Conference Alzheimer's

So, Wednesday, I had a dinner meeting with a local group of writers, and they asked those of us who had gone to RWA to give a brief rundown of what we’d seen & heard. Easy, right?

BrainscanUh, no.  Apparently, my brain fell out somewhere along Highway 1—probably slid out the window on one of the hairpin curves and tumbled over the cliff into the Pacific—because I literally could NOT remember more than two of the workshops I’d attended.  In fact, if hard pressed, I would have sworn I didn’t attend more than three. I think it was the usual conference exhaustion followed by the immediate application of serious lazy vacation that did me in. Somewhere between Jenner and that beach horseback ride I mentioned last time, I stopped caring.

Now, fortunately, I’m a champion note taker—modified Cornell style, multiple colors of pens, fast and efficient summarizer—because I was able to learn that I’d actually taken six full workshops and popped in on several more between appointments. I applied those summarizing skills I just mentioned and let the other writers know what they’d missed.  Now, in the interest of memory preservation, I’m going to give you the most important/striking points from each of the full sessions (after the jump).


Between Trapezes, Gail Blanke (PAN Retreat):  “Play big.  Playing small doesn’t serve the world.” Also, “Fat don’t fly” (something circus aerialists say; here, an exhortation to get rid of the metaphysical fat, i.e. clutter, in your life).

Reinventing the Author, Steve Axelrod, Ellen Edwards, and Nancy Berland (PAN Retreat): “Reinvent yourself before your career dies.” Also, “If you want to succeed, double your failure rate – Thomas Watson, founder IBM.”

Writing Inside the Pressure Cooker, Pamela Morsi, Robyn DeHart, Emily McKay: “In the end, it’s just blue-collar labor, getting the words down.” – Unknown Rice University professor on sabbatical, in a Seattle’s Best Coffee, quoted by Pam.  “Don’t waste the calm.”  “What you’re trying to do is rip out the mushy parts of your soul, lay them out on the table, and organize them into a cohesive, literary thing.” Use timers to motivate your speed (have them all over the house).  “The less time you have, the more you need to plan your book.”  “Life gets in the way of writing. You write anyway.”

Writing is an Art, But the Kids Need Braces, Holly Jacobs, Nancy Warren:  Organize. Play Mind tricks on yourself (e.g.:Work in Arial.  When you write 5 pages in Arial, it turns out to be 7 pages in Courier). Set priorities and keep them straight. Take care of your muse and yourself.

Theft of Creative Property, Nora Roberts, SmartBitch Sara, Jane from Dear Author, and some amazing professor of neurobiology who developed and founded anti-plagiarism site (sorry, I didn’t get his name down).  I was disgusted by the lack of turnout on this critical issue, especially considering the recent Cassie Edwards mess.  What, 94% of the people at conference don’t give a damn?  Afterward, some conference attendees claimed they didn’t even try to go because Nora’s events are always so crowded.  Maybe.  But the crowds certainly didn’t stay away from her other presentations, so I think there were other reasons. Hmm.

Making a Living Writing Romance Novels, Stephanie Bond: (Do you see the theme here?)  “It’s all about cash flow.”  Set income goals. Be realistic about your production. Think piecework. Use timers. (again with the timers!) TONS of practical info on making a life as a working writer.  Go visit Stephanie’s site and blog and you’ll find links to much of it.

There you go: the choicest nuggets of my conference experience.

And if you happen to run into my brain, could you kindly return it?  It’s out there in the Pacific somewhere, bobbing along like a wrinkled, pink fishing float.





  1. How in the blankety-blank did I miss you in REINVENTING? Sheesh. Next time, girlie, we wear Really Big Signs so we can find each other.

  2. I dunno. I was there, scribbling.

    Can we figure out somewhere to place this Really Big Signage so we don’t have to stare at everyone’s chests to find each other? 🙂

  3. I am now, in response to your notes, using a timer. Three nights of words produced leads me to believe it’s a good idea.

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