry. It’s heaven! It’s hell! It’s dead! It’s alive! It’s Undead! It’s zombified! Call an exorcist!
Pass the purple martinis 😯
If you want to write romance, I’d definitely recommend the RWA National Conference experience. It has tons of information available—but not all of the valuable stuff is in the seminars. Wear comfy shoes and go for the adventure. At the very least, there’s a book’s-worth of characters to encounter.