This weekend Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers held their 30th Conference at the Westin Hotel in Westminster, CO, a sold-out event—400 writers in the same place at the same time. The word tribe echoed through the conference rooms, but we were more like a host, an army, a hoard, bent on lending and bending ears and picking brains for the secrets to great writing. William Kent Krueger, award-winning mystery and suspense author was there was there. Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, was there. I was there. My head is still there, maybe in one of those brown leather chairs in the lobby, maybe under a skinny writing table in a conference room.
If you have not yet been to a major writers’ conference, take note:
- First, you pay. Paying ahead usually gets you a discount. Special add-on sessions will add on to the total. Budget for travel, hotels, etc. At least some of the meals will be included in the registration fee.
- Traveling, rooming, planning with a friend is fun, but don’t cling to that friend. Mingle, meet new people. This weekend we were encouraged to invite ourselves into conversations and clutches of people. Agree to meet your friends for lunch or at the wine bar, but don’t forget the value of networking.
- Take plenty of business cards that say clearly that you are a writer/author. Cards fly around like snowflakes.
- Wring out all the juice: hear every note of the dirge and ode that is writing advice. Sleeping in and hanging out at the wine bar is not the best use of your time. Yes, you’ll get tired. But this is part of your job as a writer. Just do it.
- Go ahead and fill the conference tote bag with free swag, but remember that you have to carry it around. Unless you choose the tiny candy bars and eat them. I guess you’re still carrying them, just not in the tote bag.
- Study the program ahead and accept that you cannot hear every speaker. You’ll regret some that you did not hear; you’ll regret some that you do hear. We had the option of buying audio tapes of those we missed or wanted to hear again.
- Plan to buy books, not because you need them, but because they are delicious and often discounted. Authors are present to sign them. Then again, you’ll be carrying them around. I waited to buy near the end of the conference for that reason.
- Ration you energy. The stimulation is enormous—400 people in the hallways, jockeying for seats in popular sessions, talking, talking and talking. If you can, find a quiet spot whenever the schedule allows. Use the restrooms every chance you get, especially at odd times when they are less crowded.
Some of the advice I heard at RMFW confirmed things I knew, some of it added to what I knew, and some of it scared me, e.g. I don’t have a book series and that’s a big money issue. I don’t know that I’ll ever want to write a series. But as Kent Krueger said in his closing speech, we write because we love it. Our first job is to write good stories, poems, memoirs and essays. Given the weekend with the tribe, I’m more than ready to get back to that job and use some of the tips I gathered in those conference sessions.