All being well, by the time you read this post I’ll be in California. Whoo!
The excuse for main purpose of my trip is to attend the RWA National conference, but it’s a long and expensive journey from the UK, especially at current exchange rates 😦 and while I intend to enjoy every minute, I also want to feel that my investment in time and money has been worthwhile.
Time flies by so fast on these trips and a pinch of preparation saves a bucket of lost opportunity so I’ve been thinking about what I want to achieve before, during and after the conference. I’m feeling pretty bullish, and here’s why:
Before the Conference
I’m currently writing romantic fantasy, but I have a file full of notes for three more contemporary romances in Ian and Rose’s Gilded Lily world and I expect to go back and write them at some point. The third unwritten book (so #4 in the series) involves astronomy and Caltech, the world-famous science and engineering research and education institution. I don’t know where those ideas came from but they feel right for the character and I want to write her story, so Caltech it is. I’ll never get a better opportunity to walk the terrain and it seems stupid to pass up the chance just because I’m not focusing on that book right now. So I’ve persuaded Kay to join me on a side trip to walk the Caltech campus in Pasadena and to zig-zag up Palomar Mountain to the Observatory. I’ll prepare lots of questions, but what I find doesn’t have to be technical or scientific. I’ll be looking for anything and everything, small details that will give my story an authentic flavour.
I was also lucky enough to secure a place on the RWA’s authorized visit to the Naval Base at Coronado (SEALs, anyone?), and as a Suzanne Brockmann fan I’m ridiculously excited. I have no idea what my takeaway from that half-day will be, but I’ll be soaking up the impressions. I have no doubt it will be story gold.
At RWA National
This will be my fourth conference, and every time I tweak my objectives a little. This year my shopping list is as follows:
- Watch, listen and learn all the time, not just in the workshop sessions.
- Meet fellow writers and make new connections.
- Learn about the current state of the publishing industry, and in particular the latest in the traditional v indie debate.
- Gain insights from experienced authors, especially in the fantasy/paranormal genre.
- Glean useful information by attending workshops in subjects that could enrich my story – like fighting, weaponry, first aid and horses.
- Pitch Alexis, not just during the official pitch appointments, but to anyone who asks me what I’m writing. It’s a great opportunity to figure out whether my story snapshot is engaging and if not, what elements need tweaking.
- Help Kay at the indie author signing event.
- Identify gaps in my knowledge, decide whether they’re things I need to worry about now, and figure out what I’m going to do about them.
A major bonus is that I’ll see Kay and Jeanne and we’ll make time to argue and brainstorm. I’m looking forward to talking to them about their stories and I plan to pick their brains shamelessly about Alexis – the current WIP and my plans for the series. I already know my books will be better for their suggestions.
A trip like this is intense and it’s hard to digest so much material in such a short period. I’ll allow myself a day or two to recharge, but then I intend to schedule time to revisit my notes and reflect on what I’ve seen and heard. I want to make sure I retain and use the good stuff I’ve learned.
I’ll also buy the audio recording for the whole conference and I intend to listen systematically to the workshops I wasn’t able to attend.
So…that’s my plan for the week. What’s yours?