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Friday, September 24, 2010

CONFERNCE CHATTER



Two weeks ago, I chaired my second writers’ conference, the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2010 Colorado Gold and this week, I began working on the 2011 conference. And, I began to ask myself if I was insane.

But, I don’t think I am. I’m simply a fierce advocate for writers’ conferences (RMFW in particular) and I love to be part of the planning and implementation. For me, there is no better place to learn the craft of writing, except for critique groups.

Writers’ conferences provide the perfect environment for attending classes on craft, learning new marketing tips, and networking with other writers. Each presenter offers new insights. Each person I connect with offers the possibility of a new relationship. Mentors and role models renew my spirit. If you’ve never been to a writers’ conference, I urge you to pick one and go.

If you’re a new writer or consider yourself a significant introvert, investigate conferences before you choose. Look for a small group rather than signing up immediately for a large national conference. If you have friends who attend, look at their favorite conferences so you will know someone.

If you select a group where you have no acquaintances, take the plunge and get involved. Go to any ice-breaker events or orientations and learn the details on how the conference functions and how to best meet people. Then do so. At my first conference, I was a complete wall-flower, skirting around the edges of gathering rooms, afraid to talk to anyone for fear that they might not like me or that I would say the wrong thing. Then I discovered that a simple question focused around writing (such as “what do you write?”) was an instant conversation starter. I also discovered that a lot of other writers felt just like me.

If you’ve been attending a conference for a few years and still feel isolated, offer to volunteer for a conference task. This instantly connects you with others who are working on the same project and you’ll be surprised at how fast you get to know people and form new friends. And with each new friend formed, you also gain confidence.

I’ve been attending RMFW’s Colorado Gold since 1994. I credit the organization with teaching me craft, nurturing my development, and giving me strength. As conference chair (a direct result of volunteering for some small task many years ago), I now have the responsibility for making newcomers feel welcome and for making sure there are opportunities for all attendees to learn and to build relationships.

And that makes me curious. What factors, for you, make a conference outstanding rather than just so-so? What do you look for when you’re deciding on a conference to attend? What tips the decision (cost, location, educational offerings, social events, guest speakers)? Are there conference nightmares or gotta-brag-on experiences you want to share?

8 comments:

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Pam,

Thank you for sharing this valuable information with us!

Pamela Nowak said...

My pleasure, Jacqui! I get pretty excited about conferences, especially after serving as chair.

An extra special treat this year was that I was named the RMFW Writer of the Year and got to give the kick-off speech.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Quite an impressive honor!

Pamela Nowak said...

Thanks! It really was and I still feel a little overwhelmed.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Pam: I went to Colorado Gold--I think it was summer of 08, maybe 09. Loved the conference. Heck, may have met you there. I agree, conferences are worth every penny. Earlier I blogged about the RWA natl. I always, always learn and come away motivated with new plans spinning in my head. Thanks for sharing.

Rebbie Macintyre said...

Thanks for sharing, Pam, and congrats on the award. What an honor! I don't think there's anything more rewarding than recognition for a job well done from readers and/or fellow writers.

Janet Lane said...

Hey, Pam, I'll go to *any* conference you chair! This year's RMFW conference was absolutely incredible, and people--attendees, editors, agents--are still singing your praise. Plus, you looked cute in your WOTY tiara! My two favorites about conference: sharing the excitement with friends and making my first sale, which occurred as a direct result of my editor appointment at the conference. Thanks again for all your hard work.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Janet,

Congrats on your sale at the conference. Visit us again and tell us about it.

Jacqueline