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Conference – a summary

15. August 2006

This is going to be a long post, so apologies in advance. I’ll post pictures later in a separate post.

First of all, let me summarise: the conference was great. But for very different reasons than last time.
Last time was my very first ever writer’s conference. I had only just joined RWA a few month prior, so I didn’t know anyone. I’d also never read a category romance, and very few single titles (I was mainly into chick lit at the time). It was overwhelming and very, very useful from an industry learning point of view, as well as craft and meeting people.

This year, to me, it was all about the people. So many faces looked familiar. So many names I’d seen on the e-list before. There were at least a dozen people who I’d spoken to in emails or even in person previously. It was like coming home. It was fantastic.
I was no longer a stranger in a sea of faces and a blur of name tags, I was amongst friends. I had an answer to the ubiquitous “What do you write” question, and I had something to say when asked what had happened with my writing over the past year. I was a writer. And it felt great.

The setting and venue couldn’t have been more exciting, either. I’d never been to the Gold Coast before. It’s a very bizarre place in many ways. It’s so buzzing, yet lifeless at the same time. I didn’t see a single cat (always my measure of a great place), and less than half a dozen dogs during my stay there. And if I saw a dozen different birds, I’d be surprised.
But hey, it was warm and sunny, and very clean and well-maintained. A giant theme park. Slightly surreal (especially at 6 am), but a great site for a conference.

The hotel was posh without being overwhelmingly gaudy, and the staff were excellent (especially one of the lunch waiters, who was simply hilarious and took a roomful of innuendo in stride – kudos!). The food was great (and hey, we even had tables! Whee!), from lunch to the myriad of pastries and their great tea selection.

All this set the perfect stage for another great conference. The organisation team did a stellar job, and if there were any glitches (as I’m sure there always are), they weren’t noticeable. The place was bustling, and things were running great from what we could see. I certainly don’t envy them their job (even though I want to do it some time, too. What can I say, I like being stressed. =P)
The guest speakers this year were very inspirational. Debbie Macomber is a fantastic lady, very sweet and cute with this steely determination that I could only dream of.
Paula Eykelhof is very sweet and non-scary to talk to. Not at all like the image we paint of editors in our heads.
And finally, Jane Porter has it all. Guts, determination, a feminist mission and incredible hair (yeah, I’m a hair stalker…).

So yes. Inspiring people. And therein, ironically, lay part of the problem of the conference for me. It was all very inspirational, “Hang in there” and “We shouldn’t sell out”, but for me, there wasn’t enough content.
Now let me explain what I mean by that. It seemed to me that what few workshops we had (and hey, we’re puny compared to our big sister across the pacific) were inspirational in nature, with a few exceptions. Actually, now that I look at the program, that wasn’t quite the case, but it felt that way between plenary talks and keynotes.
Now don’t get me wrong, I can see the value in a good inspirational message, and people loved the speakers. It’s just not what I needed at this point in time. I’m plenty motivated. Hell, if you want to live off $20 a week, you’d better be bloody motivated with what you’re doing.
Maybe it came from listening to all those RWA tapes in the months prior. There was so much meat in those. Overall. Not to say that each and every taped workshop was stellar by anyone’s reckon.

What did I want? Industry news. Sub-genre specific crafting. Writing life workshops.
Maybe it was the workshops I attended. I liked two out of the four I had. I didn’t much care for the plenaries or keynote, even though they were great speeches. I don’t know. The more I try to put my finger on it, the less I can pinpoint what I felt was lacking.

Maybe it’s just second-conference blues. I came in with expectations that were wrong, and was puzzled when they didn’t match up.
I had a much, much better time than last conference (and I enjoyed the last one immensely). I made a bucketload of new friends, got some face-time with online friends, and caught up with people I hadn’t seen in months, if not a whole year.

Was it worth saving all year? Skipping meals, buying only op-shop clothes, worrying whether I can afford to print out a draft/
Absolutely. I’d do it again any time. And as I feed my first note into my shiny pink piggy bank, it’s a promise that I will.

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