Now that my cold is better, I can tell you all how truly great this year's Southern California Writer's Conference, LA Version, was. Good workshops, good speakers, good information, good inspiration. If you are in the southern California, I recommend these conferences. (Major Caveat: If you require that life be taken seriously, the SCWC will be too casual for you.) If you live elsewhere, find a conference, dang it.
Conferences are a great source of face-to-face networking with other writers, which you need to meet even if you think you don't, because you can't just sit in your little room typing-typing-typing all day. You need to find your tribe. You can also meet experts at things writers need, like publishers and agents, media manipulators, etc. Someday your manuscript will be ready for these things, so start making your connections now.
Some of my own personal highlights of the weekend:
1. Marla Miller and Jennifer Silva Redmond gave two great workshops on how to fix what's wrong with your pitch or query letter. I love to go to these workshops, even if I have nothing to read, just to hear how Marla and Jennifer approach the problem with each pitch/query. (And nearly everyone has problems - that's why they're there!) I am currently having a problem with the pitch for my humor books, so even though I didn't read anything, I got a lot out of listening to other people.
2. Scott Sigler, along with Back My Book gave an excellent workshop about some of the things the entreprenurial author should have in their tool box. I couldn't write fast enough, and now I have a big To Do List of things for my website.
3. Stacey O'Brien had a really nice workshop on writing memoir. It was fun, in that her workshop mirrored her own writing process. Stacey is a scientist whose specialty is owls. She lived with an owl for nineteen years, and after his death, wrote her grief in large, disorganized clumps, after which she started organizing in the most scientific of ways, until she had a book. It is Wesley the Owl and it is a gem. Her workshop followed that pattern of being a little disorganized at the start, then snapping into focus. I ended up learning A LOT.
4. In Judy Reeves' Read and Critique, I got to read the first chapter of my third mystery. I hadn't read it aloud for anyone but myself and I couldn't figure out why it wasn't working. Thanks to Judy and the rest of the writers, I found it. The read and critique format at these conferences is the best I've ever encountered; they are constructive, they are helpful, and you walk away feeling like you want to get to work on your changes, not like your back is still bristling from the arrows.
In between the workshops, I hung out with my old friends and made new ones. We laughed at the bar, then went to dinner and laughed there, then went back to the bar and laughed some more. Of course, when we weren't laughing, we were talking books, publishing, and where we all were on our paths. It was glorious, and I can't thank the directors, Michael Steven Gregory and Wes Albers, enough.
So, what's on my list of things to do? Among other things, these are three things I want to put into place on the website as soon as I can:
1. Put the Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds back. When I was building the site, I didn't like where they were, so I removed them and never re-installed them. What was I thinking?
2. Add a form for people to sign up to receive news about new books, appearances, etc. I put that stuff on the front page of the site, but maybe people want to be told, instead of going to the site. Never know. Could happen.
3. Podcasts. Free podcasts. Scott does a free podcast of one chapter of his latest book each week, along with a little four-minute sales pitch. Four minutes sounds a little harsh - I promise not to take that long, but I could start with Freezer Burn and give people a chapter a week. I'm actually really jazzed about this one.
How does any of that sound?