What I Learned at RWA (Not just for Writers!)

Two weeks ago I attended the Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference in Atlanta, GA. It was an amazing experience and I could write and write and write about it, but I promise you I won’t. Instead I will highlight the three biggest things I learned in an easy to digest, non-writer specific list:

  1. Spending time with “your people” is important. When I say “your people,” I mean those people who have something extremely specific in common with you. If you love to bake and your favorite thing to bake is pie, than you need to ocaasionally hang out with other people who equally love baking pie. Not cookies, pie. Don’t get me wrong on this, having a diverse group of people around you on a regular basis is hugely important and I would never, ever, ever advocate changing that (nurture that awesome-ness). What I am talking about here is the occasional need to spend three days with people who do and love exactly the same things you do and love.
  2. Lead the way or allign yourself with those who do. RWA made a groundbreaking decsion at their annual meeting (held during the conference) to include self-published novels among those considered for thier prestigious RITA award (think the Oscar’s of romance writing). In addition, the conference had an entire track dedicated to self-publishing and a book signing for independent authors (in the past all book-signings have been hosted by traditional publishing houses). Whatever that thing is that you would like to change, seek out those who are making strides and hang out with them. If no one is making waves, make your own.
  3. Sit down next to someone and say hello. This was my first trip to RWA and I went alone. It is a huge conference with more than 2,000 attendees. It would have been easy to hide, but I was determined not to. I took advantage of the conference’s orientation for first timers and met a great group of ladies who were there alone as well. Later I went to the bar, grabbed a glass of wine, sat myself down next to someone and started chatting. The next night someone sat down next to me and did the same. I learned something from everyone I talked to. We laughed and cried (those were some powerful keynote speakers!) together. Next year I’ll be thrilled to catch up with old friends. None of that would have happened if I had chosen not to fully engage. Was I exhausted afterwords? Yes. Do I regret it? That would be a resounding no.

The other huge take-away from the conference for me (number 3.5, we’ll say), was to write the next book. No matter what else. No matter the blog. The twitter. The facebook. Write the next book. I’m working on that. (It’s why the list above stopped at three.) I encourage you to do the same: bake the pie, brew the beer, knit the scarf, lead the next big change. What ever your thing is, put it first today.*

*and of course tomorrow too — you know, rinse and repeat.

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