Saturday, July 09, 2011

My Highlights of RWA National in New York by Kitty Bucholtz

Tessa Dare asked me to write up a little bit about my favorite workshops from last week's RWA National Conference in New York. She was going to share my thoughts at the meeting so I could be there "virtually." Thanks, Tessa! For those of you not at the meeting today, I thought I'd share with you here.

I had three favorite workshops at National this year. The first was called "Buy This Book!" It was a 2-hour role-playing workshop with a mock editorial board. Four volunteers (I got to be one of them, thanks to Marianne Donley!) got to pitch their book to a pretend board made up of an actual editor, two agents, and a published author. Other workshop attendees pretended to be other board members - Director of Marketing, Director of Special Sales, Director of Publicity, etc.

The key is that the volunteer pitching her book had to pretend to be the editor who wanted to acquire it, so you had to present your manuscript and answer questions about it in the third person. One woman presented a manuscript called "Karma is a Bitch" and before she'd finished the entire presentation, agents were already fighting over her! It was fun to watch... but a hard act to follow. :) If this workshop was recorded (and there's a chance it wasn't), you should listen to the workshop once the CDs come out. There is a lot to learn about how to present your book to a potential agent or editor, and how to help position your book in the market.

My other favorite workshop was also two hours, "How Do You Mend a Broken Scene?" presented by Roxanne St. Claire. Rocki is an excellent speaker and was very passionate about her topic, but she got personal with her writing so it wasn't taped and her handout isn't on the CDs. She handed out five scenes she's written over the years, a first draft of each and the final draft of each. She also told us the notes she was given from her agent or editor, or notes she'd given herself after reading the scene and knowing something wasn't quite right.

The notes were on things like "emotional opportunities missed," "hero is acting unheroic," and "no additional conflict is introduced" in the scene. Then she read through the new version of the scene highlighting the changes she made. Her point was that sometimes she only had to change a few words here and there, and sometimes she did a complete rewrite of the scene. She was trying to show us how to figure out how much needs to be changed in our own scenes depending on the issue that needs to be addressed. If you can attend Rocki's workshop sometime, I think you'll all LOVE it!

I got something out of every workshop I attended, bar one. (That one was because the presenter had an emergency and his replacement *read* the speech.) So I still would give the workshops 100% high marks - they were all GREAT. But I am so glad I attended Anna DeStefano's "After the Show...Key Things to Do AFTER a Writing Conference." It seems like the sort of thing a newbie should attend, not most of us. But I was so glad I went! It was on the last day and I was absolutely exhausted by that time.

Anna's point was - how do we take all this positive energy home with us? We're all excited to be here with our industry peers, learning and networking, but how can we continue to feel so good about our writing life after we get home and we're alone with our thoughts? The number one thing is to write as soon as you get home; we all know that. That's the biggest part of our job. (And something we should apply every time we leave our OCC meeting!)

But she had a lot of other suggestions for keeping up the energy including Twitter hash tags like "amwriting" or "wewrite", making a list of all the contacts you made at the conference, emailing *each of them* to say it was a pleasure to meet them, creating a To Do list but also a DONE list. We can get overwhelmed with how much there is to do to push our careers ahead; we need to take into account how much we've accomplished as well. It will help keep up the positive energy.

Anna suggested other kinds of lists and other small things to do that will help us keep the conference energy going at home, but her point was that we need to STAY POSITIVE in all of our forms of communication. This was a great workshop and one worth listening to when you buy the conference CDs.

This was a great conference and I got a LOT out of it. Going to our national conference is far more practical for becoming a better writer than any of the classes I took in my master's degree. But if you couldn't go, buy the CDs and listen to them and take notes and then APPLY THE INFORMATION! I can't wait to see the next batch of OCC books on the bookshelf!

Kitty Bucholtz is a writer and speaker, and a member of Romance Writers of America and Romance Writers of Australia. She co-founded Routines for Writers, a web site dedicated to helping writers write more, and she recently completed her M.A. in Creative Writing. You can follow Kitty on her web site or on Twitter at @KittyBucholtz.