Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why do we go to conferences?

(apologies in advance. I am once again traveling and will be in transit when this comes out, so I can't comment. I'll try to come back and check in when I settle back down again).

Like some of you out there, I got back from RT a week or two ago. That is one heck of a conference: non-stop socializing, really, with readers, other authors, friends.

I used to go to the RWA National Conference, but I don't go any more. I used to want to Learn: go to workshops and try to figure out this whole publishing thing. I took notes, read the programs, debated which session to go to, and ultimately, ended up sitting in and listening as closely as I could, because I was sure I'd find The Secret there.

Nope. It wasn't there. So I stopped going to Big Conferences, and, after I was published, I went to small ones where I could connect with readers. It made sense. I was with a small publisher and I couldn't compete at big conferences with the Big Name Authors. Small conferences are fun and I enjoy it, but something was missing. I missed that connection with other authors, people who understood what I was going through as a published author.

This is the first year I've been in RT in a while, and I realized that's why I like conferences like that: to connect again with people who have been on the same journey as me, those who have published, are trying to get published, and are considering new publishing opportunities.

But regardless of how much I enjoy hanging out with my friends, conferences are draining experiences. There's the travel, and the socializing, and the strange beds and food, etc. In fact, I wrote a series of conference mysteries ("Writing Can be Murder") in which I kill off various authors at different conferences (one of which I based on RT). In the books I tried to capture the swirl of emotions that teem at these kinds of venues: anxiety, nervousness, joy, concern, ennui, bravado ... you name it, the emotion is there. Every person at a conference is in a different "Place" -- trying to be published, trying to get close to a cherished author, trying to climb the success ladder ... you name it, it's there.

I realized this year that I'm going to conferences (one or two a year) just to be among people who get it, who know what it's like to be published, to be seeking readers, to want to put your words out there for others to read. It's important to connect again with others like yourself and get that support. Online groups like FTH are great, but there's something about that face-to-face chat in the bar with someone that is priceless.

I hope you get a chance to attend a few conferences and hang out with your peers. It can be a blast -- and don't worry, I promise I won't kill you off in a book!

Want to read my mystery about murder at an RWA-type conference? Check "Autographs"

Want to read about a murder at an RT type conference? Check "Surf"

How about a small conference (totally made up)? Check out "Mayhem"


Ana Morgan said...

Great post, JL. I attended a very small Saturday writing conference a few years ago in Sauk Center, MN. I'd like to go to a bigger one. Just need to find one that doesn't conflict with two demanding day jobs. It will happen.

Josie said...

I haven't attended a writing conference in a few years, but am looking forward to RWA next year in Atlanta, as it's only a 4 hour drive from my house.