How to Prep for a Writer’s Conference

KATIE RED SHIRT (1 of 1)~ By Katie McCoach Note: This post originally appeared here Attending a writer’s conference is a whirlwind of activity; meeting wonderful people, learning new things, and growing your career. It’s amazing. It’s exhausting. When I went to RWA in 2014 it was hands-down the best writer event I had ever been to. I’ve since been to a few more events, workshops, and conferences, and I still stand by this statement. RWA is the conference for romance-focused writers, but honestly, any writer would benefit from the conference. The workshops are wonderful and can be applied to any genre. If you do write romance, please go. Let me put it another way: If a writer wanted to work with me for developmental editing and also wanted to attend RWA, but couldn’t afford both, you know what I’d say? GO TO RWA. HANDS-DOWN. Attending a conference is a big step, and it’s a lot to take in at once.

Here are tips for BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER to get the most out of your next conference:

Before

  1. Plan your outfits. Will it be hot outside? Cold in the AC? What does the FAQ site for the conference recommend for attire? Most conferences are business casual, with allowance for jeans – sometimes. Use your best judgement on an outfit.
  2. Pack your best, snazziest, most comfortable shoes. Shoes get noticed! Believe me. I read this before I went to RWA the first time and my shoes (they had cat ears) and the shoes of others were the beginning of a conversation starter many times. But keep in mind you’ll be walking back and forth between workshops all day.
  3. conferencePrepare your pitch. You never know who you’ll meet, and one of the most common questions you’ll be asked is, “What do you write?”
  4. Have an action plan. Use the time before the conference to determine which workshops you don’t want to miss and how to plan your day for them. If there are two you want to go to, go to the one that doesn’t offer a recording of the event later (many workshops have recordings you can purchase during or after the conference).
  5. Bring an extra suitcase. At RWA specifically, you’ll receive SO many books. No joke; tons. I had to ship about 10 to my friend and I still barely fit the rest in my suitcase, even though I prepared extra room.

During

  1. Talk to everyone you meet; smile, engage, be friendly. You’ll meet people when you’re in line at the bathroom. It could be an agent. It could be your next critique partner. A new friend. I know things like this seem daunting to many, especially to introverts, but keep in mind the more you talk to others, the easier it gets. And the more you’ll get out of the conference.
  2. Business cards are great for keeping in touch with people you meet. When you meet someone, jot down a couple notes on the back of their card to remember them. One thing I liked doing was connecting on Twitter immediately if their handle was on their business card. This way we could easily keep in touch and stay active in the writing community.
  3. Use the conference hashtag to Tweet while you are there. This is a great way for followers to learn new things, and to connect with other conference goers. For RWA this year, the hashtag is #RWA16. Those staying home, I encourage you to follow along!
  4. At the workshops, take notes! I like jotting down quotes the instructor says that I plan to tweet or share in a blog post later. Consider what type of note taking is best for you…do you better retain by hand or by computer?
  5. Set up downtime if you need it. These events are a flurry of activity. I’m an introvert, like many writers, and I gain energy by being alone and regrouping. If this is you too, be sure to work that time in. If there’s a period when you aren’t really feeling any of the classes, then take the time for yourself so you’ll be more energized for workshops later.
  6. Planning to see a specific author or speaker? Get there early!
  7. Volunteer! Help set up a luncheon or workshop, or awards ceremony.
  8. Drink responsibly. Do NOT overdo it on the alcohol. Yes, there is a hotel bar, and yes half the conference will be there every night including editors and agents, but it’s very important you stay alert and professional, no matter how much you want to let loose. Know your limit, pace yourself, drink tons of water.
  9. Remember that going to a conference isn’t writing, so write when you can. Staying in a hotel by the beach might be the perfect writing retreat for you. Exploring might get those creative juices flowing, so if you are in a new area, take time to see the sights.
  10. Remember at a writing conference you are surrounded by others who love writing and reading as much as you do. This is a place where you can be YOU. This is the time that writing doesn’t have to be lonely.
  11. Talk to your local or online chapter about events or opportunities to meet other chapter members. This can be a great opportunity to meet others before the conference is in full swing. My first trip to RWA, I met two ladies from the local LA chapter (that I was not yet apart of) on the plane. It was great to connect—and we’ve since kept in touch (and I’ve joined the chapter)—but it was even better for those ladies because they knew each other already ahead of time. They had others to talk to about the conference, to know how to prepare.
  12. Put yourself out there. When I arrived to RWA14 on the first day, I knew no one. So I literally walked up for four women and asked to join them for lunch. They accepted me and we ended up getting together a bunch throughout the event. Not only do I recommend you take risks, but also recognize when others are putting themselves out there.
  13. Things to keep on you: Band-Aids, mints, WATER. ALL the water. Over the counter pain meds. Notepad. Pens. Business cards.
  14. Wear your Fitbit/step tracker. OK, this is for all the fitness lovers out there, but I personally love when I look at my Fitbit steps and feel super BA. If you meet others wearing theirs, you could even set up a friendly competition to see who gets the most steps.

