This past weekend I went to my first writers conference. I can guarantee that it wont be my last. In fact, I wish I had taken the chance on attending one far sooner than I did - years ago would have been great. The California Dreamin' Writers Conference was held from Friday night through Sunday afternoon - March 27th - 29th. There were workshops galore, opportunities to meet with agents and editors, keynote speakers and so much wonderful networking! I learned so much and had an incredibly good time at this conference. I had to call my husband a couple of times just to squeal and get some of the extreme amount of excitement out in order to continue acting like a professional adult while I was there. I'm only exaggerating a little bit. I have taken the time to thank him for encouraging me to go to this conference. He has already agreed that it would be beneficial for me to go to writers conferences in the future - but more on that in a bit.
Friday, when I first arrived at the conference I was so nervous but excited, too. Little things were in my head bothering me - like whether I was parked legally in the hotel underground since I wasn't actually staying there all weekend. What if there was some sort of problem and they didn't show me registered for the conference? What if I didn't find anyone to talk to? You know, things that turned out to be silly but seemed like a big deal in my amped-up, nervous state. Check-in went just fine and I immediately found someone to have a chat with. She was a very nice woman who had done the conference thing before and put me at ease. She suggested the First-Timers Orientation which I had already planned to attend. I went to that and am so grateful that I did. There were a lot of people attending a conference for the first time and a lot of great advice was given - like relax, have fun, learn as much as you can. Yeah, I know, it all sounds obvious - now.
Over the weekend I attended eleven workshops, met with agents, an editor and a lot of other writers! Many were already published and many were pre-published. I don't know what the exact ratio of each was but I didn't feel like it really mattered, either. Every single person I talked to was nice, welcoming and willing to talk about writing no matter where they were at in their career. People were so generous with advice, too. I did come across one person who acted a little bit uppity about the fact that she was already published but I didn't let it bother me. So many others had been kind before her that it made it easy to shrug off her attitude.
While I learned a great deal this weekend and found something useful in each workshop I did have my favorites. Black Moments (the point in the book where all seems lost), Ten Rules for Writing Love Scenes That Readers Don't Skip, Query Letters - An Editor's Perspective and The Alpha Hero were so incredible and filled with information that I was able to immediately put to work in my head. I'd love to share some of what was taught in the workshops but I'm going to make sure that's allowed before I do. I will say that the Black Moments workshop completely changed my perspective as a writer, though. There were so many phenomenal sounding workshops at the conference that it was hard to choose which ones to go to. I am so grateful for the fact that I went to the four I mentioned, though.
While at the conference I was asked to submit a portion of the manuscript I was pitching four times. I have no idea if that is 'normal' within the conference atmosphere but I am super excited. Of course, due to how much I did learn this weekend I know I need to do some more revision on my manuscript in order to make it even stronger. I was honest about that fact each time and that seems to be all right. For the first time ever I'm not looking at revision as a chore. I'm looking at it with excitement and possibility.
A big part of the reason my husband encouraged me to go to the conference was for networking purposes. He also said, "Honey, you need to make some writer friends that you can actually meet-up with in real life, on a regular basis." I knew he was right and I'm happy to say, goal accomplished. In fact, there is a group of five of us who met this weekend and we immediately clicked. We decided to keep in touch with one another. We also made a pact to attend the national RWA (Romance Writers of America) conference next summer (2016) in San Diego. This year's conference, which is in New York City, is already sold out. So we're all going to SD together and we've agreed to be supportive to one another so we can all have completed manuscripts to pitch. I'm all for that but have to add that I intend to be published by then. I will have another manuscript ready to pitch but I'm planning for it to be to an agent and/or editor that I already have in my corner as I advance my career. And no, I don't think I'm being big-headed. I've planned all along to make writing my career and the conference is sixteen months off. My plan is totally doable.