Saturday, April 13, 2013

Writers' Conferences

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?


Morgan Mandel said...

That's funny! Anyway, it is true you can learn much about writing from romance authors. I joined RWA many years ago and attend most of my local chapter meetings. The critiques are invaluable.

Morgan Mandel

Evelyn Cullet said...

I once attended a Donald Maas Writing the Breakout Novel weekend course. Just me, a mystery writer, and thirty romance writers. They were a great group of ladies, and I learned a lot from them. Best writing weekend I ever attended.

June Shaw said...

Morgan, I agree. Critiques from friends you've met -- ever just online -- are fantastic!

June Shaw said...

Okay, Evelyn, I'm so jealous that you got to attend a weekend course with Donald Maas. Absolutely you'd have learned a lot, no matter what they others wrote. But how funny that you were the only mystery writer with all those romance writers: )

Jaden Terrell said...

I've been to two Don Maass weekend workshops, and I could almost feel my brain expand. Best money I ever spent (except when I bought our little papillon, but that's another story).

I would love to do his week-long intensive. Maybe one day (sigh).

June Shaw said...

Wow, two weekends with Maass. How fortunate you are.

June Shaw said...

The conference I attended yesterday was amazing! Gorgeous weather (it ended with a rooftop social), wonderful new and old friends, terrific speakers. Agents and editors and so many great workshops. Oh, and jambalaya -- and much less than $100. If you can make it next year, come on down.

CandaceCalvert said...

Hi June!

Your post brought back memories--especially the pleasure of meeting YOU.
I always encourage aspiring writers to attend conferences; so much to learn even beyond the workshops. I remember the first time I went to one, thinking it was like I'd finally landed on a planet that spoke my language.
As you know, I'm now writing romantic medical fiction for the inspriational market, and I eagerly look forward to ACFW's amazing annual conference. This year it's in Indianapolis, and I'll be there! (By the way, they have hosted Donald Maass, too. Incredible)

Great to "see" you here, June. And all continued success with your writing journey!

June Shaw said...

Thanks,Candace. I know you're writing those amazing inspirational books now. I'm so happy for you!

Maas spoke at conferences I've attended. He is so good.

Hugs and best for you and your work.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

There is a difference between a writers conference (where you learn hings about writing, and mystery cons which are geared toward fans and the opportunity to hear other mystery writers on panels talks about all sorts of things. (Malice, Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, etc.) I'm the program chair for Public Safety Writers Association and it's definitely geared to learning about writing (fiction and nonfiction in all public safety fields and mystery writing.) No matter how many writing conferences you've been too, you'll always learn something new.

Ellen Larson said...

As a classic introvert, I spend a lot of time before a conference wishing I weren't going. When I get there I'm fine and always enjoy myself--although I admit I avoid the panels with writers talking about their process. I've never failed to make good connections.

Pat Browning said...

I love writers' conferences. It has been almost 10 years since I attended one but they remain vivid in my memory.Bouchercon-Las Vegas was big and dazzling and I loved it -- a smile from James Lee Burke was worth the trip. My favorites, though, are smaller ones, where you talk to people wherever you find them. Murder in the Grove in Boise was special because I could get up close and personal with Sue Grafton. Left Coast Crime in Monterey was special for a hundred different reasons. I had a brand new camera and took dozens of photos -- amony my treasured possessions to this day.

I found that most panels were either boring or sometimes dominated by one or two people who just couldn't shut up.

But my favorite thing of all was hanging out in the book room, finding new books and meeting authors who checked their book tables from time to time.

And one special conference -- EPICon -- I attended because it was in Oklahoma City and I could visit relatives, but what an eye-opener. I accidentally wandered into a workshop on erotica and it was such an education you couldn't have blasted me out of the room with a stick of dynamite.

So I'm one of those people who never shuts up, but you did ask ---
Pat Browning

June Shaw said...

I agree, Marilyn. You learn at cons, no matter what kind.

June Shaw said...

Ellen, I think most writers are introverts, and many prefer not to attend conferences so they won't have to talk to lots of people. But once there, I believe most introverts feel as you do, you gain so much and make great contacts.

June Shaw said...

Ha, yep, Pat, I did ask. James Lee Burke is from down here in S. La. And your encounter with the workshop on erotica -- funny. Mm, now you've made me curious.

The point is you never know who you'll run into or what you'll find at a new conference.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Although I don't attend conferences anymore, I do believe they benefit writers. The networking alone is worth it.

June Shaw said...

Jacqueline, I agree. Meeting old and new friends is a terrific benefit for attending conferences.

Alana White said...

I'm like Ellen--I always wonder why I'm going then love it and learn a lot once I'm there. I've attended the Maass weekend course, too...and as someone else said, it was one of the best things I have ever done for my writing.

June Shaw said...

Okay now, darn it. I'm going to have to find a Maass weekend and go.