Conference Season

Sarah Vance Tompkins~ By Sarah Vance-Tompkins

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

It’s conference season!

I always look forward to go to writing conferences even though these events are overwhelming to me. I’m an introverted introvert. (That may not be the official diagnosis, but no kidding. I’m shy.) Sure, I know how to mind my Ps & Qs at a conference. I can put on lipstick and chat with the best of them…but I have to force myself to be social…even in a group of writers, many of whom I’m sure are suffering from the same kind of social anxiety.

I returned from the most recent conference with a jumble of information on my computer and sketched in the margins of my notebook:

  • Handouts from every session at the conference.
  • Titles of must-read romance novels recommended by people I admire.
  • Titles of must-read writing workbooks recommended by speakers.
  • Titles of must read romance novels written by people I met.
  • Names/FB pages/Twitter handles of authors I met.
  • Names/FB pages/Twitter handles of authors I should meet.
  • Names/FB pages/Twitter handles of agents & editors I met.
  • Names/FB pages/Twitter handles of agents & editors I should meet.
  • Manuscript wish lists of the agents & editors who spoke at the conference.
  • Manuscript wish lists of agents & editors I met.
  • Email addresses of author, agents & editors I met who requested my MS.
  • Email addresses of authors I met with whom I’d like to stay in touch.
  • Ideas for new romance novels that popped into my head while daydreaming during one particularly boring session.
  • A killer recipe from someone I chatted with at the opening night session.
  • Detailed (and mostly illegible) instructions for how to do fool-proof plotting.
  • A broken link to a website detailing how to get 1,000s of new Twitter followers quickly.
  • Detailed (and mostly illegible) instructions for how to create a website in under an hour.
  • Photos of old and new friends at the conference.
  • Photos of every dessert I ate at the conference. (Seriously!)

notebookI found myself getting anxious as I tried to process and prioritize all of the new information. I wanted to put it all into action immediately. I became a whirling dervish of activity, but I wasn’t really getting anything done.

My husband noticed I was struggling to find my focus. I told him about the sense of urgency I felt to use all of the information I had been given at conference.

“I thought this was about writing,” he said. “Why don’t you just sit in your chair and write?”

And here all this time I thought I’d married him for his good looks.

He and I made a pact that day. Whenever I return home from conference, full of overwhelming tidbits information and inspiration — he’s allowed to remind me that the real reason I’m sitting alone in the spare bedroom every day is because I’m a writer.

Just write.

Sarah Vance-Tompkins is a social media consultant for small businesses. She earned an MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California and worked in feature film development. Prior to her attempts at writing fiction, she has been paid to write everything from obituaries to the directions for use on bottles of personal lubricant. She is a member of YARWA and CRW-Online. She welcomes your questions and comments. 

Email her at

5 thoughts on “Conference Season”

  1. Good advice. I’ve been to four romance writing conferences, and for some reason, I don’t get much writing done. I would add, make sure you drink plenty of water (I came home for RWA San Antonio dehydrated). But I love your husband’s advice, just write.

    Thanks for the blog as I get ready for RWA 2015.

  2. Elizabeth B. Elliott

    I do not need a large tea kettle. Just a small one in white or yellow. Hoping for Spring weather. Your devoted mother. Love, MEBVE

  3. LOL Some folks might think you’re exaggerating the notes you took, but I know you well enough to say, every word is true!

    I’m better at the whole conference thing now than I was a few years ago, but I still come home with a stack of business cards, random notes I can’t remember why I wrote down, and a headache from trying to process it all.

    My take on writer’s conferences – If you don’t have ADD before you get there, you’ll have it before you leave!

    Hang in there, Sarah, and listen to the hubster. He knows what he’s talking about!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *