I've been a member of RWA since 2004 and this was my fifth time attending the national conference. This was by far the best one yet. Why? Well, a few reasons...
1) I was not hyperventilating over the fact that a single agent or editor might hold the keys to my success as an author. I control my career now. I self-publish my books and connect directly with my readers. I have the power to make my dreams come true.
2) For the first time, there was an entire workshop track dedicated to indie publishing. Thank you Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy, Tina Folsom, and Liliana Hart for putting together so many fantastic workshops and for being such an inspiration. YOU changed the entire tone of this conference.
3) I participated in my first two book signings! Thank you to Sarah Morgan, two-time Rita Award winner and author of over 60 romance novels, for being such a joy to sit with at the Literacy Signing. And thank you to everyone who stopped by the Indie Signing! It was so exciting to bring so many books and not leave with a single one. :)
Since I got home, several writer friends have asked if attending a writers conference is worth it. I would highly recommend trying to attend at least one conference each year. The workshops will help take your writing to the next level, you'll get to meet some of your favorite authors in person, you can learn about industry trends and trade marketing secrets with fellow authors, and most of all you get to spend several days hanging out with new friends who share your passion for writing!
Other awesome things that happened this year: I met two close Twitter friends for the first time--Rachel Kall and Tracie Banister--who are just as wonderful in person as they are online. I got to spend the week with one of my best friends, Juliette Sobanet, and celebrate the release of her fourth book, Dancing with Paris. And I made a bunch of new friends who I'm excited to stay connected with online and hope to see again at next year's conference.
How do you get the most out of a writers conference? Some say you should go with a goal in mind. I say, go with a completely open mind. Smile and be friendly to everyone. Try not to sit with people you know at lunch, and switch it up at dinner, too. Don't be afraid to introduce yourself and get to know everyone. You never know, you might make a new friend.
The best advice I got before this year's conference was from Bob Mayer at his "Write it Forward" workshop back in March (which I highly recommend, by the way). He said, "Once you leave the room, you don't go back until the day is over, because you can't network in your room." I took his advice to heart this time, and while I was so exhausted from socializing by Saturday night that I could hardly see straight, it was worth it! Besides, there's always Guinness when things get really dire... :)
Thank you to everyone who made this conference such an amazing experience this year. Now...back to writing Wind Chime Café. :)