Sunday, July 12, 2009

Romance Writers Conference

by Sharon Lathan

My first conference, EVER!!! Yep, I am very excited. Naturally it has been a big thought in my mind for the past few, well, months…. But especially now since D-Day is literally around the corner. I am typing this while sitting in my trailer in the California Gold Country foothills on our family vacation, trying to enjoy our togetherness and NOT think about Nationals too much! It isn’t too hard as we are having a great time, but I am a planner at heart, so naturally I can’t stop plotting just a bit. And of course the fact that I am ultra organized and one of those Type-A personality people who wants to have everything detailed to the tiniest degree, I am struggling to find the “happy medium.” LOL!

I’m not all that fond of surprises and being out of my element, so I have been chatting with previous conference attendees to get a handle on what to expect and what to bring. Best advice: bring an extra empty suitcase for the goodies and books picked up and purchased, have a sturdy tote to carry conference materials in, bring a light sweater for the A/C cooled rooms, not all workshops are taped so be sure to figure that out in case of overlapping must-sees, it is okay to slip in and out of workshops, and scope out the bathrooms and Starbucks! Sure, some of this is obvious, but when so much is going through your mind it is the obvious that gets forgotten.

Next I have given a great deal of thought to what my specific goals are. The fact is, there are so many fabulous workshops and special events, and then the sheer fun of socializing and making connections, that one just cannot do it all. Again, obvious, but I am one of those want-to-do-it-all kind of gals. Just ask my family about how vacations go! So I had to seriously look at what is most important to me. It was a toss up between spending quality time with my Casa Sisters, other Sourcebooks folks, and fellow authors, and getting educated! As to the former, I know we will all be up to our eyeballs in fun and mingling so I have to keep that expectation loose. Plus I have to fight my own tendency to be shy and retiring. Chatty Sharon must emerge!

As to the latter, deciding what I want most to learn was step one. Career and research-related workshops appealed to me and seemed the most beneficial to where I am. I have poured over the various topic offerings to prioritize what I HAVE TO listen to live and star the alternatives. Thursday workshops high on my list include - How to File Returns and Survive an Audit (I am thinking rationally here!); How to Live in Another Century or Just Sound Like You Did; and Emotion: the Heart of the Novel. Friday must-sees - The Serendipitous Spark; Online Promotion: B(u)y The Book with Sourcebooks’ own Danielle Jackson; Why We Love Mr. Darcy: Insiders Tips on the Historical Market with Julia Quinn (just because I HAVE to!); and Sex Throughout History. Saturday workshop highlights - Lessons of Firefly: Learning from the Works of Joss Whedon (because I am a totally geeky fan and am still hoping Nathan Fillion will pop in!); Prioritizing Life, Setting Goals and Time Management (boy do I need this one); Making the Most of Online Marketing; and High-Octane Heroes.

In between all that is the Literacy book signing, the luncheons with big-time speakers, the Romance Banditas Bash, Spotlight on Sourcebooks, chatting with Danielle, the Sourcebooks dinner, Moonlight Madness, Goody Rooms, the formal awards banquet, and the Sourcebooks’ book signing. I am SO looking forward to sitting with my Casablanca sisters, signing Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy for (she prays) many interested people, and having a blast! Truly, this is the big event for me. Whew! Don’t think I’ll be doing any sightseeing on this trip.

So on Tuesday, July 14 – 2 days hence - I will be leaving on a jet plane, traveling to Washington DC for four crazy days of workshops and adventure. Naturally I will be taking my trusty laptop with me and I do hope to find time here and there to share tidbits of what is happening on my blog. On pre-conference Wednesday I’ll get registered and plan to do a fair amount of wandering about. Time to get the lay of the land and discover where those bathrooms and Starbucks are located! Hopefully I will run into a few of you wandering about as well. I wish all of you were attending. Perhaps next year we can ALL be in Nashville.

OK, that is what is on my mind. It isn’t too late for suggestions or advice – bring it on! Share your past conference adventures or current thoughts. What workshops are on your must-see list? What events are the biggies for you?


  1. Look forward to seeing you there, Sharon. Try not to get too worried about planning every minute. When writers (and women) converge in such large numbers, the best laid plans tend to fly out the window. See you soon! (I saw a few pics from Emily on FB. Looks like a fun vacation!)

  2. I haven't been to one of these before, but I've already figured out the two suitcase thing. Aside from that, I'll mostly be winging it.
    Looking forward to seeing everyone!

  3. Actually, don't worry about bringing books home - pack some flat rate priority boxes (the large rectangular ones hold 15 mass market books) and pre-printed labels (you can even do postage beforehand from home with the ship date set to the Friday of the conference) and ship them home. That way you don't have to lug them or worry about airline bag weight limits.

    Wear comfortable shoes, and DON'T plan too much of your time. A lot of the good stuff that happens at conferences just happens. You never know who you could be sitting next to and just casually strike up a conversation. Next thing you know, Big Time Author XXX is offering you a cover quote or to introduce you to her agent, and that workshop you thought was a Must, just let out and so what? That kind of thing.

    I cannot WAIT to get to DC (and having lived there and wanted out, that's saying something! LOL) See you there, Sharon! And our dinner is going to be awesome! Especially if it's anything like last year's!

  4. Good morning ladies! Yes, I am getting more prepared to just let it all flow. I keep hearing over and over how easily plans get waylaid, so I am accepting the inevitable! LOL! You are right, Marie, about getting a bunch of women in one room. Ha! Just don't let the fellas know we admitted to that stereotype! The vacation was a blast. Very relaxing.

    Cheryl, can't wait to see you! I am going to take the extra suitcase just because I can, but I do know there is a FedEx right in the Marriott, so will likely go with Judi's plan as well. I hadn't thought to take the boxes with me tho. Is it cheaper, Judi, to buy them ahead of time? Or just more convenient?

    See you all VERY soon!

  5. Get plenty of rest and take a breather! National can be overwhelming, but taking a quiet break really can be beneficial before rushing into the fun again. :)

  6. Hey Sharon,
    Can't WAIT to see you and EVERYONE! The signings will be a blast (this is my first time for those), the dinner will be a blast, the WHOLE CONFERENCE will be a blast!!!

    Definitely put comfort ahead of fashion as far as shoes. :-P And for the really popular workshops (like those given by Big Name Authors) try to show up early because seats go FAST! Finally, be SURE to hit the Goody Room early on, otherwise all the 'good stuff' gets taken.

    See you SOON!

  7. Fed Ex sounds a helluva lot better than an extra suitcase, so I may do that instead. Isn't it great that we can discuss these things ahead of time?

    Only a few more days....