Industry Conferences - Do you attend them?
From the writing desk of Christine MazurkToday, I'm on a plane to San Antonio, Texas to attend the RWA (Romance Writers of America) National Conference. I attended my first one in NY in 2003. Having walked away from my executive career with a dream tucked into my heart - that of becoming a published author - I felt it was a great place to start.
I did my research and loved what I found. Three days worth of hundreds of workshops focused on CAREER, CRAFT, INDUSTRY FACTS, MARKETING and much more. You could pick and choose the ones that interested you. It was a street map to travel toward your individual career goals. The fact that the attendees ranged from unpublished dreamers to NY Times Best Selling authors made it even more exciting, adding levels of information to the workshops.
I studied the workshop schedules and highlighted the ones I felt would help me grow in the areas I was unsure of. Back then that included POV (Point of View) and plotting, because I let the story unfold as I wrote. After those first three days, I also learned what my strengths were - my stories were character driven and their dialogue sounded natural with each character having his own voice.
Because I had a finished manuscript, I also made appointments with Agents and Editors to "pitch" my work. Think "elevator pitch", because you had ten minutes to capture the person's attention and tell them what your story was about. As your heart pounded, you waited for one of three responses - "I'm sorry it's just not for me." or "That sounds interesting. Why don't you send me the first three chapters so I can take a look." or "Wow. I love that. Send me the full manuscript."
I floated out of the room when an agent asked for the FULL and an editor asked for three chapters. My work would be read by the industry professionals!!! I was one step closer to realizing my dream.
Year after year, I pitched my books until in 2010, I signed with my agent - an eagle-eyed editor I trust to help polish my words to gems. Six months later we sold my first book. Passions Race. Sisters Of Spirit, an anthology I wrote with a NY Times Best Selling author and two other writer friends was released one month after Passion's Race. (One of the ladies in now my best friend and we met on an elevator at the 2003 Conference. Talk about mystical connections!!)
My third book, Mystical Connections, came out in July 2013. Book #4 should be out soon.
Attending now as a published author, I find I'm encouraging beginning writers to learn the craft, build their BRAND, and continue to be persistent until they too realize their dream.
The venue is packed with energy. Networking with other writers/authors, learning about the changes in the industry are only a layer of the entire weekend. The Readers for Life Literary Autographing is a huge event and has generated more than $800,000 dollars to fight illiteracy. There are Keynote Speakers. This year Sylvia Day, a NY Times Best Selling author of more than 20 award-winning books will captivate the group at our luncheon. General Sessions will enjoy Special Speakers Cindy Ratzlaff and Karen Rose.
The conference will come to a close Saturday night with the "Oscars" of the Romance Writing World. The RITA Awards, promoting excellence in published romance novels, hosted by Simone Elkeles followed by a dessert reception. I can't wait for this plane to land so I can sink my teeth into all that is offered this year.
Tell me, do you attend conferences in your industry? What to you get from them? Have you networked with other professionals and built relationships that last beyond the few days at the conference? What other reasons do you choose to attend?
Until next time - Hugs, Christine.
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