After

  1. Work in at least a day to spend time doing whatever gets you back in the groove. That might be spending time with your family, lounging in bed, cleaning, unpacking – but take the time for yourself (if you can). Writer’s conferences take tons of mental and physical energy, it’s OK to take a day off.
  2. Organize all of the business cards you gathered and reach out to those you want to stay connected to.
  3. Put together a blog post, or a personal list for yourself, on the things you learned. It’s important to realize what part of the conference or workshops helped you the most. What do you want to apply to your writing? Was there something that inspired you?
  4. If you received a request from an agent or editor, take a couple weeks and apply everything you learned to your current manuscript, and then send it off to those agents.
  5. Read all of the fun, wonderful books you received.
  6. Write.
* What are your conference tips? Any questions about your first conference? I’ll respond in the comments!  KATIE McCOACH is a freelance developmental book editor at KM Editorial working with authors of all levels to help them create their best story possible. Katie is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Editorial Freelancers Association. She has had essays published in TrainWrite and Kalliope and is currently writing a contemporary romance novel. For advice on editing, writing, and publishing visit her blog at http://www.katiemccoach.com/blog and be sure to also follow her on Twitter @KatieMcCoach.

RWA Nationals: A Change in Perspective

Deb author photo~ By Deborah Blake

I’ve been to three RWA National conventions, each of them falling at a different point in my career, and I was particularly aware when I went this year of how different the experience was depending on my perspective at the time.

Don’t get me wrong. All the Nationals had much in common: they were loud, overwhelming, and a lot of fun. And I learned something from each and every one. But depending on where I was on my writing path, the convention took on a very different shape. Maybe you can learn a little something from my experiences, and what I figured out in hindsight.

