I’m off to conference for the rest of the week. I probably won’t be blogging here unless there is…*ahem*…news.
In case anyone’s wondering — YES! I’m a wreck. An absolute basket case. For a bunch of different reasons. The outer sense of zen calm I may exhibit *snicker* is only a defense mechanism to hide a squirrelly bundle of nerves.
But it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t at least attempt to reflect a little and put some order to all this. Last night I was thinking of all the RWA conferences I’ve been to. Each one sticks in my mind as a milestone.
- 2006 – Atlanta: My first writer’s conference ever. I stayed by my lonesome in a free room I got from hotel points. I hardly knew anybody and I had 8 chapters of my first novel done. I attended workshops back to back and tried to soak up everything. This conference motivated me so much. Real people did this, I could do it too!
- 2007 – Dallas: This year I was able to rope one of my critique partners into staying with me in a dinky hotel room outside of the conference hotel. My book was still about four chapters from finished. I was too scared to pitch — in fact, I didn’t even know how to sign up for an appointment! I met my beloved Romance Divas including Crystal Jordan who had received an offer right on the eve of conference! I watched Trish Albright, my chapter-mate, vie for the Golden Heart® award. She didn’t win the pendant, but she did win a contract with Dorchester. That’s the real prize, right?
- 2008 – San Francisco: I jumped in with both feet. I had two books complete by now. The first one took 2 years, the second one, two months. (disclaimer: first draft only) I pitched to agents and editors for the first time and received three requests for fulls and a couple requests for partials. I schmoozed at chapter parties. I volunteered and lugged books around until my back was sore. I did that magic thing people always mention — I “networked”.
- 2009 – Washington D.C.: I’m going to conference this year as a Golden Heart® finalist with the support of my wonderful agent and so many friends. Butterfly Swords is sitting on the virtual desk of publishers. I can hardly sleep with excitement.
RWA conference gives me a marker to stop and say, am I getting closer? Every year, this conference has given me new hopes and dreams. Sky’s the limit this year, I truly believe that.
I know I’m supposed to put myself out there at a conference and make contacts, but I suck at networking. I’m completely shy and weird and it takes me a long time to become comfortable with people. Still, I had a blast at the New England Chapter’s RWA conference. I even managed to stick my head out of my shell a couple of times to discover (once again) that romance authors really are some of the most warm and welcoming people around.
This was my first writer’s conference outside of nationals and I will definitely make a point of going again next year! I really need to bring a camera and take more pictures.
- I sat at the same table as historical author Terri Brisbin for dinner on Friday so I got to thank her personally for the Golden Heart ® call and congratulate her on her Rita ® nomination.
- Met up with some Romance Divas with the biggest hearts in the world. I was only able to capture two of them on my camera phone, but you can tell what lovely people they are by their smiles.
Divas Gwen Hayes and Chrissy Olinger
- Danced the night away with a bunch of women I’d never met.
- I pitched to an agent and received a request for a partial. But more important than that, I received great feedback on the marketability of Butterfly Swords. She told me point blank that it was going to be tough and she’d have to be completely wowed by the writing for me to have a ghost of a chance. And you know, I appreciated that and wouldn’t expect any less!
- Lisa Gardner’s workshop on “Conquering the Dreaded Synopsis” is even better in person than online. Even though I’ve read and re-read her online materials so many times, this workshop helped organize what I knew or thought I knew.
- avoid “anti-hooks” in a query letter — controversial topics that may immediately turn agents/editors off
- In a query, focus on marketable elements
- In a synopsis, don’t feel the need to explain the story through plot elements. Instead, the gold standard is to focus on what will make the editor fall in love with your characters.
- Jessica Faust’s workshop “Hooking Them In” is a gem. She focuses in on the essentials of a pitch or a blurb with a keep it simple approach.
- The blurb should contain what sets your story apart and should go outside the romance because the romance is a given.
- Stick to heroine, hero & conflict just like a shortened version of a back cover blurb.
- She took a couple of sample pitches and told us what worked and what didn’t. It really gave an idea of what editors/agents were looking for in a pitch.