Romance Writers of America (RWA) is hosting their annual bash (or conference) in Atlanta Georgia this week, and because I couldn't find a way to go, I decided to bring some of the conference fun here.
(Yep. Right here. Put your finger on the X and feel the magic...)
So why Disneyland? Read on to find out. Perfect analogy.
Today, I have the very lovely, talented, fun, and personal friend, author Kacey Mark on the patio. She's the creator of "A Muse Gone Rogue" and "A Muse Gone Commando." It's a bit muggy with the storms passing through, so we're going to dangle our feet in the pool and indulge in some cold lemonade served in frosted glasses to help keep us cool.
I first met Kacey at a conference – URWA Heart of the West in Park City, Utah. Her book had placed in the Heart of the West Contest and I was sitting two chairs away, totally awestruck. I hadn't even finished my first book yet. In fact, I was barely telling people I was a writer. That conference was my first public exposure to other authors – people like me who didn't sleep, barely bathed, no longer cleaned house, and consumed their weight in caffeine. The energy at a conference is what recharges an author's battery, so to speak. I invited Kacey to talk to me about her conference experiences.
How many conferences have you attended?
LOL! URWA is my one and only. I'm not nearly the conference circuit groupie that I pretend to be. And the URWA 2010 was my first as well.
Why do you go? What do you expect to get from a conference?
I go to network and learn. Plain and simple. Writers can be so uplifting to be around because we all have a collective drive and a healthy amount of crazy. The friends a writer makes at conference can be friends for life. These are amazing men and women that you may never meet otherwise!
Most memorable speaker/conference event?
My most memorable would be the moment when I was granted the coveted chair next to the A-huh-mazing Ms. Anne Stewart. I drooled over her writing for months prior to conference. I listened to her previous classes on tape from nationals, but in a moment of romance geekness, I turned into a complete Kacey-cicle!
She is an amazing person as well as author. I'd probably just drool. I'm not good at rubbing elbows with the elite.
So tell me what's your favorite part of the conference experience?
The friends I've made. I had morning-after aches like nobodies business. You know, from laughing so hard.
I'm with you on that. Aside from the wonderful speakers and the knowledge I soak up like a dry sponge in classes, it's the social aspect of conference that draws me year after year. Some people I only see at conference. And we get a chance to let our hair down and just "be" for a while. Speaking of cutting loose, I may or may not have participated in a short-sheeting incident. Any hijinks you dare to share?
No, but I wish! I really wanted to moon all those hotel room onlookers during our "kiss it and send it ceremony."
And take full advantage of my energy-induced stupor by staggering into the scowling door man--who glared at us and said we weren't allowed to have booze in the lobby.
For those of you scratching your head, at the URWA Conference, we have a tradition of gathering around a burning caldron (more like a fireproof pot with a candle), clad in witches hats (think MacBeth). We chant and toast each author's current work in progress. The ceremony ends with a "yawp" to the East, sending our wishes for acceptance to the publication gods in New York. Anyone within ear shot probably thinks we're some sort of cult sacrificing something. Our dignity is the only thing in danger.
Conference is also where you get an opportunity to pitch to an actual agent or publisher. My first pitch turned out to be the classic elevator pitch. Trapped in an elevator with an agent for 3 floors and as soon as the doors closed she asked "what's you book about?" When the doors opened, she gave me a card with an email address scribbled on the back and asked for 50 pages. Didn't get the contract, but rode a wave of elation for the next two days.
I know you pitched, Kacey. Care to share your experience about that "first time." (wink-wink)
My first pitch was a total flop! I had the golden opportunity to pitch to an editor from TOR, who I had picked up from the airport no less! An entire hour with this woman in my car and I had her complete and undivided attention.
When she asked me about my work I replied, "Well...uh...I'm pitching to you tomorrow so I'll just wait till then."
Luckily I got a take-2 the next day, but the informal query would have felt so much more natural. Long story short, If an editor wants you to pitch. For heck sake, pitch!
What advice could you pass on to the author who's pitching for the first time?
Be assertive and friendly. These people come to conference because they genuinely want to find good books and great authors. And above all, they are normal people.
I'm going to add to that -- BE PREPARED! Trust me, at some point (and likely more than once) you will be asked about your book. Have that 2-3 sentence pitch ready!
One of the deterrents for me where conferences are concerned, is the cost factor. I wanted so badly to go to RWA Nationals. "Riley's Pond" is a finalist for first best book through Greater Detroit RWA, but I couldn't afford the expenses to attend. So in your humble opinion, friend, are conferences worth the cost?
I think to a point, yes. RWA Nationals is like Disneyland, though. You go, you get to experience the ride and mingle with complete strangers. Maybe find some friends--or frinenemies. But there's so much to see and do you can't possibly hit it all. I for one, feel content on spending my money with a smaller group of networking friends, but I buy the conference tapes from Nationals so I still get that awe-inspiring advice.
Where would be your dream conference destination?
I would love to go on a riverboat conference cruise. That sounds like fun! Stir up a little trouble on land, then escape to the water. Pitching to editors and agents at each destination.
Oooh! "Progressive Pitching." I like! I also think it would be a blast to do a conference in period costumes.
One last question before we empty our glasses. Can you give us a glimpse of what you're working on right now?
****Prom Night in Purgatory****
There are twenty-five candles on BAILA GREY’s birthday cake but only three months left to live, not that either one would slow her down. As the daughter of a wildlife photographer, she’s traveled to more places and taken more risks than most do in a lifetime. But Bails has one last goal to scrape from her grubby ole bucket list—to find a man.
She’s not dead yet, but her friends are already morning her. And with her inability to land even a single live boyfriend, she’s ready to give death the finger. She needs a bigger sea of fish to pick from and a larger-than-life hunk-a-man-meat that’ll make her friends cheer. With their help, Bails stages the ultimate manhunt. Through the dark gates of purgatory to a man who threatens to steal not only her last moments of life, but the lives of her three friends.
ASHER LANDIN lives for his job—not that you could really call it living, he’s dead. But it’s all he exists for. As The Collector, his gateway to the ever-changing world above only swings one way, and the morsels of life he gathers are his only defense against insanity. That is, until a tart little chasse by the name of "Bails" breaks through, and he truly learns the meaning of insane.
With his father ready to hand over the family business and his step-mother fighting for power, Asher needs to prove his ability to control not only the realm of purgatory, but his increasing urge to chase Bails around like a lunatic.
Thanks girlfriend for letting me put you in the spotlight, or on the spot. Am I going to see you at a conference this year?
Ah the golden question... I really really want to hit conference this year but it's all about timing.
Well I hope it works out so you can. Good luck with the new book, and I appreciate you sharing with us.
Thanks so much for letting me chill on your blog. And come August 1st I would be thrilled to return the favor. SO please email me! firstname.lastname@example.org
You got it girl!
So back to my audience melting under the desert sun. Your best conference experience? Your worst? Thanks for stopping by and supporting Kacey and me. Until next time...check out Kacey's books (the covers are "delish...) and don't miss the book trailers - music is awesome! http://youtu.be/JcLQ60z2oCE and http://youtu.be/3PAML3bRJII