My first RWA National convention was in Washington, DC in 2009. The only reason I was able to go was because I was granted one of the organization’s scholarships, funded by successful authors wanting to give back. I will be forever grateful. I was published in nonfiction then, but still searching for my way into the fiction world. I didn’t have an agent, and finding one was one of my major goals. I also took a number of fabulous Craft workshops, including one (Turning Points) by author Jennifer Crusie that ended up literally changing my life. I got to meet some authors I’d been talking to online, like Candace Havens and Mindy Klasky, which was really exciting. They ended up being friends and cohorts I still treasure to this day. My main focus at this first convention was trying to find an agent, and I wound myself into knots worrying about my pitches to agents and editors. In fact, the folks I pitched to all requested partials and fulls. And I never heard from any of them ever again. It turns out that this is pretty normal, and while I still recommend pitching, I would advise people not to worry about it too much. While it isn’t unheard of to be discovered this way, it turns out to be fairly unusual. The part of the conference that ended up making the most difference was that lecture on craft, which made a huge impression on me and lifted my writing to the next level, so that the book I wrote next actually got me an agent. My suggestion to other first-timers is to try and relax, pitch if you want to, but mostly learn all you can while you have all those great authors sharing what they’ve learned from years of practicing their craft. My next Nationals was in 2011, in NYC. By then I had signed with my agent, the lovely Elaine Spencer from The Knight Agency, but we hadn’t managed to sell a book yet. My focus that time was in trying to make all the right connections, establishing a name for myself, and again, hanging out with author friends and talking shop. I was still stalking Jenny Crusie at every workshop she gave. That Nationals was the first time I gave a workshop (as part of one I organized with TKA authors and agents). I spent lots of time networking and finally got to meet my agent in person, which was the main reason for attending the conference. It was well worth it. Among other things, I learned that making that personal connection can move your professional relationships to the next level. Personal connections are important, and I suggest you make as many as you can. But again, try and relax and enjoy the conference. Sometimes having fun is the best way to meet an unexpected future ally. [caption id="attachment_6053" align="alignright" width="240"]With the amazing Jennifer Crusie With the amazing Jennifer Crusie[/caption] This year was my third conference, again in NYC. This time was very different in some ways, since I finally had that book contract (my second) and got to participate for the first time in both the Literacy Signing and the Berkley signing (my publishers). I also got to meet my Berkley editor in person, hang with my author pals and compare publishing stories (the good, the bad, and the ugly), have lunch with my agent, and continue my tradition of stalking of Jenny Crusie. (I bring her chocolate every time. It has become a tradition.) I still go to every workshop she gives, because she knows more about Craft than I ever will, including her updated version of that Turning Points workshop from years before. It was still helpful. This time around, the conference was both more relaxed and more stressful. It was a relief not to be worried about finding an agent or having to pursue a book contract. But I still spent most of my time running from place to place, meeting up with author/agent/editor friends, my own agent and editor, and giving a workshop. I discovered that while it was a lot of fun to be participating in book signings, in some ways I missed being able to run around and grab all the books for myself. (Although my groaning TBR shelf was probably relieved, and I still managed to get enough books—most of them for my cat sitters, I swear!—that I had to mail them home.) I think that my biggest take-away from this year’s conference was the realization that there is a different kind of joy to be had from every level of the writing career. I’m enjoying my success, such as it is, of course, but there are some aspects of “pre-success” that I didn’t fully appreciate until I’d moved past them. I wish, for instance, that at my first conference I’d spent less time worrying about pitching and more time just enjoying myself. One thing is true no matter what level you are at, whether you are a newbie still trying to learn the craft, an almost-there seeking an agent, or a multi-published author greeting your fans and networking with your peers. The people you meet at Nationals are usually kind, interesting, and can become an integral part of your writing path. It is definitely worth doing at least once. Maybe even three times. As soon as I recover from this one, I’ll consider number four. You know, as soon as I finish writing the next book. Deborah Blake is the author of the Baba Yaga paranormal romance series, including Wickedly Magical, Wickedly Dangerous and Wickedly Wonderful (Berkley) as well as eight books on modern witchcraft from Llewellyn Worldwide. She has an ongoing column in Witches & Pagans Magazine and was featured in The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction. She can be found at www.deborahblakeauthor.com.

Taking Over Nationals — Stories from Chapter Members!

The chapter was well represented at the RWA National Conference in New York City!

Congratulations to Sonali Dev on her RITA nomination (Best First Book, A Bollywood Affair), to Abigail Owen, our Chapter VP of Communications, on her Prism Award (Andromeda's Fall, Shadowcat Nation #1, RWA Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal Chapter, 1st Place in Dark Paranormal) and to Caro Carson on her RITA win (Contemporary Romance: Short, The Bachelor Doctor's Bride)! Here are some highlights from our members. If you've got your own stories to share, please leave them in the comments. Enjoy!  
Pen Name Problems ~ Sophia Henry I admit, it's taken me awhile to get used to my pen name, because I joined RWA and my local chapter under my real name first, and changed to a pen name when my publisher asked me. But I was awesome at RWA. I remembered to introduce myself as Sophia and everything. Until a late night dinner after the Rita/Golden Heart Awards... A group of friends and I walked over to Junior's across the street from the hotel, and I put my name on the list "Sophia - Party of 9." We waited and waited. After about thirty minutes, I heard the host call, "Jane (My real name) - party of 9!" Ok, so Jane is not my real name - but you guys aren't gonna trick me this time. Anyway, when I heard my name party of 9, I gathered my troops and we marched back to "our" table. Within seconds of sitting down, the real "Jane" comes to our table saying, "This is not your table. I'm Jane. I'm Jane, party of 9."at Juniors And the embarrassing realization of what I did clicked. I did not put our reservation under my real name, Jane. I put it under Sophia. So we gathered our stuff and trudged back to the front to wait. Needless to say, my friends were laughing at me, I was laughing at me, Jane was laughing at me (thankfully--since I really wasn't trying to steal her table.) When we got to the front, I had to explain the story to PJ Ausdenmore from The Romance Dish blog, who had been sitting waiting for a table through this entire debacle.A lady from Mississippi, who watched the entire thing go down, even asked to take a picture with me as the person who got kicked out of her table! And I did. Funny publicity is good publicity. We all shared laughs and "Sophia, Party of 9" was called a few minutes later. Pen Names. Gotta love 'em!! From Karen Ellard Chadwell via Facebook: "Just met a new friend and probably the only person who got kicked out of a table here. --with Sophia Henry at Junior's Restaurant and Cheesecake."
 
