Last weekend, I joined a couple of hundred other writers for the annual Romantic Novelists Association conference. This year it was close to home at Queen Mary University in east London, but in the past I have travelled some distance to attend the conference. I’ve also made my way to other such events overseas.
Why? Because I think these conferences are important for several reasons.
Writing is a lonely business. We spend a lot of time at our desks, talking to people who are, let’s be honest, imaginary. If we weren’t writers, talking to imaginary people and hearing their voices in our heads would probably earn us a visit to a care facility for the confused.
Even the most supportive of families don’t understand writing like another writer does. And this is the first thing I get from these conferences. Talking to other writers is an important part of being a writer. It’s such a pleasure and a bit of a relief to talk about the pitfalls, the joys and struggles with someone who truly understands.
The second important thing about conferences is the business angle. This year’s RNA conference had agents and editors and booksellers and marketers talking about how to be a success in the business of publishing. And it is a business. Writers write because we love it, but like everyone else in the world, we are trying to make a living. The economic turmoil of the late 2000’s affected publishing as much as any industry. And publishing is also struggling with new technology and the advent of e-books and a broad perception that e-books should be free because there is no physical item involved. This theory of course ignores the massive amount of creative work that goes into producing one of those e-book files. The professional insight of a conference can help a writer better understand this difficult industry.
Writing conferences are also inspirational. It’s always enlightening to listen to other writers talk about how they plan their work or develop characters; how they do edits or research. Although all of us have the same end goal (the best book we can possibly write) we all go about it in slightly different ways. I always come away from a conference with new thoughts on how to plan and track my books and how to bring my characters and stories to life.
Last but not least, one very important part of any conference is time spent sitting around a table, drinking coffee or wine or water and just talking to friends. These might be friends I only see once or twice a year, but we keep in touch over e-mail and social media. That welcoming hug as we meet up for the first time during the weekend is as important as any other part of the conference, because it says you are among friends. You are one of us. We all need that from time to time.
I’m off to another conference next month. The Romance Writers of Australia has special significance to me for two reasons. Many years ago, listening to Nora Roberts speak at a RWA conference (my first conference ever) made me determined to take writing seriously and do everything I needed to do to succeed. That’s a decision that I will never regret!
And secondly, one of my books, Flight To Coorah Creek, is shortlisted for the Romantic Book of the Year Award, which will presented at the conference. Whether I win or not, sharing a shortlist with so many talented authors is a real honour.
Then it’s home again to start writing book number nine. NINE! I still have trouble believing that sometimes.
Thanks everyone at all those conferences I have attended along the way – you all helped so much.
And I’ll see you again next year.
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