The Naked Truth About Conferences


Veronica Wolff, Brooks Johnson, Kim Killion, Cathy Maxwell and Katharine Ashe at a workshop.

April is always busy in my household because it’s birthday month. Between my immediate family, siblings and grandparents we have six birthdays between March 31st and April 19th. But April has been crazier than normal this year. Why, you ask? Conferences! Two of them in one month!

Writing is such a solitary endeavor, just you and your computer, and in my case, diet coke and a large black and white cat who thinks lying across my keyboard is the perfect way to get my attention. But, regardless what your normal writing routine is, it’s nice to get out into the world once in a while. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to go to my first conference three years ago and discover there are other people in the world that talk to fictional characters as if they are real people. And for the most part,these other people are completely sane!

At the Foxy Dames Speakeasy.

They are also kind, considerate and some of the most supportive people you’ll ever meet. They understand how important a kind word of encouragement can be for a new writer, or how someone who has been writing for years may be going through a rough patch with a current work in progress. Writers, by and large, are happy to offer support and advice to all those around them. To sympathize over that latest rejection letter or celebrate your new release, to share what promotional tools have worked best for them or lament over painful rewrites and edits.

The Clan McFae Magical Scottish Fling and Costume Competition.

Every year I try to attend one or two conferences. Some big, like Romance Writers of America (RWA) Nationals, and some small, like Washington Romance Writers (WRW) Retreat. I love going to writing conferences because they are a great way to meet people who understand the challenges of balancing writing, family, and that stupid day job many of us depend on to pay the bills. Conferences allow you to network, promote your latest release and can be a great way to get in front of agents and editors.

I can’t say conferences are particularly relaxing because every time I come home from one I feel like I need a vacation from my vacation. Most conferences offer a wide range of workshops on craft, promotion and trends in the industry during the day, followed by an opportunity to cut loose with friends, old and new, at socials, mixers and parties in the evenings.

RT and Heather Graham’s Night of the Stars Gangster Cafe Talent Quest

Two weeks ago I attended The RT Booklovers Convention in Chicago. What a blast! This one is special because it is not only open to authors and other industry professionals but also caters to librarians, booksellers, and readers. There were a ton of fabulous workshops offered, a Pitch-A-Palooza that gave writers face time with as many agents and editors as possible in a 2 hour period and multiple theme parties every night sponsored by publishing houses like Kensington Books, Carina Press, Harlequin, Samhain Publishing, Avon and Ellora’s Cave. And as you can see from the pictures, writers love to play dress up!

Cover model, Brooks Johnson and Dana Rodgers.

This weekend I’ll be attending the WRW Retreat in Maryland. This is the same Retreat where the Waterworld Mermaids met as “first timers” last spring. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year already! I can’t wait to hang out with my sister mermaids again but what I’m really looking forward to is a fun-filled weekend full of workshops and opportunities to make even more new friends.

Do you attend conferences? If so, which ones have you found to be the best and why?

12 thoughts on “The Naked Truth About Conferences

  1. Dana,
    What fun pictures! I’m so jealous that you went to RT. It seems like everyone I know went except for me. Grrrrrrr.
    The first time I went to Nationals, it was in my own backyard. I signed up late and figured I would just go back and forth on the subway each day. BIG MISTAKE! I felt like I just stumbled through the conference without meeting a soul. Everyone seemed to know everyone. Everyone except poor little me. 🙁
    But, hey, thanks to meeting people on blogs, loops and at our RWR conference, I know people now! Yay, me! And you’re right! There are so many supportive people who ALSO talk to fictional characters in their heads and aren’t afraid to admit it! That was a life-changing moment. When I realized that I didn’t need to hide that anymore. 🙂
    I love Nationals because I see people who I’ve met online or through other loops who I can’t see throughout the year. Like my good friend Vanessa who lives in Australia. But, I love the smaller local conference because it’s more casual and I get to hang out with people I’ve grown to appreciate. And dare I say LOVE? Because I do love my mermaids!

  2. Yay Dana-Mermaid! Wow, I think I might have to try to get to RT next year. This was the perfect post for me today. My month has been so busy and stressful that I haven’t gotten in the spirit of our Retreat yet. I’ve been treating it like a chore, making to-do lists and running errands. But now I actually feel that spark of excitement again. Thanks lady! 😉

    My month of mass birthdays is October so I totally understand!

  3. Another P.S.

    Isn’t it interesting how different conferences have different feels to them? I found our WRW Retreat and RWA Nationals to be completely different experiences. Both fun and awesomesauce but different. Ya know?

  4. Okay, this has absolutely nothing to do with conferences, naked or otherwise, but had to share this one about birthday months.
    My grandmother and only sibling both are Geminis. (I have a small family)
    When my husband and I first were married, we looked through Jane Goodall’s book about signs, and my husband casually mentioned that the only sign he wouldn’t want our children to be was Gemini.
    My first three kids are Geminis. LOL. And they give me a run for my money.
    But, hey, so do the other two, so what do I know?

  5. Dana, I LOVE this post. What a perfect topic when our own retreat is coming up in two days! I so look forward to hanging out with you!

  6. Thanks for stopping by Kim and Kerri!

    I don’t know what to tell you about the Gemini thing Kim. I have an Aries and a Pisces and they BOTH give me a run for my money on a daily basis. But hey, I’m an Aries, we’re stubborn so I guess I’ll survive. LOL!
    As for conference advice, if you ever find yourself at a conference and you don’t know anyone…GO TO THE BAR! It doesn’t matter if you are drinking or not, that seems to be where everyone congregates. So, belly up to the bar, order a drink and start talking to the person next to you. It’s amazing how many great people you can meet that way.

    Kerri, I totally agree about each conference having a different feel to it. I like them all and have gotten a lot out of each one for different reasons. The year I went, RWA Nationals had a stiff, professional and business-like feel to me. I like WRW Retreat because it is small and gives you more opportunity to connect with other people. This was my first time at RT and, while it had A LOT of great workshops–so many it was often hard to choose–it also had a more relaxed, party atmosphere. With all of the theme parties I would kind of describe it as the Star Trek Convention of Romance Writers. It was a lot of fun and I would definitely do it again. Maybe next time some of my mermaid sisters can join me… ;-D

    1. You are not the first person to describe RT as a Star Trek Convention for Romance Writers. That’s funny! 😉

  7. Diana, Heather did sing and she was incredible! I can’t wait to see you ladies at Retreat… 2 days and counting! 🙂

  8. Hi Dana Mermaid! I wonder what it would take to get a cover model to our WRW retreat? Hmm….

    I think if you go back to RT next year, you need to bring a nice big empty suitcase and “borrow” one to smuggle back to us!

  9. LOL Carlene! On a side note, Brooks Johnson, the man in the last picture with me was on my friend and critique partner, Anita Clenney’s last book cover, “Embrace the Highland Warrior.”

    Now tell me honestly… How many of you just ran to your bookshelves? ;-D

    If you want to see more pictures from RT come visit me on my Facebook Page at Don’t forget to hit the “Like” button!

  10. You’re so right, Dana. Conferences are such a great way to connect with other writers and get rejuvenated while having fun. I so wish I could have been at RT with you guys. I haven’t attended any conferences so far this year. My writing deadlines are tight, but next year I hope to do more.

  11. I know you have been crunching to meet your deadlines Anita! Thanks for taking the time to stop by. I hope you do more conferences next year too! ;-D

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