Elizabeth: The Perfect Writer’s Conference

We’re about three months away from this year’s Romance Writers of America annual conference and, just before the end of the early-bird registration deadline I finally bit the bullet and clicked “register.”

This was supposed to be a non-travel year for me (excluding work travel, of course).  My travel budget has been earmarked for a long overdue kitchen renovation and, since my writing continues to move only slightly faster than the speed of erosion, the RWA conference wasn’t even on the radar.  Then of course, Eight Lady Jeanne finalled in the Golden Heart contest – again – and I found out Justine would be attending as well.  One thing led to another and next thing I knew the registration button was clicked and the plans made.

The detailed workshop schedule for the conference itself is still being finalized, but the basics are in place.  Like last year it looks like the conference will start out with a set of 3-hour “immersive” sessions.  Based on the discussions we’ve been having on the blog in recent months, I’m thinking Erica Ridley’s Newsletter Master Class will be an excellent option to begin with.

There will also be 20/20/20 sessions, where related workshop topics are grouped together in sets of three and you rotate through them, kind of like workshop-speed-dating.  The rest of the workshops are organized in specific tracks – career, craft, research – and then broken down by level – for all, intermediate, etc.

It’s hard to tell by looking at the listings what will resonate and what will be a miss.  As in the past, it’s likely that the workshops I initially plan on attending are likely to be quite different from those I actually do attend. Sometimes the unexpected things turn out to be the most rewarding.

Looking at the conference information I couldn’t help but daydream a bit about what the Perfect Writer’s Conference might be like.

To begin with, the rooms would always be exactly the right size for each of the workshops.  There would be no vast swaths open seats or people sitting on the floor and overflowing out the door.  The acoustics would be clear and the seats would both comfortable and well-appointed for note taking.

The conference hotel would be spacious and restful, providing spaces for people to gather and network, as well as places for quiet and relaxation.  The perfect hotel would have some kind of sound-dampening walls to compensate for the noise level that occurs when you have hundreds of excited conference attendees.  Oh, and it would be really nice if there was a Starbucks on site.  For the best conference experience, I need to be fully-caffeinated.

No matter which workshops I planned to attend, they would always be close by each other so if one session didn’t work out it would be a snap to switch to a second (or third) choice without missing a beat.

Speaking about workshops, group sessions are nice, but it would be even better if there were one-on-one sessions with industry experts where you could get personalized assistance with particular questions or issues you had.  Sure, it’s fun seeing Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jayne Ann Krentz do their standard workshop, but wouldn’t it be great to walk away from a conference having made substantial writing progress, drafted the perfect back cover story blurb, or finally nailed down that conflict lock?

For those times when inspiration strikes during a conference there should obviously be lots of comfortable writing spaces scattered throughout – a nice cabana by the pool, an over-sized chair by a picture window overlook the gardens, a book-filled library with a big oak desk – whatever your favorite writing space is, it should be there ready and waiting.

Conferences tend to consist of a lot of sitting a lot of walking and a fair amount of schlepping suitcases, books, and whatnot, so the perfect conference would have strategically placed massage stations to work out the kinks in those tired backs, legs, and feet.  Stretching and morning yoga classes are nice, but a hunky masseuse would definitely be a nice addition.

Okay, sure, this might be an unreasonable conference vision, but a writer can dream, right?

So, what would your perfect writing conference look like?

5 thoughts on “Elizabeth: The Perfect Writer’s Conference

  1. These are some great suggestions for a perfect conference!

    One of the things that most resonated with me was the desire for one-on-one time with experts. When I started working on my first demon novel, before McDaniel even, I got a chance to attend a plotting workshop with Mary Buckham in Port Townsend, WA. She used the plotting book she co-wrote with Diana Love, Break into Fiction to structure the class. After a short lecture on each chapter, she’d have us work on our own. During these hands-on sessions, she would rotate through the attendees, taking them off into a separate room to talk about their particular story. This is the only workshop I’ve every come across that used this format, and it was terrific.

    In fact, I attended another one (closer to home, in Columbus, OH) when I started work on the second book.

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