Friday FabOoolousness – A Weekend Away: What Writers Really Do at Conferences

Last weekend marked my second trip to DFWcon.  Granted it’s not a long trip for me, considering the conference usually takes place halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth, but it was a weekend away nonetheless.

So Friday night Jillian Dodd and I filled our hotel room with drinks (the adult kind) and snacks, and we mingled with some from our local writing circle and a few from different parts of the country.  Already, my conference experience was off to a better start than last year.

Don’t get me wrong; last year’s DFWcon opened my eyes.  For the most part I attended craft workshops and learned all about synopses, beginnings, plotting, and social media.

However, this year I experienced a different element all together – the human element.  I was fortunate enough to meet so many of the online friends that I’ve only known through social media over the past year.  And let me be the first to say that mingling at a conference, versus only attending the classes, makes all the difference.

But more on this later…

First let’s discuss the business side of attending writing conferences.  Probably one of the most important tools a writer can take to a writing conference is – get this – a pen and pad.  Jess Witkins had the right idea when she showed up with this:

Yes, this is Jess Witkins’ notebook… Rockin’ notebook, right?

Immediately, I knew Jess and I would be life-long friends, and not just the online kind.

Once we’re prepared with supplies in hand, the next important decision a writer must make is which workshops to attend.  Unlike last year, I took more of an interest in the business side of writing.  I attended workshops led by agents discussing the publishing world today, panels made up of other writers sharing their self-publishing experiences, and even a class presented by an entertainment lawyer/agent who gave the rest of us the inside scoop on what kind of money a first-time published author can expect to make in the traditionally published world.  Let’s just say that each and every one of these workshops solidified my decision to self-publish.

But still, even though I’ve attended this conference before, I still selected a few craft workshops that I felt were crucial to my writing career.  After all, knowledge is the key to success — right?

My first craft workshop was led by the New York Times Best-Selling Author James Rollins – “Putting the Thrill in Thriller.”  James’ class was fabOoolous, but my favorite lesson he shared was this: never kill your characters the same way twice; make sure there is blood on the page (okay, so not literally).

And let me just say how fabOoolous James himself is.  Our group of MyWana faithful was lucky enough to get to spend more than the Key Note speech and workshop hour with James, no doubt due to his friendship with Kristen Lamb.  But I can honestly say now that I’ve had dinner (twice!) and lunch with James Rollins.  I’d say NYTBSA again, but everyone gets the point; instead, I prefer to call him my friend.

Just havin’ lunch with James Rollins… Somebody pinch me!

The next craft class I knew that I must attend was “Writing Love Scenes” by erotic romance author Roni Loren.  As a YA writer, I shy away from the love scenes (my first book, Football Sweetheart, has a classic “fade to black” love scene,  because that is what the genre calls for and what I am comfortable writing).  The first point Roni made was probably the most important lesson she shared, and it sounded almost like a duh! moment once she said it: all love scenes need to keep the story moving forward and/or change the characters; otherwise, it’s unnecessary.

And just how awesome is Roni?  She provided the class with a “Why Does this Love Scene Suck?” Checklist.  All I know is that when I’m ready, she has me prepared and ready to move forward with writing some sexy-time.

Partyin’ with Roni — you know our group closed the reception down… Literally.

The next craft workshop I selected was absolutely full of potential: “Crime Scene Investigations: Fingerprints, Truth & Myth” taught by a local DFW CSI.  There was so much information to cover, that our instructor was clicking through the slides every two seconds.  Every time I’d write something down, he’d move on to the next slide.  It got to the point of ridiculousness and I just started laughing.  I wasn’t alone; Donna Newton can back me up on this one.

So I just sat back and listened – so much wonderful information about fingerprints – but I think I may need to buy a book.

Donna and I ready to learn all about fingerprints… thanks for the picture, Dawn Alexander!

The last few workshop hours of the final day were a bit more difficult to choose from, but along with what seemed like the entire conference, I chose to attend the “Writing Emotion” class by NYTBSA Lori Wilde.  Similar to what Roni mentioned earlier in her love scenes lecture, all emotions should lead to decisions and keep the story moving forward.  Ms. Wilde’s class on emotion was simply fabOoolous (I’d say fantastic here, but it is Friday FabOoolousness after all).  She was generous to offer the class email copies of her notes; I need to get on that…

As everyone can see, I wasn’t kidding about my statement that the entire conference attended the emotion workshop.  Julie Glover and I had to sit on the floor at the front of the room.

Sittin’ on the floor like the star pupils we are, right Julie Glover?

