Good news: I turned fifty yesterday! That means you all will never have to read another post from me about turning fifty ever again. *Cue confetti and dancing boys.* Thank you all for the birthday wishes.
Bad news: There won’tl be a musing next week. I’ll be at RWA National Conference hopefully watching my friend Karen Foley grab the RITA Award for Best Short Contemporary Romance.
I love going to National. Once upon a time, I felt guilty about spending the money, unsure that I could justify the cost. Over the years, however, I’ve come to realize the importance of spending time with other writers. I always come back with renewed energy and focus.
There are, however, certain social guidelines a writer should follow to ensure you – and other writers – get the most for your expenditures.
- Have a plan. You’ll read this a lot in blog counting down to conference time. Attending National costs hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. A plan keeps you from wasting your money. Decide before you go if there is a particular technical element you want to focus on or a specific genre. Choose the workshops that best help you reach your goal.
- Expect to become distracted. Friends will drag you to the bar, booksignings will tempt you, etc. Having a plan doesn’t mean be so rigid you don’t have a good time. Some of the most valuable information can be gleaned from a conversation at Starbucks. Take advantage of opportunities when they arrive. So while you should have an agenda, make sure you build in flex time.
- Put more “you” and less “me” in your conversations. It happens at every conference. An attendee bends your ear about her book. Her idea. Her pitch. Her career. Don’t be that person. Sure, it’s okay to talk about yourself a little bit, but keep in mind that by definition, a conversation goes two ways. Who knows? You might actually find yourself pumping a person to tell you more about a topic.
- Be the writer you aspire to be. So what if you don’t have a publishing deal yet or if you’re still writing that first manuscript. RWA National is the one week a year where you focus solely on your writing career. All those other hats you wear – be it as a mother, daughter or candlestick maker – disappear. For five days, you are a professional writer. Carry yourself like a superstar. Be proud. Be confident. You belong at this conference as much as Nora Roberts does.
- Learn. Observe. Absorb. No matter where you are in your career – beginner, indie, NY Times bestseller – you don’t know everything. The beauty of being with 2000 writers is how many opportunities you have to learn. Take advantage of as many as you can.
- Relax and have fun. The National Conference isn’t a competition. There’s no prize for being the person who had the most successful pitch or passed out the most business cards. The best marketing comes from having authentic, honest interactions with others. Like I said above, we all belong at this conference. We’re all lucky enough to write love stories. Let’s all make the most of enjoying each others’ company.
BTW, if you read this blog and are going to be in San Antonio, please seek me out and say hello. I’ll be signing books at the Literacy Bookfair on Wednesday and again at the Harlequin book signing on Friday. I look forward to meeting you (and asking about your work).
As always, happy writing (and reading)