Get your mind out of the gutter, that not what I meant. Got your attention, didn't I? It's been a while since my last post and that's because I've been head-down-hands-on-keys revising The River Maiden. I was right, giving myself an external deadline was a very effective prod to getting the thing done. The good news is that I finished and the alpha reader says it's a much better book and the new ending makes him hungry for more. That external deadline was provided for me by the James River Writer's Conference which I was lucky enough to go to this past weekend.
Having never been to a proper writer's conference, I wasn't sure what to expect. But I can definitely say that I was not disappointed. I won't give you a whole summary of the conference. Rebekah Pierce already did a fine job of that on her blog. I will however try to give a summary of my experience as a conference noob.
I've been to tons of trade shows and conferences in other industries and I have to say this one was very well organized. They even designated Mary Chris Escobar to welcome first timers, which was very helpful.
I attended two of the Pre-conference Master Classes.
Growing Your Online Presence with Erica Orloff and Jon VanZile - If you're new to social media and the idea of online branding, this was a great class. For me, it pointed out some interesting things that I'll be trying going forward and confirmed that a lot of what I've been doing is on the right track.
The Secret: Award-Winning Author Brad Parks Finally Shares It with You with Brad Parks - This was a very engaging class. Parks is living the dream and does a good just of telling others how we can too with lots of humor and straight talk. I left feeling very energized.
The conference kicked off with some terrific speeches on Saturday morning. Brad Parks once again brought his brand of wit to a hilarious "opening prayer" and Carey Albertine of In This Together Media talked about the history and future of publishing. Finally Chip Kidd discussed the importance of cover design and the power of a well-designed book cover. If you haven't seen his TED Talk, I highly recommend it.
The panel discussions I attended were very well put together and fascinating. Since I have a finished manuscript, I stuck mostly to the Getting Published Track, and learned a lot about getting funding, marketing and publicity, and self-publishing. One of the most useful talks for me was given by April Eberhardt who went over the whole spectrum of publishing options and shared her perspective on the merits and ills of each.
I also attended a lunch discussion, "Why I Self-Published & Lessons Learned" led by Mary Chris Escobar. There was a good group for this discussion and we probably could have kept on talking about our experience much longer if the schedule had allowed.
Another useful event was the First Pages Critique in which a panel of agents gave feedback on first pages that some writer's had sent in. I did not send in mine because I was still revising when the deadline hit, but I found their feedback very interesting and left feeling pretty good about my first page.
Overall, it was a fantastic experience and I learned quite a lot about the industry. It also help crystallize what my plans are for The River Maiden. I will likely be going back next year. I just hope it doesn't conflict with my much loved Celtic Festival next time. I missed my kilted caber tossers this year:( Still it was worth going without pipes, haggis (I don't actually eat haggis)and whisky tastings to meet all of the wonderful writers and publishers that I met last weekend. Here are some links for just a few of those folks. They're a great bunch and deserve support.
Mary Chris Escobar
I just started reading this one.
Next on my list
Summer of the Woods Steven K. Smith
My 9 year old will be reading this soon.