Friday, July 15, 2011

Are Conferences Worth the Price?

HNS Reception - photo by Adelaida Lucena-Lower

Recently I attended the Historical Novel Society's conference in San Diego, where I was a panelist with three other authors, all of whom have a stack of best-sellers to their credit. Flights cross-country, hotel room prices, and conference fees can add up pretty quickly, and people have asked me, are conferences really worth the price? My answer is an unequivocal yes. First, you know that anyone there has an interest in your genre, or at least, in books and what makes them great. Secondly, no matter where you are in your writing career, you can always find workshops that will give you fresh knowledge, and improve your writing. I attended a workshop on Writing Gay Characters, and took notes like crazy--even spoke with one of the panelists who said he would gladly look over some scenes I was not sure were right. Thirdly, of course, are the pitch sessions, where you can meet that editor or agent you've been wanting to talk to, face to face. Add to all these benefits the networking, one of the most enjoyable parts of the conference. At one meal, I sat next to an author who I later learned sang in a group that does medieval music. What a coincidence! She and I started talking, and she knew I had written The Tapestry Shop, my 2010 release about a trouvere, one of the wandering poet/musicians in northern France during the thirteenth century. After I returned home, she wrote me that she read my book on her return flight, plus she send me a nice review. At a reception one evening, I met the author Karleen Koen, whose recent release, Beyond Versailles, intrigued me with its title. I am about halfway through the novel and loving it, and I loved meeting Karleen, a talented and intriguing personality.
Are conferences worth it? Of course, and in this changing industry, I believe writers' conferences are more important than ever, not only for the reasons I mentioned, but to keep track of what lies ahead on the horizon--for authors and publishers and agents. Right now I'm looking forward to the Colorado Gold conference in September, sponsored by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Maybe I'll see some of you there.