~ PJ Sharon As far as workshops, my favorite was Investigations 101 with Margaret Taylor, a veteran in law enforcement who was very knowledgeable, and hysterically funny. I learned a little about a lot of things, most of which is how Hollywood gets it wrong! Never put DNA evidence in a plastic bag. Apparently this degrades the sample and can lead to mold. A paper bag would be used instead. She also talked about surveillance, undercover operations, and setting up the bad guys. She touched on use of informants, and the difference between a CI-Confidential Informant (usually mercenary and “disposable”) and a CRI-Confidential Reliable Informant (someone who is protected by police and whose info can usually get a warrant served faster). All very interesting.
 
~ Win Day 11755908_10207070739304270_5856735121064330653_nHad a terrific time at the conference! Missed the meetup -- actually, I was in the bar but got into a conversation with some other folks and never made it back into the corner where the group was supposed to gather. Favourite workshops: "You Think You're Funny" by Tracy Brogan & Kristen Higgins; "How Not To End A Series" by Jaci Burton, Marie Force, Jill Shalvis, and Shannon Stacey; and the "Spotlight on Entangled". Two successful pitches: agent Linda Scalissi of 3 Seas Literary Agency wants to see 3 chapters and a synopsis, and editor Stacy Abrams of Entangled wants to see the full manuscript. Whoohoo! Oh, and gave my card to about a dozen writers who need help with their websites. All in all, a successful conference!
 
~ Casey Clipper I also took MA Taylor's workshop, along with Liliana Hart & Scott Silverii, & Lt. Jamie Prosser, all three were fantastic research workshops on police procedures. There was, of course, the fantastic self-publishing advice given by Bella Andre & Barbara Freethy, who also had a great keynote speech. Their fantastic advice: quit panicking. And they're right. There's this panic mode right now in the industry that's unwarranted. It hadn't occurred to me until they pinpointed it. I even find myself in a "panic" type state at times about SP my work. It was great to hear someone say, "Calm down." and put it all in sane perspective. The elevator system was something that took me a day to grasp. (For some reason you can't get on or off the 9th floor by elevator.) The big "oops" of the workshops was Michael Hauge's was put into a small conference room, and it was packed, so if you didn't get in early, you didn't get in at all and it wasn't recorded so you were left out in the cold. Myself and one of my roommates ended up in the elevator with actor Michael Emmerson. Yep, totally had a freak-out moment. Apparently, I'm not one of those cool people when they run into a Hollywood actor. Aaannnnd am too much of a chicken to say hi to him. Nope, just waited to have a meltdown when we exited the elevator. I loved that the awards ceremony was live streamed. I asked on my author page who watched it and was surprised to find a handful of fans did and loved it. They were shocked over the grandeur of the ceremony, having no clue such a thing existed in the romance book world. This small post doesn't come close to all the events that took place.
 

~ Samanthya Wyatt

I found some great workshops, but several of the ones I wanted were already full. Sitting on the floor, standing room only, or could not even get in the door.

Learned some great tips on all sorts of material. Hated I missed Jude Deveraux's workshop !!!! Keynote speakers were great. I too took the workshop with  Bella Andre & Barbara Freethy. Write more books and don't worry too much about marketing. People don't believe the grandeur of the ceremony, when I mention it is just like the "Grammys". Met a lot of authors I've only chatted on line with. Wonderful to put a face with a name. Time's Square was - different. Every dress up character available for a picture "I work for money!"  HA. I told my friend when she went to take her photo with the statue of liberty guy, it's not free. It will cost you.! Loved walking the streets and seeing the sights. Broadway theaters, lots of shops, lots of eating places. Fun. Private taxi drivers were a hoot! Starbucks made a mint off of the authors!  Chuckles. And I stayed wired, but crashed in bed each night when my head hit the pillow. Missed the literacy signing cause RWA didn't notify me in time to order my books for the signing. Would have loved to do that. [gallery ids="6124,6123,6122,6121,6120"]
 
~ Deborah Blake [gallery ids="6051,6052,6053,6054"]
 

~ Callie Amo

[gallery ids="6103,6102,6101,6100,6099,6098,6097,6096,6083,6065"]

