It all started for me on Friday morning, with a continental breakfast, cold reads followed by editor/agent panel discussion, a pitch workshop (how to develop a 50 word or less high-concept "elevator pitch" of your manuscript) with author Faye Hughes, lunch and learn panels, and a three-hour workshop titled "16 Archetypes of Heroes and Heroines" with author Tami Cowden. Next was cocktail hour with author Dianna Love, who gave a very inspirational speech, followed by a two-hour workshop on using storyboards to develop plot presented by bloggers from Petit Fours & Hot Tamales.
There were workshops all day Saturday; it was almost impossible to decide which ones to attend. In the morning, I ended up at "The Scoop: Using Television's Techniques for a Top-Notch Novel" by Emmy-winning Boston television personality and best-selling author Hank Phillippi Ryan, "The Balancing Act of the First Chapter" with Christie Craig and Faye Hughes, and "No Matter How Busy You are You Can Find Time to Write" by Kelly Stone.
Next was a fabulous luncheon featuring keynote speaker and wildly popular paranormal author Sherrilyn Kenyon. I have been to many professional conferences over the years, and Sherrilyn's speech was the best keynote address I have ever heard. It was her testimony of success despite apparently hopeless odds; it literally brought tears to my eyes. She received a much-deserved standing ovation at the end; I had to fight the urge to rush onstage and hug her. And she gave every person in the room--there must have been two or three hundred of us--a copy of her latest book, Bad Moon Rising. I have never read a paranormal novel, but I can't wait to try this one.
In the afternoon, I learned about "Getting Conflict on Every Page" with Molly O'Keefe and "Finding Your Funny Bone" with Wendy Wax and Karen Kendall. There was a book signing from 4-5:30, and I bought a couple of books on writing and a hilarious-sounding novel called The Accidental Bestseller by Wendy Wax and had them autographed. Then I checked into my room and got dolled up for dinner.
The theme was "Dark, Bad, Fun" and costumes were optional. (Being a newbie, I chose a basic little black dress. If I had it to do over again, I might go with my Elvira costume. And my black wig.) Dinner was a New Orleans buffet, followed by the Maggie Award Presentations (categories are historical, single title, paranormal/fantasy, inspirational, and contemporary series romance, both published and unpublished) and dancing. I had a blast doing the electric slide and the YMCA with all my new friends.
Indeed, EVERYONE was incredible--the best-selling authors, who donated so generously of their time to speak and lead workshops and who went out of their way to say hello to the lowly likes of me, to seriously ask "What kind of books do you write?" and to offer heartfelt advice and encouragement; the volunteers from GRW who spent months organizing this event and making it truly valuable and meaningful; and all the "unpublished authors," in the same boat I am, who were warm and friendly and helpful. There were door prizes and raffles; I came home with a huge bagful of yummy-looking books and other goodies, and a wealth of information I will be drawing from for months and years to come.
The conference ended this morning with a two and a half hour workshop presented by Dianna Love and Mary Buckham, offering guidance on writing a book proposal. Their book Break Into Fiction, which I purchased at the book signing, is going to be very helpful as I continue working on my current project. In general, I feel that I am now MUCH better equipped to complete the task of writing my book. I have a much clearer understanding of the process, a renewed commitment to making time to write, and many resources I can turn to if I get stuck.
I am looking forward to organizing my notes, reading my new books--and, most important, getting the first draft of my novel down on paper. Right now, that's Priority #1.