It’s been a week and a half since the California Dreamin’ conference ended, and I don’t know about you, but I’m still floating on a post-conference high. As a first-timer, I arrived at the hotel with wide-eyed curiosity and a hunger to absorb as much information as possible. But I also harbored more than a few worries: What if I didn’t fit in among all the experienced and established authors? What if I bungled my pitches? What if I spent every meal eating all by myself in the corner in an otherwise crowded dining room full of friends and colleagues who didn’t have room for me at their tables?
Well, as soon as I approached the registration desk and slipped that name badge over my head, all my anxiety melted away. Instantly, I felt welcomed into a circle of writers who were genuinely interested in everyone’s long-term career and success, who were eager to discuss their knowledge of business and craft, and who shared my enthusiasm about all things romance-related. Finally, I thought, I’ve found my people.
Here are some of the things that made this conference particularly special for me:
- The workshops! Topics ran the gamut from effectively managing your time, to navigating the intricacies of publishing contracts, to writing sex scenes that’ll have your readers hot and bothered. Some members of our San Diego chapter ran workshops of their own, including Lisa Kessler, Judy Duarte, Linda Thomas-Sundstrom, Mary Leo, and Kitty Bucholtz. At the end of each session, both my notebook and my brain were overflowing with good ideas.
- The keynote speeches! Vicky Dreiling and Sylvia Day spoke about their humble beginnings in the field of romance writing and their hard-earned climbs to the top, and offered advice to their fellow writers. Sylvia Day ended her speech with a quote I’ve since printed and plastered to the wall beside my desk: “Dream big. Read often. Plan smart.”
- The books! To close out the conference, dozens of authors set up shop in the atrium of the hotel for a two-hour book signing. To see photos of our own RWA-SD authors at their signing tables (as well as other photos from the weekend), click through the slideshow below. I, for one, blew my book budget out of the water at this event.
- The connections! I’m not just talking about agents and editors (though, it was pretty great to get some one-on-one time with them during our pitch and critique appointments, right?). I’m also talking about meeting fellow writers, people who were at every stage of their careers – those who were halfway through their first manuscript, and those who’d already hit the tops of the Best Sellers lists. All of us were united through our same goal of publication, and our need to share our stories with the world. I made friendships at this conference that I hope will last for years to come.
What about you? How was your California Dreamin’ conference experience this year?