by June Shaw
The first writers' conference I attended was in New Orleans, only an hour or so away. It was for romance writers.
The thing is I didn't know that; neither did my new friend who drove us there. We were both new writers, both writing mystery. So how did we wind up there? And how did it turn out?
Each of us had read a small article in an area newspaper saying there would be a Fiction Writers Conference that weekend. We both wrote fiction. We teamed up and went.
Splitting up to attend different workshops, we met in the lobby sometime later and like in a comedy, both said, "Do you know what kind of conference this is? They're romance writers!" Neither of us could believe we'd been duped into coming to this kind of conference, but you know what we found? It was great! Neither of us decided to start writing romance, but we learned so much that could help us in any area of writing. We made lots of new friends, and joined their group that meets in New Orleans.
Gosh, that was so many years ago. What a great memory. I've been a member of their group ever since and for the past three years have been its Published Author Liaison. (Okay, so I've written a romance and there's quite a bit of romance in my mystery series.) I've also been representing our state on the board of Mystery Writers of America's Southwest Chapter.
When I decided to get a website, I checked out sites of many published authors. One that made me smile belonged to Candace Calvert. She was writing light-hearted mysteries; a nurse was the main character. On her site she had photos I enjoyed, one with her husband.
Since I was trying to write Janet Evanovitch-inspired mysteries, I loved Candace's site. I told her so and modeled my own website after hers. A year later, after I'd sold the first mystery in my series and it was newly published, I attended a Malice Domestic conference, wondering what I was doing there. I was no one in all those big name authors. Soon after I got in an elevator heading toward my room, the door opened. It was Candace and her husband. "Hey, Candace, I'm June Shaw," I said and we shared hugs. And soon afterward I was running into people I knew from online groups. I was making friends and having such a great time it almost didn't matter that I was new. It was my first big confence. What great friends I also made there.
Do I believe writers' conferences are worthwhile? Absolutely. You pick up knowledge in various areas and make new contacts and greet friends. I'm attending an excellent one in Houma, Louisiana, today that will feature some editors, agents, many best-selling authors, and many of my new and not-so-new friend. No wonder I'm so excited!
How about you? How do you feel about writers' conferences?