Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Scoop on Writer Conventions

Killer shyness and lack of funds keeps me from venturing out into the brave world of writers' conferences. But why should that stop me (and you) from learning all about it through other writers' wisdom. I invited Lori Sjoberg, author of Grave Intentions from Kensington, to tell us all about her experience.

First of all, I’d like to extend a big thanks to Michelle for inviting me to share the conference experience!

This past July, I was fortunate enough to attend the Romance Writers of America (RWA) convention.  Over two thousand writers, agents, publishers, bloggers, librarians, and other assorted industry insiders were in attendance in Atlanta, Georgia.  Every room, restaurant, and bar was absolutely packed!  It was a great opportunity to meet up with old friends, make new ones, network, learn, and snag tons of free books and swag.

The convention started with the annual “Readers For Life” literacy signing and ended with the Golden Heart and Rita awards ceremony.  In between all that were four jam-packed days full of workshops, book signings, and social events.  Agents and editors listened to pitches, and a number of publishing houses held “spotlights” where they shared what kinds of stories perked their interests.  Want to know what’s worked for an author who’s sold over a million books on Amazon?  That was covered in several workshops.  Curious about what the publishing houses are looking for?  That was covered as well. 

So if you’re planning on attending a conference, here are a few helpful tips:

Don’t Be Shy

The introvert in me cringed at the thought of mixing and mingling with over two thousand romance writers.  It just isn’t the way I’m wired.  But my reservations quickly melted away in the face of so many warm and welcoming people.  There’s a shared camaraderie among everyone in attendance, and that makes it really easy to strike up a conversation.  You’d be amazed how far “What do you write?” will get you.  By the time I left Atlanta, my purse was packed with the cards of all the new friends I’d met!

Pace Yourself and Prioritize

There’s so much to do, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  On the very first day, or before you even get there, map out a plan of attack.  Decide which events you absolutely have to attend, want to attend, and would like to attend if time permits.  Carve out a little down time in between to decompress.  Otherwise, you’ll get so frazzled you won’t fully enjoy the convention experience.

Pack Wisely

Convention centers are often freezing inside.  So even if it’s hot outdoors, make sure to pack something warm.  Comfortable shoes are also a must.  Through the course of each day you’ll be covering a lot of ground, so make sure to pack a pair of shoes that won’t kill your feet by the end of the day.
Also, make sure to leave enough space in your luggage for all of the books and swag you’ll accumulate.  Seriously, I packed my suitcase inside another suitcase so I’d have enough room.  And it was close.  I left Atlanta with over sixty books and a metric ton of assorted swag, and pushed the weight limit on my check-in luggage. 

Have Fun!

The RWA conference sells out almost every year.  It’s one of those rare events where you can celebrate your love for writing with like minds.  It’s uplifting, inspiring, and empowering beyond belief.  You never know whom you’re going to meet in the elevator (Last year my roomie and I rode with Nora Roberts – squee!) or in line for coffee at Starbucks.  Relax and enjoy the ride!

The youngest of three girls, Lori never had control of the remote. (Not that she’s bitter about that. Really. Okay, maybe a little, but it’s not like she’s scarred for life or anything.) That meant a steady diet of science fiction and fantasy. Star Trek, Star Wars, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits – you name it, she watched it. It fed her imagination, and that came in handy when the hormones kicked in and she needed a creative excuse for being out past curfew.
After completing her first manuscript, Lori joined the Romance Writers of America and Central Florida Romance Writers. Now she exercises the analytical half of her brain at her day job, and the creative half writing paranormal romance. When she’s not doing either one of those, she’s usually spending time with her husband and children of the four-legged variety.

Her contact info is:
@Lori_Sjoberg (Twitter).

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