RWA Annual Meeting Panels Featuring CRW Members

Laura Kaye crop~ By Laura Kaye The Romance Writers of America annual meeting is next week in New York City and the Contemporary Romance Writers will be out in force! Below are just some of the panels on which you’ll be able to hear CRW members speak. THURSDAY, JULY 23 9.45 am: Bollywood Basics: Lessons from the world’s largest film industry to turn your novel into a blockbuster Presenters: Nisha Sharma, Suleikha Snyder, Sonali Dev 12:45 pm: Which Track Is For You -- Indie, Traditional, or Hybrid? Presenters: Serena Bell, Rachel Grant, Bria Quinlan and Monica Murphy 2 pm: No Muse? No Problem Presenters: Cynthia D'Alba, Lori Wilde, Elle James, Laura Kaye, Sarah M. Anderson 2 pm: Beyond Business: Taking the author/agency relationship into a new era Presenter: Deborah Blake FRIDAY, JULY 24 9:45 am: Staying Fit While Writing Presenters: Sara Humphreys, Laura Kaye, Eliza Knight, and Maggie Marr 9:45 am: The Perfect Threesome: Exploring the Relationship Between Author, Editor, and Agent Presenters: Nalini Akolekar, Tracy Brogan, Kim Law, Kelli Martin, and Terri Osburn 12:45 pm: Is Your Writing Killing You? Ergonomics and Stretching for Writers Presenter: PJ Sharon 3:15 pm: Juggling Two Pen Names And Making It Work (and Learn from my Mistakes) Presenter: Monica Murphy SATURDAY, JULY 25 12:45 pm: Writing a Novel in 30 Days: Tips, Tricks, and Cautions Presenters: Laura Kaye, Jade Lee, and Rebecca Zanetti 2:00 pm: "Beyond Business: Taking the agency/author relationship into the next era" Presenters: Deborah Blake, Lucienne Diver, Elaine Spencer, Nalini Singh, Nephele Tempest 4:30 pm: The Trade Secrets of Best-selling Authors Presenters: Laura Kaye and Jennifer Probst 4:30 pm: Writing with a Partner: What to Consider Presenters: Susan Scott Shelley, Veronica Forand, and Ursula LeCoeur See you in New York City!   Laura Kaye http://www.LauraKayeAuthor.com

RWA National Conference, 2014

celia~ By Celia Lucente

(This aerial photo of the wonderful San Antonio was shared by my friend and fellow writer with Soul Mate Publishing, Jaye Garland.)

SanAntonioRWAThe 2014 RWA conference took place in two buildings: on the left is Marriott Rivercenter, the building with the twin spires and to the right slightly forward the upward flat rectangular building is the Marriott Riverwalk. In between the two is the Riverwalk Canal, which begins at the point of the Riverwalk hotel and continues for fifteen miles of total coolness.

From the moment, I down loaded my RWA Mobil App I madly filled every hour with craft courses, guest speakers, author book signings, and even cocktail breaks. The hardest part was figuring out how I could maximize my time to squeeze in as much as possible and make it between the Riverwalk and Rivercenter properties to get to the class on time. And get a seat.

This was my second conference. I didn't get in as many pitches as last year but I got a few and received requests, but mostly I gained important pearls of wisdoms from the agents and editors I met with.

I was so happy to see my friend Laura Drake get the RITA award for her book entitled Sweet Spot. Yeah for Laura!!

There just isn't enough time to catch all the classes you want so you have to order the conference recordings. However, with your registration you get a flash drive of workshop handouts, which you can use along with the conference recordings and attend at your leisure, virtually.

Between running from classes, attending the WF mini conference, and touring I missed many workshops. But, no worries, just today I got my conference recording MP3 flash drive. So now, I can catch up.

And the books. Oh, the tons of books you get. Instead of shipping them, I took someone’s suggestion and brought empty suitcases. The planned worked perfectly as I packed, repacked and balanced them to weigh exactly fifty pounds. They made it back without an extra charge.

I brought my fiancé along for the trip. At night, we climbed down the stairs to the wonderful, “cool” Riverwalk, which boasts many great eating and drinking spots. Plus, it’s a great escape from the hundred-degree Texas heat. Filled with ducks and throngs of people milling about. And plenty of shopping too.

We toured the Alamo, rode a double-decker recorded “voice” guided tour bus, floated up seventy-two floors to the Towers of Americas to enjoy happy hours, snacks and listen to the brawny Texas basketball coaches in town for a convention of their own.  We journeyed on a “live” guided river canal cruise boat and spent a day with a cousin who lived nearby tubing the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels about a half-hour ride from downtown San Antonio.

