Elizabeth: RWA Conference Post-Mortem

This is pretty much how I felt by the end of the conference.

Okay, technically the recent RWA conference in Denver is just over, not actually dead, but the blog title felt somewhat appropriate, given that one of the first events I attended was a murder party hosted by forensic expert Geoff Symon.  Billed as, “an interactive whodunit evening where the attendees are the detectives”, it included Leslie Kelly and various members of her family acting out a murder while we enjoyed desserts and then later uncovered clues to the crime.

It was great fun, possibly helped by the cash bar.

The murder “victim” was an obnoxious aging writer who, it turned out, was bludgeoned with a RITA by her husband. The event provided a great way to both interact with other conference attendees and to learn some basics about forensics and murder investigations; important information for anyone who happens to be writing a murder mystery.

Another highlight of the conference was an intensive workshop by Damon Suede entitled, Happier Endings.  The workshop description said we’d, “unpack techniques that can amp the emotional impact of any story” – what it should have said is that it would be 2 hours of drinking from the proverbial fire-hose of information.  Fortunately, I’ve attended a workshop by Damon before, so I knew what to expect.  Though there were great handouts and I took copious notes, I’ll be buying the session recording and listening to it (at half-speed), so I can catch all of the things I missed the first time around.  It was an incredibly motivating session and I’ll be blogging about the details in the coming weeks.

The rest of my conference was filled with sessions on newsletters, author branding, and promotion (information that I’ll be sharing in the coming weeks), as well as some book signings, one-on-ones with some “new to me” authors, and plenty of networking.  As always, some sessions that sounded great on paper turned out to be a “miss” in person, while others that I was ambivalent about turned out to be completely worthwhile.

The hands down highlight of the conference for me was the speech Suzanne Brockman gave as she accepted her Nora Robert’s Lifetime Achievement Award.  It was motivating and brash and political and heartfelt and passionate and a whole lot more.  Kay will be blogging about it in more detail tomorrow, but you can read the transcript of the speech here if you don’t want to wait.  You’ll have to imagine the frequent applause and multiple standing-ovations that occurred throughout the speech by a large percentage of the attendees and the slightly offended expressions of a smaller (I think) percentage.

The speech, like some other moments throughout the conference, underscored the fact that the RWA organization is at a turning point and ripe for change.   There were references about the lack of diversity in the award finalists, frustration over the announcement of the discontinuance of the Golden Heart contest (after next year), and comments about RWA’s role in supporting those in the PRO community (those who don’t qualify as “published” authors).  While there were a lot of questions, there were not a lot of answers and it seems like the RWA board members will have a lot of work to do in the months ahead – hopefully that will include listening to input from RWA members.

Despite my best intentions, in addition to the information I gained from the workshops I attended as well as the enjoyment I had spending time with Eight Lady Jeanne, who was also at the conference, I came away with 18 books to add to my TBR pile.   In my defense, they were all selected because either the title or the cover “spoke” to me when I saw it, so really, I got them for reference, not because I wanted to read them.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

So, for those of you who attended the RWA conference, what were your highlights?  For the rest of you, what did you do all week?

4 thoughts on “Elizabeth: RWA Conference Post-Mortem

  1. It was a great conference. In addition to spending time in workshops, I got to spend some time checking out the Denver Art Museum and the Botanic Garden. I highly recommend both, although I would encourage visitors to get to the Garden early if they’re going on a July day. It got pretty toasty!

    • I didn’t see those two sites, but the statues in the park by the City Hall were definitely worth seeing. Though it was certainly toastier than I expected it to be at 8:00 in the morning.

  2. Sounds like it was a productive conference! I wish I could have attended. I’ve been to one seminar by Damon Suede and you’re absolutely right — it’s like drinking from a firehose.

    I plan to download the digital content and I’m looking forward to time on the treadmill listening to the recordings!

    • Hopefully you will find some content on the recordings that are useful for you. For some reason it felt like there were fewer workshop sessions this year than in previous years. I also noticed that many of the authors that I normally remember seeing at the conferences – Eloisa James, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jayne Ann Krentz, Madeline Hunter, to name a few – were not in attendance. I kind of wondered if there was a specific reason for that or if it was just timing.

      I’ll be waiting for the single-conference-recordings to be available so I can pick up the Damon Suede workshop. I have the one from last year’s conference as well and I need to listen to both of them again.

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