First Timer at a Writers Conference

Cindi Page Author

For the first time in my life I attended a conference exclusively for Romance Writers. I joined the Romance Writers of South Africa’s Organisation (ROSA) earlier this year. To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect from the organisation itself or from the conference, but now that I’ve been a member for about 6 months and I’ve attended their annual conference I’m happy to report that I definitely feel like I’ve grown as a writer and a member of the writing community as a result.

Cindi Page Author with Carlyle Laubuschagne author
Finally met Carlyle Laubuschagne in person too!

Is it worth the money?

The spend. It’s always a question for writers just starting out. You aren’t really making money from your books yet, so can you really justify the spend at this point. I know that a lot of writers would think twice about forking out R3 -5K for a weekend conference, and then decide it’s just not worth it. Let’s not beat around the bush here, it’s a ton of money, but if you stop seeing it as an expense but rather an investment, well then it becomes about the value of event to you and your writing career. Before I get reamed from all sides about it simply not being affordable, I’d like to say that there were many conference options to choose from, from single day attendance to two days, with or without accommodation etc. Not to mention a pre-con event and a gala dinner, if you are keen on the socialising aspect. In rands and cents, a single day attendance came in at approximately R600, without flights or accommodation. Not nothing, but do-able.

Cindi Page with Mary Jo Putney
Hello Mary Jo!

7 Conference Highlights

  1. Meeting like-minded people. Writing is a pretty lonesome activity and suddenly, being surrounded by people who write (just like you) in the same genre as you do was energizing. We all had something to talk about before we even met in person. No ice-breakers required.
  2. Learning from others. During the sessions we could participate in talks and learn from fellow writers. Everything from crafting characters, to overcoming The Fear that holds us back to practical marketing tips and advice was on offer.
  3. Making friends. Yes, that happens organically and it’s a terrific return on investment.
  4. Mingling with famous authors. This year international bestselling author Mary Jo Putney gave the keynote address – which was awesome. But since many of the attendees are already published authors, it was great to meet the person behind the stories.
  5. Hearing from publishers. A few well-known local publishers attended and made themselves available for answering questions and coaching. This year Lapa books and Fire Quill Publishing hosted talks.
  6. Writing competition opportunities: ROSA awarded its first Imbali Award this year to Suzanne Jefferies for her romance novel The Joy of Comfort Eating, there was also a fun scene writing competition which attendees could participate in.
  7. The opportunity to pitch to New York agents and editors. Yes, this happened via skype. What a learning curve and awesome chance to meet face to face with agents who don’t usually accept unsolicited manuscripts. To get feedback in real time, and to hear straight from the source what they looking for is GOLD. The experience alone, whether or not your book gets picked up is a major step closer to being ready for the next pitch or query you send.

I should also mention that we got a fabulous goodie bag – filled to the brim with books!! How awesome is that?

All in all, my take on conference attendance as a writer is: if you can, do it! It’s worth it. It’s worth it just to know there are others just like you. It’s worth it just to get a feel for what other people are doing and how they are doing it so that you can figure out your own path. In fact, I loved the experience so much, I’m hatching all sorts of plans to attend the Romance Writers of America’s conference in Orlando next year 🙂

Who’s coming with me?

Cindi Page Author