Next year the conference will be held in the city of all cities, New York. And I’ll have my first book signing about singles girls in guess what city? Taitinis’ anyone? Until next year, I’ll reflect often on the people I’ve met, the lessons I’ve learned, and swag possibilities I’ll need to tag along as a debut author. Until then, fellow contempories, write often, keep building your craft and most importantly have a fun while you’re at it!

Celia Lucente is a full-time writer of contemporary romance and women’s fiction and is seeking either an agent or acquiring editor for her finished works. She is a PRO member of RWA, and a member of the RWA Contemporary Romance, RWA-WF, RWA Romance Critique Group and her local chapter of Space Coast Authors. She is a participant with several critique groups and CP’s and enjoys working on her craft by helping fellow writers.

Conference Cherry Pop

kasey-photo~ By Kasey Lane When I offered to write a blog post following my first RWA conference I had no idea it would take so long for my brain to return to normal. To say the warnings of "overwhelming" were an understatement is like saying San Antonio is kind of warm and a little humid. Basically, by the end of the conference I felt like a babbling, overstimulated toddler after a candy binge. But I'll try my best to not embarrass myself. Having received advice from the more experienced conference attendees in my writer's group, I realized in the planning stages that there was no way I could do everything and be everywhere so I decided on some conference goals. Frankly, this turned out to be one of my better ideas. Goal 1: Craft Workshops As a new author, my primary focus was adding some tools to my vacuous toolbox. I tried to attend as many craft workshops that would help me build skills where I'm weakest.  Some of the highlights were Sarah MacLean's "Mastering the Art of Conflict," Susan Elizabeth Phillips' "Writing Great Characters," and Margie Lawson's "Diaglogue Cues." Amazing. Inspiring. Funny as hell. Several workshops I attended weren't craft-specific, but were extremely helpful and informative. I recommend you plan ahead, though. Have a preferred workshop and a backup in mind, in case of geographic issues (I really didn't want to walk across the street in heels one more time) or popularity (I'm not a fan of sitting on the floor). Goal 2: Network and Meet Online Friends For over 25 years I have planned, promoted, attended, and worked events and tradeshows. I have never been to one even remotely similar to RWA. Not even close, people. Romance writers are a unique and amazing breed apart. Generous and kind, business savvy and strikingly smart, bawdy and refined. It was fabulous to meet so many online friends, as well as new writer friends. Every workshop, panel and personal connection had immeasurable value - from my Sparkly Sherpas (Kerri Carpenter and Alethea Kontis) to my LA crew (Christine Ashworth, Danube Adele, and Sara Vance-Tompkins) to panels and events featuring multi-published authors. I feel so incredibly privileged to have found my people. Because I live in the boonies of Southern Oregon I don't have a local RWA chapter, which is the main reason I belong to Contemporary Romance Writers. I absolutely adored the panel and dessert bar our chapter hosted. I wish that I had summoned more courage and made an attempt to mingle more and meet other attendees, but by Thursday night I was a little shell shocked. My dorkiness aside, this is a do not miss event. Goal 3: Be a Sponge This first novel, first agent, first year of being a real writer will never happen again. While the whole hurry up and wait aspect of the publishing industry can be agonizing, it can also be a beautiful kind of delicious agony (come on, you've read Sylvia Day...you know what I'm talking about). At the age of 45, it's not very often that something is fresh and new. At first I found it disconcerting. Then a little terrifying. Then I just accepted it. The conference gave me a chance to be a starry eyed newbie and I loved it! The trip to San Antonio left me physically exhausted, as well as spiritually revived and inspired. Not only is the national conference an investment in our careers as romance writers, but it's also a validation in our chosen path, food for the writer's often doubting soul. If you have the opportunity to attend next year in New York I sincerely hope you'll let me know so we can meet in person. I would love to meet you. Kasey Lane writes erotic contemporary and new adult romance with musical themes, lots of heat, hot guys with ink, and always a Happily Ever After. A California native, she moved from Silicon Valley to the lush Pacific Northwest over a decade ago where she lives with her high school crush turned husband (and research partner), two wickedly smart but slightly devilish kids, a few dogs, some cats, and a bunch of chickens and ducks. Kasey is proudly represented by Cate Hart at Corvisiero Literary Agency.  To contact Kasey, email her at kasey@kaseylane.com, visit her website at www.kaseylane.com, visit her on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/kaseylanewrites, or tweet her at www.twitter.com/kaseylanewrites.

