So, what else did I learn during the conference itself in D.C.?
I went to tonnes of workshops so it is very hard to distill all that information in a single post, but maybe I can recall a couple of highlights.
Susan Elizabeth Philips. I've seen SEP a few times now, and every time she says something that resonates with my writer self. This time I took away the 'timer' idea in a way that works for me. I had thought of a timer as a very fixed idea. i.e. set the timer and work until it beeps. But when the dog starts gagging, or the kids start bleeding, or the Jehovah's Witnesses come to the door (again), well, it screws up the whole thing. And I had one of those 'aha' moments. When you have to get up, answer the phone, whatever, TURN IT OFF. :) How stupid am I? Decide how many hours you want to be writing and then keep going until you've hit your target. And during the summer holidays when it is important to balance the kids' needs (and maybe the husband's, and definitely the dog's), maybe adjust your target so everyone gets quality time. This really took the pressure off me actually and allowed me to enjoy the children more, and gave me the freedom to finish working without that guilt that follows me everywhere when I'm not writing.
A second thing was simply 'protect the work'. That is, don't take on things that get in the way of your writing, whatever that may be (like too much blogging or blog hopping :). 'Protect the work'. Easy :) She had a couple of other pointers but suffice to say, she is amazing.
I saw Suzanne Brockmann and asked her about the reader response to DARK OF NIGHT. I love that woman. I saw a couple of agent panels, publisher spotlights (less useful this year as in the ones I went to everyone was buying everything, regardless of genre, 'as long as it was amazing'), but they all wanted agented material. Well, that helps :/
The highlight for me was probably my agent appointment which I completely screwed up, but I got a request for a partial anyway. That's what I've been working on since I got back because the request was for something I'd only finished in first draft (ARGH). If I hadn't got the request I think it might had flipped the whole conference experience for me (oh fickle heart), so this is why it was the highlight.
I spent 2 days seemingly stalking Tracy Farrell. Sorry Tracy, it was not intentional. We were just on parallel paths.
Maybe she was stalking me...
The keynote speakers were great. Janet Evanovich and Eloisa James both struck chords with me (yes, there were tears), Linda Howard is just bloody funny. And I met the nicest people over breakfast and lunch. And in line-ups. And in workshops. And in the lift. And in the loo. It was a plethora of niceness which is highly underrated in my book.
Everyone goes on about the GH/RITAs and they were fun. I was cheering for Rita Henuber, Cindy Gerard, and various chapter-mates, and for books I'd read and marked and liked (one book I marked poorly, finalled, which made the whole thing feel slightly ridiculous. But that is part of the nature of contests i.e. subjectivity and rules). Some of the acceptance speeches moved me to tears because when people have struggled, I can relate. To see them triumph is emotional and inspiring (and yes, I do want some of that). But generally, unless you're up for an award it isn't that big a deal. People get dressed up because they can...that's it really.
Oh, almost forgot :) A final highlight, which was interrupted by my premier highlight, was Donald Maass (pronounced Moss? How to confuse a Brit when Americans say 'Barb' for 'Bob'). Anyway. I have all his writing books and the latest one is a must-read for writers of any genre. His workshop was...thought provoking...amusing...mind rattling. You could hear the cogs turning in peoples' minds (mine, not so much, because I had an agent appointment to cowboy up for). And the messages in the book are all about taking your story deeper--but it is trying to apply those messages that requires the skill. But Donald was inspiring and that my friends is what a conference should be. Inspiring, motivating and educational. Well done, RWA 2009.