Sunday, October 4, 2009

Moonlight & Magnolias Conference

I just got back from my first Moonlight and Magnolias Conference, an annual event sponsored by Georgia Romance Writers, the local chapter of Romance Writers of America. It was everything I hoped it would be, and so much more.

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.


Nicki Salcedo said...

What a great write up! It almost sounds like you like us and had fun. :) I hope the conference motivated your writing. Will we see you in November?

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Wow--what fun to read your report! I agree--it was a wonderful time..and I'm so delighted you came to my workshop. Hope it was helpful...
and I hope our paths cross again soon.

Good luck with your writing--we're all inspired and motivated now!

Pam said...

Hi, Nicki! Yes, I like you all very much and I had a GREAT weekend! You will definitely see me in November, and forever after! :)

Pam said...

Hi, Hank! I am so pleased that you visited my blog! Your workshop was extremely helpful--thoughtfully presented and immediately applicable. You shared ideas that I am using in my writing TODAY. And your parting thought will really resonated with me: "What can a teacher/speaker give her students/audience? Courage." As a piano teacher, I like to think that I help my students find courage. As a speaker, you definitely helped build mine. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Pam,

It was such a pleasure to meet you at the M&M conference during the pitch workshop.

Best of luck with your writing,and please do stay in touch!


Pam said...

Faye, thank you so much! I really appreciate the feedback and encouragement you gave me in the pitch workshop. And I am looking forward to digging into your book; I know it will be very helpful. I will certainly keep in touch!

Christie Craig said...

Hi Pam,

I'm glad you enjoyed Faye and my workshop at the conference. And what a great conference. It was so nice to meet everyone.

Thanks for stopping by at the autographing.


Pam said...

Hi, Christie! Thank you for visiting my blog. The conference was a great experience all the way around. I am really enjoying "The Everything Guide to Writing a Romance Novel"--my very special autographed copy! :) I hope to see you again one day soon!