Our Chapter Members’ #RWA14 Panels!

Check out our chapter members' panels at this week's RWA Nationals Conference!

Thursday 7/24, 8:30-9:30 a.m.

Juggling Two Careers: Strategies for Keeping All Your Balls in the Air (CAREER) Speakers: Jennifer Lohmann and Kelly Maher Two authors with day jobs as librarians share strategies for balancing two careers and multiple identities including career planning, increasing productivity, pen names, when or should two jobs intermingle, and what to do when they can’t be kept apart.  

Thursday 7/24, 11-12 p.m.

The Six Goals of Online Book Promotions (and the Tools to Achieve Them) (MARKETING) Speaker: Laura Kaye A best-selling author discusses a new perspective on online book promotion, offers concrete advice, and shares the approaches that allow authors to use social media more effectively.  

Thursday 7/24, 11-12 p.m.

Untie Your Tongue: How to Lead Successful Workshops and Author Events with Confidence (CAREER) Speakers: Asa Maria Bradley and Rebecca Zanetti Two authors pull on their vast experiences as college professors to show how to successfully plan and lead any workshop or author event. Learn how to make the event fun, for both the author and attendees, as well as how to enhance social media interactions with readers.  

Thursday 7/24, 3:15-4:15 p.m.

Brand Smart: Your Guide to Creating an Author Brand (MARKETING) Speaker: Kristin Wallace An author and 15-year veteran of the advertising industry will teach participants how to use marketing tools to develop an author brand, identify target readers, and develop a marketing plan to reach them.  

Thursday 7/24, 4:30-5:30 p.m.

Paranormal Romances: Dead, Soft, or Rearing Up to Bite? (INDUSTRY) Speakers: Kate Douglas, Cynthia Eden, Justine Willis, and Rebecca Zanetti Join best-selling paranormal authors and a national account sales director for a frank discussion regarding the paranormal market. See what it takes to make your book stand out in a crowded market and how the different paranormal species are selling in different formats.  

Friday 7/25, 12:45-1:45 p.m.

The Hybrid Author: How to Stay Diversified (and Keep Up!) in Today’s Constantly Changing Market (CAREER) Speakers: Bella Andre, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Lauren Blakely, Laura Kaye, and Monica Murphy Best-selling authors who are published in a variety of formats/publishing models discuss and answer questions on the many options available to writers in today’s changing publishing market.  

Friday 7/25, 2-3 p.m.

A Global Affair (CAREER) Speakers: Donna Alward, Sun Chara, Jennifer Hayward, and Lynn Marie Hulsman Discover how to take charge of your product and launch your book onto the world marketplace and build name recognition, readership, and sales.  

Friday 7/25, 4:30-5:30 p.m.

A Tale of Four Houses: Lessons Learned on Divergent Paths to Success (CAREER) Speakers: Alyssa Alexander, Tracy Brogan, Kimberly Kincaid, and Jennifer McQuiston Join best-selling and award-winning authors for a discussion on the trials and tribulations of getting that book contract and what to expect during the first year of publication. Learn how four authors, each at a different publishing house, carved their own path and benefitted from each others’ experiences and knowledge.  

Saturday 7/26, 11-12 p.m.

Managing the Modern Romance Career (CAREER) Speakers: Jennifer L. Armentrout and Laura Kaye Two New York Times best-selling authors reveal how they manage their careers and protect their interests when working with multiple publishers, writing in more than one romantic subgenre, and publishing the frequent releases that readers expect.  

Saturday 7/26, 12:45-1:45 p.m.

Bifocals, Air Conditioning and Depends®: The Challenges and Benefits of Being a “Mature” Author (WRITER'S LIFE) Speaker: Nancy Fraser Explore the challenges and benefits of being a mature author in the sometimes youth-oriented world of romance publishing, including recognizing the pluses maturity brings to your work and the marketplace.  

Saturday 7/26, 4:30-5:30 p.m.

Cooperative Marketing: Get More Bang for Your Buck with Less Work (MARKETING) Speakers: Robin Covington, Avery Flynn, and Kimberly Kincaid A panel of authors discusses how they work together to reach beyond their individual readerships, broaden their audience through social media, and get more for their advertising dollar.   Happy conference! And let us know what you learn!  