For my final workshop of the conference, I selected the “12 Do’s and Don’ts of Thriller and Mystery Writing” taught by agent Ann Collette.  I’d seen Ann around the conference, particularly at the Gong Shows, but didn’t experience the full Ann until attending her class.  She’s hilarious y’all – if you don’t already follow her on Twitter, find her.  She’s friendly too; we’ve already had a Twitter conversation.

And in going out with style, being the last session of the conference, somehow Ann knew we’d be tired of writing so she distributed a fabOoolous five-page handout listing not only twelve, but thirteen Do’s and Don’ts.  My hand thanks her.

Now back to the social story of this past weekend’s adventure.  As if we didn’t already know it, writers are fun:  no subject is off topic or inappropriate (I’m talking about the “Big O” conversation at the lunch table Sunday… poor James); sleep is overrated (this one’s for you, Kait Nolan – since you put me on your “poo” list for keeping you up too late and having margaritas in our room); and silent auctions are a murderous game (right, Piper Bayard and Jenny Hansen?).

“Winning!” with Piper Bayard and Jenny Hansen

I ended my 2012 conference experience with a huge smile on my face — maybe it’s because of the people (okay, it’s definitely because of the people); maybe it’s because I felt like I was actually in my element; or maybe it’s because I won a rocking door prize (admission for two to Southfork Ranch, a one night stay, and breakfast for two).  All in all, I’d do it again.  And again.  And again.

Did I mention the people?

Lunch time with my new English bestie (Donna Newton) and my roomie (Jillian Dodd)
Posin’ with the beautiful Ingrid Schaffenburg
MyWana 0311 – this one’s for you! (with Jenny Hansen, or the More Cowbell blogger as she’s known around social media)
Me and my friend Jess Witkins from Canada. I mean Wisconsin…
Showin’ off my signed copy of Red with Kait Nolan
And one last photo with the brave and fabOooolous Nigel Blackwell

Did you attend DFWcon?  What do you find the most beneficial in attending writing conferences?  Have you had the opportunity to meet any of your online friends recently?  I’d love to hear from you!    

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54 Replies to “Friday FabOoolousness – A Weekend Away: What Writers Really Do at Conferences”

  1. Was really faboooolous seeing you there and I am stoked that I got the sneak peek of your GORGEOUS new book cover. I love the DFW Conference not only because of the people, but because it is local I don’t seem to get as fried. I don’t have to hassle with plane flights, hotels, etc. so it leaves me fresher for engaging. That and it attracts my favorite people. You were there, right?

    1. Was I there? LOL. I’m still not 100% certain that I’ve recovered fully. 🙂

      How did we not get a picture together all weekend? Well, at least we made Julie Glover’s vlog! And can I just say again how pleased I am that she took my gigantic “Yee-Haw” out of the video? She saved my writing career with that omission. Never video a loud girl after she’s had a few adult drinks…

      Thanks for stopping by, Kristen!

      1. I ran out of memory on my camera. I would have absolutely posted a Yee-Haw if I had gotten it! Who doesn’t want a fabulous writer who knows how to channel her Texan twang for some fun? I’ll be back in 2013, and I expect you and Kristen to be ready for your close-up this time. 😉

      2. Ready? We were smiling from ear to ear ready for a photo when you approached us. We just had no idea you were filming. Just remembering the moment makes me laugh. LOL

  2. You guys are so lucky to have all met up. I’ve been hopping between your blogs all week reading about the DFW conference.
    Pics are fab and it sounds like ye all had a Fab time!

    1. We did have a great time, Emma! Have you attended any writing conferences? I’d love to hear your experiences… DFWcon is the only one I’ve been to. Besides smaller workshops around the DFW area.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Oooh, wish I was closer to this! Looks like a fab time and I can relate to your experience. My 1st conf, I was nervous, and all about learning …and the next year was about meeting in person so many of the wonderful people in our industry I met over my first year out of my writing cave and meeting people online. Looks like you had some great presenters – and wonderful pals there. Wish I could have partied with you, Donna N., Jenny, Piper, Julie G. and more!

    1. We would have loved to have had you, Donna! One of these days I’m adding you to the list of favorite social media peeps that I’ve met in real life. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I wanted so badly to go this year, especially when I found out so many of my online friends were going to be there. It just wasn’t feasible for me this year. Kait suggested that Susan and I come to her house next year and all go together. Sounds like a plan to me!

  5. Wish I could have sneaked away for some Margarita time! Sounds like a blast, and wonderful sessions besides. I was there in spirit (among the spirits!).

