And, because most writers also have a day job, Joanna is a professional artist who owns j'Originals Art Studio in Dunn, NC. She paints watercolor and oil paintings on commission and has also taught art for 30 years. As an award-winning artist, you might catch her exhibited on regional and national levels. She's a member of the Portrait Society of America and of the Southern Watercolor Society, and has served as a board member of the Wathercolor Society of North Carolina for 12 years.
So what did Joanna think about the RWA conference? Here's her take:
Wow--about the conference itself--the keynote luncheon was simply incredible-- listening to Diana Gabaldon of Outlander fame, Steve Perry who writes thrillers, both NY Times best-selling authors, and Tess Gerritsen whose series detective inspired Rizzoli & Isles answer expertly placed questions. That in itself would have been enough for me. But then we got to hear Sherrily Kenyon and Madeline Hunter tell their stories, and what mind-boggling, stirring stories they were.
We got chances to pitch our own finished novels to major agents and editors, including those on the NY scene, rake in free books from top publishers, devour incredibly informative workshops and meet members of national interest groups (mine being Gothic Writers) that we had never seen before. I particularly liked Michael Hauge's workshop on character arc and plot/novel structure, but also those which encouraged us to get savvy with the marketing tools of the industry. Plus, our published authors got a chance to sign books for their fans - the HCRW made a good showing at our panel!
For my own part, I got pitching sessions with 3 literary agents (all top choices for me personally), one a New York agent, and a request for a full from a top publisher. I am racing to get it off to them, now. I made some terrific new friends, got and gave some good pitching tips, made neat contacts, heard scuttlebutt insider tips you only get from conferences, new books I want to read and I had two or three "revelation" type ideas for presenting my WIP.
The total conference cost for me was around $1300, but this isn't all at once. You pay the conference fee first. My room for four nights, shared room, was $485, which was charged to my card last, my meals were $120-$150 of the $200 cash I took to spend. My flight, with insurance, with broker, was $230, and the optional shipping of my books home was $53 (their largest), for a grand total of (how much was the conference fee? 375 or 450?) 1300-1365. I have made a commitment to myself to afford myself one major conference a year in each of my expertise areas, which has more than elevated my craft in each area. Entrepreneurs ALWAYS know they have to put back into the business, often repeatedly, before they take much out.
Oh! And I bought a book from Michael Hauge, $20.
I recommend the conference to people in several phases: first of all, to beginners: to get a notion of the scope of the industry which will inspire and light a fire under you, straight on. Secondly for those with a completed book to get opportunities to pitch novels to editors and agents who are otherwise closed to open queries. And thirdly, if you're needing fresh infusions or if you've won something, to bask in it a bit.
You can't have a conference without a crazy conference story! I asked Joanna to share hers, and now I'd love to hear yours - add your story as a comment, and take a moment to laugh at everyone else's! The five which make me laugh the hardest will be accumulated into a post for July 18th (Wow, I already know that I'll have a hard time choosing!) Thanks again to Joanna McKethan for the terrific review!