So last month’s post was all about getting ready for my first RWA National conference in New York City, and my desire to have a more successful (and less dolphin-esque) pitch appointment. All that prep work I talked about HERE paid off–I pitched and received 3 REQUESTS FOR A FULL MANUSCRIPT on my YA Contemporary!
But more than that, the conference taught me so much about writing craft, chapter leadership, my writing career and my best writing self. Since you all participated on my journey to prepare for the event, I thought it only fitting I give you an overview of my 4 days as well as my tips for YOU if/when you attend a large writing conference! Cheryl (C.T.) Charles, our VP-Communications, Anna Small, our PRO/PAN liaison, and Michele Fowler (a.k.a. Mikki Cober)-our Blog Boss–also had an extremely successful conference, and have graciously agreed to write-up their take on the event, as well.
Here’s the two word overview of my experience at RWA National Conference altogether: OVERWHELMINGLY MOTIVATING!
I’ve been traditionally published for >7 years, and have 3 books and a novella under my belt. You’d think I’d be somewhat of a veteran in terms of writing, but I can honestly say I’ve never had such a productive and successful weekend in all of my writing career. I’ve also never been so freaking ENERGIZED to get back to my chapter and my manuscript! So, my Tip #1: while the costs to attend RWA Natl Conf. are many, I’d highly recommend it, if you’re serious about forwarding your career as a romance writer. The smaller conferences just don’t compare.
We arrived on Wednesday night in time for the Literacy Signing. And what a signing it was! Over 400+ writers with books to buy and swag to have for their readers. The queue to purchase was literally out the door, down the conference lobby where it doubled back on itself three times before arriving at the bank of cashiers, but everyone from small Indie authors to Jude Deveraux were on-hand to sign their books and pose for pictures. I don’t mind admitting to more than one ‘fan-girl’ moment–seeing your favorite author up close and personal is always incredible! I gathered up as many marketing examples as I could stuff into my bag, and will bring them to August’s general SSRA meeting for you to see all of the different ways to entice readers.
Thursday was the first full day of classes and there were many I wanted to take whose time conflicted. Here’s my 2nd TIP: purchase the conference recordings, even if you attend the event! That way, you don’t ‘stress’ when you miss one and you can be more flexible with your time. The best session I attended that day was: Organizing Your Scenes and Your Research by the amazing Jude Deveraux. She even brought her binders (she takes 2 months to create her ‘world’ in a binder for each novel before writing) for her past few novels for us to thumb through as we listened to the process of this hugely successful author. She hand-writes all of her books, then inputs them all into the computer, as she finds her creative process is more alive with hand-writing scenes, versus typing them first. We even walked away with a page from her hand-written novel!
In between classes were book signings from all of the major publishers: Avon, NAL, Kensington, Harlequin. etc. And here’s something cool…the books are FREE and the author is there to sign them! Which leads me to Tip #3: Pack an extra suitcase, or ship your books, as they will quickly put you into the “HEAVY” category in your regular suitcase leading to overweight fines you don’t want to pay!!
Friday was another day of classes, but it was also PITCH DAY and you could feel the nerves in the air as authors readied themselves. It was the most professionally dressed day, as well, which leads me to Tip #4: Bring only dress clothes. I (mistakenly) thought it would be more casual on ‘class’ days, and brought some dressy jeans. Nope. No jeans, dressy or otherwise, in sight, so I was forced to wear the same 2 skirts over and over again. As Friday was pitch day, while I attended some classes, my mind was elsewhere, so I am looking forward to the recording so that I can see what I missed that day. I did attend a Spotlight event on Harlequin, MIRA/HQN/Harlequin Teen, and I discovered what the agents and editors present in this q/a session are looking for in today’s market, which is hugely helpful.
After all of the successful SSRA mermaids gathered to dissect our pitch appointments, we split up for activities that night. Cheryl was my date for the YARWA Evening of YA, where my manuscript was a finalist in the Rosemary contest. We were able to mingle with yet more editors and agents, as well as hear from another panel of romance industry experts, all while sipping wine and eating hors d’oeuvres. We had a blast, and Cheryl squeezed in another off-the-cuff pitch across the table, the overachiever that she is! Which brings me to TIP #5: Always be ready with your pitch at conference! You never know when you’ll get the chance to trot it out to an acquiring editor or agent!
By the time Saturday arrived, you could see the exhaustion on everyone’s face. I figured that day’s classes wouldn’t be as stellar, because of that. I’m happy to say I was dead wrong! I attended the most eye-opening session on “Applying GMC to Y-O-U” which was almost like a therapy/psychoanalysis for writers by Maggie Montgomery, as well as “Writing Great Characters” by the incredible Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Susan is one of the most dynamic, motivating, and relatable speakers, and hearing how she uses detail to make her characters real and avoid the ‘show don’t tell’ pitfall was outstanding. Then, I went to the Leadership Luncheon and learned all of the best practises from each chapter there–or at least as much as I could absorb in the 4-hour session! But I left energized and with tons of great ideas to further the success of our chapter.
My last TIP #6: Take some time to enjoy yourself! I skipped out on the RITA/Golden Heart Ceremony (*gasp*–but yes, you can skip on this, and I was in NYC, for goodness sakes! I’m from a small FL county, and we don’t get to take in Broadway shows every day!) and Cheryl and I went out for a quick slice of heavenly New York-style pizza, then went to a show and had a well-deserved drink! While you’re at conference, don’t be all about the classes/events there. Branch out a little and explore the world as only a writer can do.
If you didn’t attend this year’s conference, and would like to purchase the recording of the sessions, RWA will be making these available either by session, or the entire conference HERE on their website. Thank you to all of the folks in SSRA and beyond who supported me, and our other mermaids, on our recent NYC adventure with your cheers and well-wishes! Now…I’m off to spit-polish my manuscript for those full requests!!
Dylan Newton, SSRA President
Dylan married her high-school sweetheart and they are busy living out their own happily ever after in sunny Florida with their two incredible daughters and a snoring Shiz-Tsu.
Dylan can be found online at: DylanNewton.com