    1. You were missed, Amy!! Jenny and I talked about you a few times. It was all positive. Promise. 🙂

      Next year… even if it’s to hang out and have more spirits!!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Can I just add my own little “Yee-haw!!” right here? I soooo wish she’d left that in. (And people, Tiff doesn’t need adult beverages to be loud…you should have heard her when she won a killer prize during one of the lunch raffles. It was an AWESOME rebel yell!)

    So much fun…and I’m definitely attending next year. 🙂

    1. What, Jenny?? Are you implying that I’m naturally loud? WHAAATTT? LOL. Okay, so my parents would agree. Actually, many people would agree. 🙂

      It was so wonderful meeting you! I have always loved our Friday morning cups of coffee over conference calls, but actually seeing that smiling and beautiful face? I’ll take “in-person” Jenny anytime!

    1. I wish you still lived here too, Claudia! You are definitely on my “must meet” list. And ComicCon 2013 sounds like a DREAM! Let me sell some books and I’m with you in San Diego. 🙂

  7. Commenting LIVE from Cana…I mean Wisconsin, it was so awesome meeting you and the fact that you shared my Dolly notebook both on twitter and your blog is hysterical! Glad she gets some recognition.

    You were spot on that this conference was awesome because of the people. The information was crucial, but having all of you to discuss it with and laugh with made it so much more!

    I’m glad we’ll be lifelong friends both on and offline! Hugs to you Tiffany, you are so sweet and fun! Only you could make my twang come out. LOL

    1. The drinks Friday night may have started our “official” conference party, but your Dolly notebook was priceless! Etsy, right?

      And your twang wasn’t the only thing that came out, Jess. Let’s not forget about all of those wonderful voices and impersonations! That’s right — your secret is out! I see a career for you here…

      Thanks for stopping by and for making that long trip to Texas!

    1. THANK YOU, Piper, for being just as wonderful in person as you are on social media. We must meet up again… Your funnies. My trying to be funny. It’s seriously a good time. 🙂

  8. The DFW Conference is awesome. I was chatting with the hubby today about whether I should go again next year. The consensus was yes. I learned so much from the workshops, James’s keynote speech (he is so cool), and the gong show. But I also learned a TON from fellow writers as we chatted about our craft and generally had a lovely time. Turning my online writer friends into real-life friends was my favorite part of the experience. (And yes, we are totally star pupils, Tiffany! I give you an A+.)

    1. And I give you an A+ as well, Julie!

      I couldn’t agree more. Writing conferences are a wonderful learning experience, but our group discussions were the best. I can’t wait for next year!! Of course if you come to DFW or I go to Houston in the meantime, we need to have coffee or something… margaritas?

  9. Loud? You? How could people think such a thing? Mind you, I do believe there were calls from Ohio checking we were ok when you won that prize. And in case there’s any doubt, that’s Ohio Canada.

    It’s was a great conference. So many of the talks were great – business and craft ones – and meeting so many twitter names in one place was brilliant! Looking forward to next year!

    Cheers 🙂

  10. Wow, you guys were so fortunate to be able to meet and hang out! Missed not being able to be there, but at least I got to read about it and see some cool pics!

  11. I am still REELING from this conference. It was SO much fun! Good thing it only comes once a year 😉 And you summed it up just right. Especially the part about being in our element. I think that’s why it proved to be the most fun ever 🙂 XOX

    1. How is it I’m still tired from the conference? Oh, I know… the five hours of sleep a night, absorbing so much new information, and the adult beverages. Maybe I’ll recover in time for next year. LOL

      Thanks for stopping by, Ingrid! It was wonderful to finally meet in person. 🙂

  12. I have had so much fun reading y’all’s recaps of the conference. Makes me feel like I was there. But I still got to be shy and hang out at home. LOL Maybe next year. 😀

  13. Thanks for the shout out. So glad you enjoyed the class! 🙂 And it was so great to see you. Next time I’ll have you do the dramatic reading of my excerpt so I don’t rush through mine, lol.

  14. Thank you for sharing your experiences, lessons and great pictures. Sounds like you all had a blast. I’m on the wrong side of the pond but attending DFWcon is now on my bucket list 😀

  15. What an awesome recap! This looks like such a fun conference and you are so pretty! Look at you with all your friends… such a social butterfly, Ms. White. Loved reading about the different workshops and all the great peeps you met up with. I’m totally going next year because I have to meet you!

  16. I really hope this many WANAs go each year because if I can manage a conference next year, DFWCon is the one I want to go to. I’ve been living vicariously through all the recaps.

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