Wednesday, March 07, 2007

My First Time

Ha! My first conference. Thought it was something else, didn't you?

With Romance in the Magic City Conference coming up in a few weeks, I've been thinking about my first conference. How scary and exciting it was. How I felt both powerful...after all, I'd just finished my first manuscript...and weak...I knew absolutely nothing about nothing.

A few months after I joined RWA, I received an invitation to the Write Touch Writer's Conference in Wisconsin. I was living in Indiana at the time and it never occurred to me...can you say naive...that they were sending invitations to RWA members in the surrounding states. I honestly thought they'd heard about me and my manuscript. Okay, you can stop laughing now!

I asked my mom to go with me and we set off to Madison, Wisconsin. Again, I knew no one and so wanted to make a good impression, so of course, I had a suitcase full of new clothes. I arrive, looking absolutely really, I did. But I also looked as green as spring grass and probably terrified out of my mind.

It was an incredible learning experience. I met with an editor from Harlequin. We both agreed my manuscript wasn't a category romance, but she gave me some wonderful tips and was just so sweet and cute, I wanted to hug her. I think she was even more nervous than me.

I didn't have an agent appointment, but an agent spoke at the conference. Quite honestly, she scared me to death. She was professional and knew exactly what she wanted and didn't want anyone to waste her time. Today, I can appreciate that attitude. Then, I was petrified. But I worked up the courage, thanks to a group of supportive writers I'd just met, to approach her during a break and ask her if I could send her a partial. She said yes and I almost fainted. By the time I made it back to the table, where my new friends sat waiting, I was sweating buckets but beaming with pride.

Lisa Jackson was the keynote speaker and I sat awestruck, listening and absorbing, relishing every single word. I was amazed at how funny and entertaining she was, when all the books I'd read by her were serious and somewhat gritty. She was a nice, normal person. Wow, what a revelation!

I've been to several conferences since then, but this one will remain in my heart as my all time favorite. It was the very first time I met real life authors, chatted with other romance writers and actually felt like a writer.

What about you? Do you remember your first conference? What did you learn? What was your best experience?


Carla Swafford said...

Sad to say, I barely remember my first conference. I believe it was in 1996 or 1997. Talk about green. I went to the workshops and was certain that everyone there was published but me. I figured if I kept quiet no one would figure out that I didn't know squat. Very overwhelming. Thank goodness I didn't understand that I could actually get an appointment with an editor. Who knows what I would've done or said. Horrors!

JoAnn said...

At the first conference I attended, I was so enthusiastic that I volunteered to be on the hospitality committee. I was placed at the entrance to the conference area as a greeter. My duties included asking anyone who looked lost if this was their first conference. I managed to ask that question to Patricia Rice, Deb Smith, Jacquie D'alessandro, and Karen White. They were all very gracious, but, thankfully, they had no idea who I was!