My first conference was my Romance Writers of America (RWA) local chapter conference. Relatively small, it gave me a chance to experience a gathering of the minds without being overwhelmed by a mob. Soon after my arrival there, a tall, regal woman walked into the members suite. "I’m Stella Cameron," she said. She was one of our speakers. A few minutes later, I found myself having lunch with her. It was an absolutely wonderful experience. One of many I had that weekend. There were other opportunities to speak not only with Stella, but to other published authors, editors, and agents. I learned a lot, including the fact that famous authors, agents, and editors are people just like us—and they don’t bite!
A little over a year ago, I was able to attend the national RWA conference in Atlanta. It was a neat experience, and again I learned a lot, but it was a huge event. I really missed the opportunities to schmooze that a smaller conference allows. On the other hand, there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as a huge gathering of writers and publishing professionals. It was an experience I hope to have again one day.
I’ve also attended a couple of writers retreats, where writers get together to share information, encouragement, and maybe to get some work done on a current work in progress. These lower-key events have the benefit of being relaxing and comfortable. I highly recommend them.
So, which is better; smaller conferences, larger conferences, or writers retreats? Personally, I think that’s an apples and oranges type question. There is no comparison. There are benefits and drawbacks to all three. Smaller conferences and retreats offer the opportunity to get to know people better. Larger conferences allow a person to get to know more people. All three offer learning experiences. All three offer the writer an opportunity to recharge and get excited about getting home and back to the keyboard.
Bottom line: Any of the three will help a writer meet her career goals. Pick an event you’ll be comfortable with. Decide which one appeals to you. Location and finances may have a lot to do with your choice. But please, don’t say you can’t spend that kind of money on yourself. Like the L'Oreal commercial says, "You’re worth it."
See you there!