April Writer’s Conferences

April Writer’s Conferences

I haven’t been to a conference in a year. The two I did last year weren’t really conferences – one was a workshop (Andrea Brown Agency-sponsored Big Sur workshop on writing for children, middle grade, and teens – a fabulous workshop but I felt a tad out of place), the other was a convention – Romantic Times, in Los Angeles (which was wonderful, crazy and busy and a little too – um – manic in it’s must-party atmosphere, since I was still recovering from surgery).

April, somehow, seems to be conference month. RT happened earlier this month, in Chicago; and seemingly there were more writers there than readers, so I’m kind of glad I didn’t go. Plus I am just out of costume ideas, lol.

Last weekend was the Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference, which looked fantastic – so many terrific agents/editors/speakers, that you wonder how any of them get their real job done

(I know – they work on their iPads on the plane, in the restaurant, at night in their

Photo of Author Aaron Michael Ritchey

This is Aaron Michael Ritchey, author of The Never Prayer. Photo swiped from Aaron's site. Thanks, Aaron!

jammies…).  A good blog about Pike’s Peak conference is from my friend Aaron Michael Ritchey, and you can find it here.  Okay, maybe it’s not so much about the actual conference as it is about the energy supplied by the people you meet in real time for the first time and the wonderful things that happen when you get so many creative people in one room at the same time. At any rate, it’s a really interesting blog post.  (Aaron is a really interesting guy who wrote a fantastic novel called The Never Prayer. You should read it.)

This weekend is the Desert Dreams Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona as well as the New England Conference in Salem, Mass. Before I knew the dates for the Salem conference, I signed up for DD – I’ve been there before, it’s small and mighty and I wanted to see friends and family. Plus, Salem is clear across the country and I wasn’t sure about spending the money, psychics and ghost tours notwithstanding. No – to be honest, I didn’t even know the New England conference was the same weekend and I’d hoped to do both, especially since my editor Steph Murray with Crescent Moon Press will be there, as well as a bunch of CMP authors.

But – I’m here at Chaparral Suites, my son getting ready to spend the weekend with family while I get ready to pitch to three agents and enjoy seeing friends, absorbing writing information, have a terrific book signing, and make new friends. Because after all, conferences/workshops/conventions are about making new friends, and strengthening long-time friendships as much as they are about learning craft.

When we writers climb out of our writing cave to go to a conference/workshop/convention, we get to spend time with people who understand us, who talk to people that only exist in our computer screens like we do, who look up weird facts on the internet that with anyone else would look extremely suspicious.

We’re with a huge bunch of people who get the beast. I guess, in a way, it’s like going to a convention of Bobs. Only other Bobs know what it’s like to be a Bob. Well, only other writers know what it’s like to be a writer.

Sorry this isn’t a wine blog today – I just didn’t plan ahead. Next week, I promise. In the meantime, off I go to meet relatives, hug old friends, drink a little too much wine, become good friends with new people, and in general simply bask with other writers.

Plus, have fan-girl moments. I saw both Brenda Novak (NYT Bestselling Author) and Brenda Chin (one of Harlequin’s TOP editors) at dinner last night (not together, though they were sitting in booths next to each other). It was VERY hard not to squee all over both of them – but since conference hasn’t officially started, and since they were in deep discussions with the person they were with, it seemed rude. However – at noon today, conference starts. All Squeeing will therefore be totally valid.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Big Sur Writer’s Workshop – KidLit

So, now that I’ve recovered from camping up in Big Sur…the Workshop I attended was presented by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and it was a workshop, not a conference/convention. Including staff, we totaled 110; there was roughly 1 pro for every 5 attendees, not a bad ratio.

The weekend was for writers of picture books, chap books, middle grade books, and YA. It was not cheap – at $720 for two half-days and one full day, not cheap at all – but probably the most valuable weekend I’ve spent.

Unless you paid the single supplement, you were issued a roommate and I got lucky with Karen Akins. She’s a sweet Arkansas girl who writes both picture books and YA time travel books. We really hit it off and the second night, I kept her up way late chatting. But the roommate thing was fabulous!

The main thrust of the weekend were crit groups, two separate ones. We were to come prepared, with copies of our work, which I did. We read aloud, received feedback from the group plus the group leader (I got lucky and had two agents as group leaders), and had a chance to rewrite before taking it back to the group a second time. Two crit groups, four crit sessions total. Invaluable. Not to mention, a one on one for ten  minutes with an industry professional…that alone totally made my trip.

Some may think they’re beyond it – not needing strangers to crit their work – but I welcome every opportunity to learn, especially from people who aren’t invested in me and could care less how well I do. The feedback I got has been the most valuable on this book so far. Lots of changes need to be made, but that’s okay – it gives me somewhere to take this book so I’m thrilled.

Surprisingly, the groups meshed quickly. Our leaders were firm, fair, and spot on when targeting trouble spots. All the staff were approachable – they wanted us to talk to them, to ask them questions, and considering these were agents and editors for the most part, it was a wonderful sense of camaraderie that they fostered, made possible by the intimate nature of the group.

If you write for the YA market or younger, if you’re stalled and don’t know which way to go, if you’ve got that book that just isn’t exciting interest and you don’t know why – do yourself a favor. Save your money and go to the Big Sur Writer’s workshop. They hold it twice a year – the first weekend in December, and the first weekend in March – and at $720, all-inclusive (lodgings, meals, workshop fee), it’s totally worth the price.