Conference Series: Workshops & Extras

I’m going to start the morning with a quick squee, just in case you missed last night’s bonus post where I found out I’m a triple-finalist in the TARA contest. OMG! Can you believe it?! squeeeeeeeeee

Okay. Now that that’s out of my system (it’s totally not, but whatever) we can continue with our regularly scheduled workblog.

CONFERENCE SERIES DAY 3: Workshops & Extras
[Day 1 link] [Day 2 link]

First, workshops. Some conferences have a limited number of workshops, such that you don’t have to decide which ones to attend because there is never more than one going on at any given time. Other conference have a multitude of workshops and other events overlapping each other at all hours of the day and night, with no possible chance of taking in a quarter of the possibilities. For the sake of having something to discuss today, let’s go with the latter.

If you attend a conference such as RWA National in July, you will face just such a conundrum. One great thing RWA does is provide you with a grid of all activities ahead of time so you can whittle down the choices in advance. Another great thing they do is separate the workshops into categories: craft, career, industry, promotion, etc. The third (and arguably most fabulous) thing RWA does is record the majority of the workshops and offer them to purchase on CD.

I’m going to start with the last point first. If your conference provides you with the option to buy recordings, my vote is on buy the recordings. This lets you choose a category (ie, craft) or make a schedule based on a workshop topic spreadsheet (or whatever), or to just wing it and see what happens, knowing you can relax because you have all the great information coming to you on tape. (Er, CD.)

That said, pay attention to two key things: If *not all* the workshops are recorded, you may wish to attend the ones that are not. Also, if the choice comes down to an untaped workshop you’re not gung-ho about and a taped workshop with a favorite presenter or key topic, by all means, make the choice that’s more right for you at this point in your career!

When you choose a workshop, arrive early enough to get a seat. The untaped ones and the ones with popular presenters fill FAST. Last year I went to a Debra Dixon workshop 15 minutes early and the standing-room only was already spilling out into the hallway, so it was a no-go.

Assuming you arrive on time, don’t be a wallflower! Get a seat front and center (or at least middle) and plop down with a fresh seat of paper and an open mind. Take notes! Interact! Ask questions!

And above all, remember this: There are NO RULES in writing, only suggestions! EVERYTHING you hear is an OPINION. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it! If something intrigues you, give it a shot! You never know what will help, or what throwaway comment will provide the exact ah-ha moment you’ve been waiting for.

Life After Workshops

Or before, or during, etc, because there are LOTS of things going on at most conferences! At RWA National, for example, (which I’ll keep using as the poster child since I’ve attended previously and the next one is in a couple weeks,) workshops compete with goody room access, publisher parties, book signings, etc. There’s also breakfasts, luncheons with keynote speakers, an Annual Meeting, and THE BAR.

As my CP Kel (also a 2007 TARA Contest finalist!) says, “Be the bar.” Even if you don’t drink (especially if you don’t drink?) the bar is a great place to meet other writers and industry professionals and hear all the latest info about who’s repping whom and which editors are looking for what types of stories, and who’s writing what, and which agents have quit/started/branched out on their own, etc.

Goody Rooms we discussed yesterday, so I won’t go into that again. Publisher parties are when a publisher or line (ie Harlequin Blaze) will throw a party in a suite with their editors and authors. You can go, mingle, eat some cookies, maybe get an autographed book or three, hang out, and soak up the vibe.

Book signings run the gamut from big, organized proceeds-go-to-charity gala events, to smaller, all-books-are-free author/publisher promotional rooms. Both are neat. Even if you don’t go home with any books, talk to the authors and industry folk you’ll see there.

YOUR TURN: If you’re a conference veteran, how do you choose which workshops to attend? Have any favorite topics/presenters? What do you do when you’re not at a workshop? Whether you’re a conference veteran or not, do you picture yourself spending more time workshopping or networking? Any other questions/tips on how to spend your time at conferences?


  1. Vicki - Reply

    Congrats again!!! I know I’ve told you a couple of times now but hey when you final in three you need to hear it bunches!!!!

    Kel if you get to read this congrats to you too. I’m so excited for you.

    Since this is my firt conference I think I’ll do some of both. I know there are a couple of workshops that I want to attend but I definitly want to network as well.

    Being a member of TARA I’ve heard some of the workshop speakers do theirs so I don’t have to go that one if there is one during the same time.

    Be the Bar…oh yeah, baby. I’m so there.

  2. Bill Clark - Reply

    plop down with a fresh seat of paper

    You mean they have those little paper toilet seat thingies so you don’t catch cooties from inferior writers? *g

    Sorry – couldn’t resist. But I’m also still trying to puzzle out out what you *really* meant to say. Sheaf? Ream? What quantity and format of paper should a person bring? Enquiring minds want to know…

    Oh, and since it’s not out of my system yet, let along yours,


  3. Heather Harper - Reply

    Thank God for workshop tapes. 🙂
    And you don’t even have to attend Nats to purchase them. They go for sale online shortly after the conference.

    Last time I went, I missed out on a lot because I went by myself and I was commuting an hour each way instead of staying in the hotel. I was too exhausted to think and make good choices of how to spend my time. But this year I have a roomie, and we are only commuting Wed & Thur. We’ll be staying in a nearby hotel Fri & Sat.

    I hope to be the bar this year. 😉

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Erica Ridley