HOW TO SURVIVE A CONVENTION: LESSONS LEARNED AT RT 2014

svance_4X6_72dpi~ By Sarah Vance-Tompkins  I was a newbie at the Romantic Times Convention in New Orleans this year. I wandered around the convention hotel proudly sporting a green "aspiring author" tag on my badge. I went to the convention with high hopes. I returned feeling like I had experienced both the best of times and the worst of times. THE BEST When you live on the west coast, you forget there are parts of the United States that has history you can see, feel, touch, and (in the case of Café Du Mond's beignets) taste. The French Quarter is romantic and mysterious. I don't write historicals, but every time I turned another corner and came face-to-face with an Eighteenth Century architectural marvel, I wondered why not? The RT Convention offered activities from sunrise until well after sunset. I went to some wonderful seminars. I reconnected with old friends. I made some new friends, and I learned a lot about the business and craft of writing. THE WORST The RT Convention was overcrowded and the staff (both convention and hotel) seemed overwhelmed by the number of people they had to deal with at any given time. The biggest snafu I personally came across was at the Agent/Editor Pitch meetings. They were poorly organized and staffed by two people who were equally surly to the agents, the editors and the nervous writers waiting to pitch. They were also purveyors of false information. I was told the agent I was scheduled to see was a "no show" only to enter the room later to find her waiting for me! I was so thrown off by the chaotic setting and unprofessional behavior surrounding the pitch appointments, that I didn't do my best. It was heartbreaking and embarrassing. With my RT experience fresh in my mind, and the RWA Convention but a few weeks away, I've put together a few tips that you might want to remember when you're preparing to go away for a convention. THE LESSONS DON'T lose your confidence. No doesn't mean "never", it just means they're not buying what you're selling "right now". No matter what anyone says to you, you have a project to sell, and sell it you will. If you are writing something new – fresh – different – that perhaps isn't the zeitgeist right now, you may have to wait for the current trend to change. But it will change, and you need to polish your writing and be ready with your project. DO make lots of time to talk to strangers. You will meet the most interesting people at a convention. You'll never know who is going to sit down next to you in the lobby bar. You will meet writers, editors and agents at every stage of their career. Ask questions. Show interest in their work. DON'T feel like you have to participate in every activity on the agenda. I feel strongly that I would've been less stressed out when I was faced with unprofessional behavior at the pitch meetings if I had spent a few minutes the night before practicing my pitch. I couldn't control how the pitch appointments were being handled, but I could control my preparation. Don't leave pitch prep to the last minute. You'll need that time to freak out! DO take some comfortable shoes. Yes, you should also take the four-inch heels that make you feel like a million bucks when you walk through the lobby on your way to grab a skinny latte at Starbucks. But you'll be grateful to be reunited with your favorite pair of comfys at the end of a long day. DON'T stay in an overcrowded room to save money. Choose your roommate(s) wisely. Pick someone you can confide in. Keep her informed about where you are and when you'll get back to the room. Tell your roommate before the conference if you are an early riser or late owl. If you plan to party hardy, let her know. Make a plan about how to share the bathroom. Everyone wants to look their best and needs quality time in front of a mirror. DO have a strategy. Everyone has an agenda when they go to conference. Some people go to party, some people go for business, some go just to get away from the daily grind of their lives. Make sure you know what you want out of the conference before you leave home, and remind yourself of why you're there when you get tired. This will happen throughout the conference. You don't want to have any regrets on the flight home. DON'T forget to bring business cards. Don't be shy with them. Pass them out to everyone you cross paths with – even if it's only a connection for a few moments – you may have found a new resource and not know it until you get home. DO play fangirl to your favorite authors. If you'd written a book that someone has enjoyed, you'd want to know about it, wouldn't you? Feel free to gush. I had a lovely, giggly interaction with E.L. James at RT. She was open and friendly and everything that an aspiring author (like me) hopes an incredibly successful author (like her) would be. Maybe some day I will be just as gracious to an aspiring author. Sarah Vance-Tompkins received an MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California and went on to work in feature film development at Lightstorm Entertainment, The Ladd Company and USA Films, among others. Prior to film school, she wrote and produced radio and television commercials. She has worked as a reporter for a weekly entertainment trade publication, as well as a freelance journalist and movie reviewer. She has been paid to write obituaries, press releases, the directions for use on personal lubricant bottles, and descriptions of engagement rings for an online jewelry store. She works in social media marketing. Email her at sarahevance@gmail.com