Have you decided whether you're going to attend this year's Romance Writers of Australia conference? Or how about the RWNew Zealand or RWAmerica conferences?
For me going to at least one is a given - my annual holiday retreat. Two, if I can afford it (and I put every penny away that I can) so I can indulge in two weekends of incredible friendship, networking and professional development. Nothing beats mixing and meeting with like-minded individuals who travel or have travelled the path you're taking.
The highlights of these conferences have to be the awards dinners. Don't get me wrong, the workshops, guest speakers, author chats, fancy dress cocktail parties, raffles, the food, the bookstalls are all awesome, but these nights are a chance for each organisation to showcase their members achievements and hard earned success. Published and unpublished.
If you've never been to a conference before and are undecided, or nervous about being among virtual strangers, could I encourage you to pluck up your courage and go? Honestly, we don't bite :-) and conferences are sooooo much fun!
My dad has always told me - you get more out of something whatever you're willing to put into it. This applies to conferences. If you stand on the sidelines, hug the wall, hide in your room rather than attend a function, then you probably won't enjoy the conference.
I can remember attending my first RWAustralia cocktail party - actually my first cocktail party period! - I was so intimidated by all the people and "published authors" that I barely said boo. I didn't enjoy it much. The next year I went again and that time I forced myself to mingle and talk to people (mostly about writing) and surprise, surprise, I met a few familiar faces and enjoyed myself.
After that second year I made an effort during morning tea's and afternoon tea's to talk with anyone who looked like they were hugging the wall, or had the cute little chicken/baby bear symbols on their name tags (they meant you're a first timer to a conference). The two or three days at conference goes too fast to waste time worry about not knowing anyone.
Last year I had a friend from NZ come over to attend the RWAustralia conference. The first day we chose our table to sit at for the opening of the conference and we were both chatting when another lady came by, looking a little bewildered and lost. I noticed she had a little chicken symbol on her name-tag, so I greeted her and asked if she'd like to join us at our table. She did and after three days of talking, sharing a table and the odd workshop, she and I are now good friends, and we're coming back to conference this year. In fact, we're going to both RWAustralia and RWNZ conferences!
So, put in what you're willing to get out of it. And if you see me at conference grab me and say hi. I'd love to talk with you.
Top photo - at the 2009 RWAustralia Arabian Night's Cocktail Party.
Middle photo - some of the great raffles prizes at the conferences.
Bottom photo (r to l) - The "first-timer" friend from last year's conference, my NZ friend & myself at the cocktail party.