I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend the RWA National Conference in Washington, D.C. this summer. As this was my first major conference, when the date of Nationals drew near, I was filled with a mixture of excitement, nerves and dread. Would it be worth it? Would I be overwhelmed? Would I make a complete fool of myself during my pitch, stumbling over my words, stuttering and muttering incoherently? Would I handle the stress of the experience by over-imbibing, draping my arm over the shoulder of my dream agent and slurring in their ear how much I wanted to work with them?
Thank God my fears were unfounded. In fact, had I known how inspired I would feel, I would never have hesitated to register for Nationals in the first place. Before I left home I vowed that I would make the most of the experience by attending as many workshops as possible, going to every luncheon, volunteering and attending extra parties and functions. As I expected, the workshops and speakers were informative and more than once I had the pleasure of experiencing that elusive, ‘A-ha!’ moment.
But Nationals is about far more than workshops. It’s about networking. It’s about hanging out in the lobby lounge or pub, crashing parties (I won’t say which one) and meeting people. Sitting down next to your favorite author and asking them about their journey and realizing that once upon a time they too struggled, in fact they still do. It’s about meeting new people, from all over North America, who are involved in this crazy busy just like you. It’s about putting a face to the names of agents and editors, those people who hold our careers in their hands and always seemed so intimidating, but really aren’t. Okay, some still are, but most aren’t.
For me, Nationals was about feeling like I’m a part of something, something BIG and that though writing may be a solitary endeavor, being published is not. This is a business and the business aspect is just as important as the creative one. In light of this, the following are only a few of the little gems I picked up at Nationals that speak to this issue. (Most of these are loosely quoted – forgive me!)
“This is a business, your business. It’s up to you to make your business successful.” ~Eve Silver (Author)
“Know your contract before you sign on the dotted line.” ~Ethan Ellenberg (Agent)
“Know your readership, know the marketplace.” ~Deb Werksman (Editorial Manager, Sourcebooks)
“Get over the fact that people may not like your work.” ~Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Author)
“Cut the parts people skim. Cut, cut, cut.” ~Jennifer Crusie (Author)
“This is a tough business but being nice goes a long way.” ~Jennifer Schober, Laura Bradford (Agents)