Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Conference Wrap-Up

Jennifer shares her thoughts after a writer’s conference

I just returned from a two-day writer’s conference and I’m so inspired! The conference was sponsored by the New Jersey Romance Writers of America. Their yearly conference features workshops, panel discussions, keynote speakers and pitches with editors and agents.

The conference is fabulous. Because we’re in such close proximity to New York, we get a lot of big-name publishers and agents attending and participating. We also get attendees from up and down the East Coast of the United States.

I had a great time meeting in person many of the people I follow on Facebook and Twitter, or getting to know better the people I see at the occasional meeting I attend. And of course, hanging out with good friends was a plus.

But the best part was what I learned at the conference.

On the first day, there was a Publishes Authors Retreat. These were separate workshops geared specifically for published authors, who are at a different point in their careers than unpublished ones (it was not a “ha-ha, you can’t be here” kind of thing). Because there were other workshops going on simultaneously, I actually only went to the kick-off speech by Virginia Kantra, before attending other workshops not part of the retreat.

Her speech was inspiring. It was supposed to be about the state of the publishing industry. And I’m sure, if she had stuck to that, I would have gotten lots of useful information that I would have filed away to be dealt with later. Instead, she turned that topic on its head and claimed that WE are the state of the industry. We need to write what we love, because when we write from a place of love, we turn out the best work. And readers get that, like that and want more of that.

I love this woman (and her coffee habits at breakfast the next morning were hilarious)!

My two favorite workshops were on self-editing and writing a conflict-based synopsis. Both of those workshops were jam packed with information. I cannot wait to make use of the handouts we were given! After sitting through those workshops, I feel completely prepared to edit my work and to write an amazing synopsis (providing I can pull it off).

The second day of the conference featured a really cool thing called Anonymous Author. We submitted the first 200 words of our WIP ahead of time and five agents and editors critiqued them out loud, discussing what they liked, didn’t like and whether or not they’d request more based on those words. Because it was anonymous, there was no shaming done and they were very polite, even though they were very blunt. I’ll admit, I submitted my first draft of my first 200 words and they pointed out a lot of errors. What was interesting was that I could hear exactly where the problems were when the submission was read out loud. And I completely agreed with their diagnosis. So although a bit disappointed, I am not discouraged.

At the end of the second day, I participated in their book fair, where I had a chance to sell some books, meet readers (and talk incoherently to Connie Brockway, who stopped at my table and turned me into a babbling idiot) and basically see what an amazing body of work we’ve all produced.

It was a fantastic conference and one that I wish everyone could participate in!


  1. It sounds fantastic! Maybe I should have planned to come to NJ for the next conference, instead of in June as I am planning!
    Hope you'll share with us some of the advice from your two favourite workshops.

  2. Conferences can be so inspiring. I'm glad you had such a good experience, and second the hope that there are things you can share, Jen.

  3. I love writing conferences. There's just something about being in the presence of so many other authors that is awe-inspiring. I learn so much each and every time I go and come home so inspired and ready to write.

  4. Conferences in America must be so much better than here. I'd never go to another RNA conference. Sessions were mainly aimed at new writers, and if you weren't part of the London 'clique', you were totally ignored by those who were.

  5. Ana, yes, I'll definitely share the tips I learned--just need to figure out a way to do it so I don't plagiarize. :)

    Debra, I agree! And the off-the-cuff and elevator conversations are a lot of fun!

    Paula, that's a shame.