Last weekend, I attended my first virtual writers’ conference. Originally, the conference was scheduled to take place last April, until Ms. Corona came to town. This particular conference takes place every other year and this would have been my third trip to join my fellow romance writers in Chicago. So, attending the on-line version excited me. After a long three-day event, I have my sentiments about on-line conferences and hope that next year, romance writers will be meeting up again in person.
Instead of cancelling the conference, the organizers regrouped and planned the conference for writers to gather on-line using the platform, Accelevent. Most of the basic structures of the in-person conference remained in place and were simply transferred into an on-line format. The two keynote speakers stayed on board for the virtual event. The original line-up of agents and editors remained in place. There were multiple choices for workshops in each time block. There was a book sale, an auction and keeping with tradition, a dance party. All the good stuff for writers itching to escape from their day-to-day writing routine.
Going to an on-line format has plenty of advantages. The cost for writers is reduced significantly. Almost keeping in line with a writers’ true budget: slim to none. Travel, hotel, and food expenses have all been kicked to the curb. What a win! There’s an added bonus, since every workshop is recorded, if you attend one, you won’t miss out on the other great choice offered at the same time. You can go back and watch it later. And of course, the highlight of any romance writers conference, pitching to a professional is included in your registration fee. On-line, using Zoom, there were multiple time slots for writers to pitch their stories. The DJ turning the tunes on Friday night offered a fantastic selection of dance-worthy music.
Here’s the rub. As writers we crave human contact. Swapping ideas and sharing cocktails with other writers. A conference is a comfortable social gathering for writers, who most often root for Team Introvert. Sitting beside another writer in a workshop, we’re bound to make a new friend.
While waiting for your pitch, everyone around you is cheering for you and giving you a pep-talk. “You’re great. Your story is wonderful. You’ll knock off their socks in there!”
In between workshops, strolling the hallways it’s inevitable that you’ll run into the author of the book you just finished reading.
The fan-girl moment is priceless.
Virtual disconnects us. It’s odd, we’re connected with our computers, but we are so disconnected. The lines of text in the chat bar feel hollow. We are putting more words out there and yet, again, the worst part of writing is never knowing who is reading it and if it resonates with them. The workshops are full of information, but so much is going into our heads it’s hard to keep it organized. Alone in front of a screen and the info overload, there’s no one around to share it with and to cast off a few of the extra “info” pounds.
As much as an in-person conference can be exhausting, a virtual conference can be draining and down-right grueling. Sure, we can wake up, stay in our pajamas, and roll in front of our computers to join the 1st workshop.
Except, then the dog needs to go out, or the kid has a question or there’s strange noise coming from the other side of the house and seconds later there’s an urgent-sounding knock on your office door. When you get back to listening to the presentation on your computer, the speaker is saying, “…and that’s what I really want you to take away from this workshop.”
Wait! What? I missed it! It seems as if when you’re alone and in front of your computer there are more distractions around the house than you ever dreamed. Goodness! Worse, you’re lulled into thinking there’s nothing to worry about, you can just watch the recorded presentation. So, you give up and do something else while waiting for the next workshop. Great, the workshop on dialogue is going without a hitch. You write down all your notes. That 1st workshop? Long gone. A bit tired, really hungry and a need for a break. The recorded workshop gets shoved off the to- do list as the virtual conference keeps moving forward.
Overall, an on-line conference is a fantastic opportunity to sharpen your writing craft, advance your marketing prowess and the most pertinent, dive into your social media and tech skills. An on-line conference parallels perfectly with the extensive information for social media platforms. Assuredly, romance writers will head into 2021 with a lot more knowledge about their craft thanks to on-line conferences. Here’s hoping that we can finally meet up, talk, and bond over all our newfound writing info, in person.