Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Conned at a Conference

Don’t go in there, Jim! It’s a trap!

Well, okay. That might be a little over-the-top dramatic. However, pretty much every conference unfortunately has—I’m just going to brazenly say it—schemes that aren’t going to get you any closer to your almighty dream of becoming a NYT Bestseller. And I wish to Hell someone would have told me that early out. It’s a hard and long enough road to publication without the noise that comes along with the travels, so dear ol’ Gusto is here to help quiet your radio interference.

Now, before I get on my rant, I must give credit where it’s due. Thanks to conferences, I learned some solid basics, plus made great contacts and friends…for bar hopping if for no other reason.

However, let me start with some wisdom from a guy who is way smarter than yours truly. Name is Stephen King. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. Anyway, in his memoir, On Writing, Stevo opines that the best way to get better at writing is to read a lot and write a lot. He didn’t seem to be too keen on the conference idea. He further balked at the ‘political’ angle, the who-you-know approach to publication.

So if the King says thus, why do you want to pay for a conference?

For me, the answer is that I found out about books on the craft that taught me the behind-the-scenes of a novel, thereby making my efficiency grow faster. I also got to know editors and agents who probably wouldn’t have given me the time of day otherwise. And I partied.
What I propose for navigating conferences is a happy medium based on the sultan’s introverted advice and my humble experiences which were a bit more social. Key thing—I’m definitely going to save you money. If you’re like me, you’re a starving artist. Or maybe someone is bank rolling you and in that case, I don’t know why you would want to bother with this writing stuff. You’d get way more out of a country club membership.

This is just the start of my snarky series. Isn’t that exciting?

Let’s get to it. Tip 1: You don’t have to stay at the ritzy hotel in which they’re hosting the conference.

Unless you’re bringing family along with you, there won’t be anytime for enjoying the amenities, so it’s absurd to stay in a posh palace. Conferences are lots of work. You’ll go home tired as hell.

Recently, my good friend David Kelley attended a big publication shindig. The rooms, should one have booked them in the…we’ll call it the Merkiot…were over 100 clams a night. Mr. Kelley used an internet travel webpage to reserve a room just a few blocks away for $39.

If I do stay in the fancy shmancy hotel, I split the room with a pal. Yeah, I’ve had to put up with snores and sometimes odors, but they’re all part of the festivities. Real living makes better writing.

Truthfully, this posting was just a love tap. Not a full-fledged punch. With a title as shocking as Conned at a Conference, some readers might need a defibrillator. Next time though, I’ll be thrashing the mythical value of add-ons. You may want to have a physician standing by when you peruse it.

Gusto Dave


Pam Nowak said...

My perspective on conferences is quite different. In twenty years of RMFW membership, I have missed only one Colorado Gold conference and have come home with new and useful knowledge and energy each and every year. Yes, there are ways to save money...commuting, staying with a local friend or at an off-site hotel helps a lot and I've done that often. (RMFW is offering scholarships this year, BTW.) And not all conferences are created equal. I've attended other conferences and found them less than useful. The key is to look at the sessions being offered and the group of people attending. For me, RMFW's Colorado Gold provides a wonderful mix of education, motivation, and connecting with others that can't be matched.

Patricia Stoltey said...

For me, conferences are a way to reconnect with friends I only get o see once a year; meet new authors, agents and editors face-to-face; and soak up the energy that inspires and motivates. Yes, I have to save up to attend, but it's a part of the writing journey I like a lot.