In the past three years, I’ve been to three writing conferences and each time, I seem to come away with one or two “ah ha!” moments that change everything for me.
Even though I’m in classes for 1-2 days, and hear all of these amazing things, and feel like I learn a ton, so far there is usually just one thing that—for whatever reason—just grabs me and doesn’t let me go.
ANWA writing conference 2011
This was my first writing conference. Meg’s Melody had just come out, and I still riding on the high of a first book. I had just finished my contemporary young adult novel and decided that I wanted to try to break into the national market… and that meant finding an agent.
I went to a class by Elana Johnson—who at the time was still awaiting the release of her first book—on how to write a query letter. I remember accosting her in the hallway in my desperation and telling her that I couldn’t get anyone to request my book based off my query and could she just tell me: Why? Was it my story? My writing? The way I’d written my letter? Should I put a super-cool streak in my hair like her? What was it!?
I smile (but mostly cringe) when I think back on that, because the look on her face was this fantastic blend of: confusion/who is this girl?/where are my wingmen who are supposed to keep me from the crazies?! She hadn’t read my book, nor my query, but that didn’t matter. SHE HELD THE ANSWERS!
Well, she did in fact have a lot of answers, and after taking her class and advice, I revised my query (and my book based on discoveries I made when I wrote the query) and all of a sudden, I started to get requests.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t going to go to this one. It’s not that I didn’t want to. But I live in Arizona, and this conference is in Utah, so I’d have to pay travel costs, plus the conference fee, plus hotel and food. Then, I found out I was a Whitney Finalist, and at the encouragement of my husband, we decided to take our three kids and go (and sleep on the floor of my sister’s one bedroom apartment—cozy.)
I’m so glad I did. Not only did I meet the fab Jolene Perry in person after emailing each other multiple times a day for the previous six months or so, but I also met Rachael Ranee Anderson. And you may have guessed, it was after this meeting that we decided to write All I Want.
My big take-away from this conference, though, was from a class I took from Sarah Eden on romance. Who better to take a romance class from, right? I still remember my “ah ha!” moment when she asked us: “What need does your hero fill in your heroine and vice versa?” I ask myself this question at the beginning of every new wip.
My takeaway from this is the idea of perseverance. It seemed to be the theme of the conference. So many people told stories about how it took several books to get their agents or to get their publisher, and how HAPPY they were that they continued to try—even when they were tempted to quit.
My highlights of the conference were:
Meeting Alyssa Henkin from Trident. She is as nice as all of her clients say she is. I loved her enthusiasm and positivity when it comes to publishing.
Hanging out Ranee Clark, who is one of my amazing critique partners.
Going out to dinner with Rachael Anderson and RebeccaTalley, both who are so great and easy to talk to. I wish we didn’t live in three different states, so we could actually see each other more than every other year at most.
I met so many fantastic people, and for that reason alone, I would say that going to a conference is worth it.
What were your favorite conference moments?