I just returned from an amazing five days in Dallas where I attended the Romantic Times Convention, aka RT. This year I went into the convention much more relaxed than New Orleans last year. I didn’t have to pitch and was excited about going to panels, hanging out with amazing writers, and being stress-free!
Before I went to the conference, I went through the daily agendas and plotted out which sessions looked interesting: diversity, being a hybrid author, writing strong female characters. These were just a few I was excited to attend.
Once the conference started, I found the right room for each panel and immersed myself in the sessions. While I learned a lot (and took copious notes) what I found was I gleaned much more information from sitting in casual settings (either in the bar or restaurant) and listening to my writing friends talk about their own experiences. How they interacted with editors, their own agents, or even about the struggles they went through to get an agent and secure their first book deal.
I’ll admit I was pretty intimidated by sitting in these groups. Most of these women are highly accomplished, having published numerous books, but when we all sat together they were just like you and me. Working on the next project. Waiting for feedback on their latest work. Concerned over their brand, or where they wanted their career to head next.
For me it was an eye-opening experience. I truly believed that once you got your agent, and secured a book deal, things after that were somewhat smooth sailing. Sure, you had the challenge of writing the next book, but you’d crossed that “magical threshold” of actually having a full-length novel published. Of course this is a huge accomplishment, but the worry and stress don’t end once you sign that contract.
Now I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom because these conversations were anything but that. Most of the time they turned into exciting exchanges about the evolving market, or even brainstorm sessions for future projects. During these moments I sat back and took it all in. Listening and learning to everything each of these amazing authors were willing to share.
While attending conferences are important, I would highly suggest you take time to interact and network with other writers. At lunch, dinner, or even during a moment between sessions, focus in on what they have to say. The sessions are important, but you may get even more of an education from listening to other writers and learning from their important experiences.