Q: What’s it like sharing a room with someone you’ve only “met” online? Were you nervous you wouldn’t get along?
Teri: Oddly enough, I wasn’t that nervous. Brooke and I have known one another for two or three years and I knew I could be a good roomie. It’s all about being courteous. Turns out we got along fabulously. We were both social and independent, so we did things together and apart. Brooke has a wicked sense of humor and we laughed a lot.
Brooke: I’ve exchanged emails with Teri for a long time now, we critted each other’s work, and acknowledged each other in our books, so rooming with her wasn’t scary at all. It turned out to be a lot of fun, and we had a whole “kismet” moment when I unpacked my Magic Bullet blender and she unpacked two margarita glasses.
Q. How do you keep it real as a YA author at a non-YA centric conference?
Teri: There were so many YA people there it wasn’t that hard. I met lots of YA writers that I’d only previously met online. I took workshops aimed at YA writers and then a couple of workshops that were more about the writing life. You know, creative energy type workshops. If I went to a publisher’s spotlight, I made sure they had a YA line so I wouldn’t be wasting time. Also, I was very upfront about my genre… see the t-shirt I wore for the book signing!
Brooke: YA has been growing in RWA by leaps and bounds. We’re even starting a YA chapter. There are more workshops—two years ago there was only one, this year there were 3 or 4. Last year Meg Cabot was even the keynote speaker! Still, I find I must keep my YA identity—I too did it with clothes, check out the sparkly skull-n-crossbones under my signing suit:
Q. How much networking can you really do at a conference? Any tips for introverted writers?
Teri: I did a TON of networking at the conference! It seems like every time I turned around I was meeting an important person. You just have to learn to bring up conversations whenever you meet someone. I once asked someone the type of writing they did, only to learn that it was the senior acquisitions editor for an important publisher.
For introverted writers, it can be quite challenging. Nothing is louder than a group of mostly women writers. I suggest taking breaks, I took myself out to a fancy restaurant for one of my evening meals. I really needed that alone time to recharge.
Brooke: Teri’s not kidding. Almost every time we’d reconnect, she tell me about some one she’d met. I’m not quite that good at meeting new people. For me it is much easier when I’ve met someone online. That gives me some things to talk about. So I try to be part of YA loops and keep up with YA bloggers. That and I bring a blender so if all else fails I can always invite them up to my room for drinks!
Q: What was more valuable for you—the workshops or meeting people?
Brooke: Both. When I first started going to the RWA conference, every day was packed with workshops. I had my schedule and highlighter and used them well. Now, I’m more into catching up with my writer friends and having that all important face time with my agent. It is so much easier to talk face to face about works in progress and career directions. I’m looking into conferences where I can do the same but with my editor.
Teri: Absolutely meeting people. Not only was my networking fabulous, but I made some great long term friends. Don't get me wrong, the workshops were great too, but I loved meeting all the people. I think because writers work on their own so much, the social aspect is very appealing...at least for awhile!
Q: Was there someone you met That you had always wanted to meet?
Brooke: This year I was excited about meeting fellow YA author Alyson Noel. She’s always so supportive and encouraging on the Yahoo teenlit loop and we’ve commented back and forth a few times on each other’s blogs. Plus I’m a total fan girl—love her books!! Anyway, I’d coordinated the National Reader’s Choice Award YA category and knew she had won. I wanted to be sure she was at the conference, because we have a wonderful award ceremony, but I couldn’t tell her she’d won. So I kept asking, so you’re going to be there aren’t you? It was touch and go, but she did come and I’m soooo glad she did. It was wicked cool getting to meet her!! And I was dying to meet Teri Brown, of course!
Teri: There were so many! I've been wanting to meet Rachel Vincent for a long time and we actually got together several times. It was awesome. Also, I have been a fan of Lynda Sandoval's work for ages and she just seems so nice online. We not only met, but hung out awhile with fellow 2K8er's Terri Clark and Brooke Taylor. Lynda is so funny. Just love her.
Q: What tips would you give other writers to get the most out of a conference?
Brooke: Pace yourself. Take breaks, like Teri said. I always take one night off for room service and to rest my feet (they don’t do well in conference shoes!). If you’re a workshop junkie—buy the CD’s—well worth it. I’ve listened to workshops from each year. I pull out my CD’s whenever I have a writing issue to work through and it is just like being there. So don’t kill yourself to get to them all. Make sure you get out and meet people. Take advantage of your local chapter, online friends, and any other networking group you are involved in, find an outgoing person and ask them to introduce you around. Talk to the person sitting next you—I’m still friends with a lady I met at my first conference, at the very first workshop—we were both new and hung out from that point on.
Teri: Don't pack your schedule too full. Leave room for serendipity. At one conference I started talking to a woman who turned out to be Julia Quinn. She invited me to sit with her friends, Jayne Ann Krentz, Catherine Coulter, and Stella Cameron. I had a workshop I was going to take, but figured I could learn more where I was!
Stay tuned all week for more conference advice and gossip from both RWA and SCBWI!