Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Our Dream Conference

As many of you know, we attend a number of conferences and speak to a number of writer’s groups each year. So if we were to plan the conference, what would our dream conference be like?

1. A huge goody bag upon arrival that includes snacks (good chocolate, water, wine, and fruit), a few books from some of the published authors in the group, neat local gift items, pen, paper, and some surprises.

2. No more than one hour of appointments with only the most talented unpublished (or published looking for a new agent) authors whose work is so inspiring I can’t help but request a full manuscript.

3. An amazing hotel with a big fluffy bed and pillows and a great health club/fitness center.

4. Meals with no speakers or awards, just the time to get to know the other attendees at the table, chat about publishing, the area, and life in general.

5. Really good food at those meals.

6. Free time. Not necessarily a ton, but enough to explore the area, go to my room to relax, or take a dip in the hotel pool.

7. Location, location, location. An amazing area I’ve never visited before or a place where I have friends and family to visit while I’m there. I love the opportunity to turn a conference into a vacation. Europe would be fabulous.

8. A host. Someone assigned to me who makes sure I have my goody bag, the schedule for my weekend, a ride to and from the airport, and a cocktail or cup of coffee when I need it.

9. Water. It’s amazing how thirsty you get during appointments or a panel. A fresh bottle or glass of water is constantly needed.

10. Optional excursions. I love it when conference organizers take the time to plan and organize a free trip to a local tourist site. It’s always fun to see something new and different.

11. Wine served at panelist table while we’re speaking.

12. Direct flights to and from the conference.

13. Laid-back, comfortable attendees who aren’t too intimidated to just chat with us and hang out at the bar. Trust me—we’re not an intimidating lot.

Ah, it’s always fun to dream. What would your dream conference be like?

—Jessica

13 comments:

Kate Douglas said...

Dream on, sweetie, 'cus it ain't gonna happen like that! My dream conference would be one where I actually knew what was going on at any given time...I always seem to learn, well after the fact, about the exciting stuff I missed! The story of my life...

Sam said...

My dream conference....
1: Arriving with my luggage at the same time, and my bookmarks intact. (Germany 2003 - my luggage with my books for signing and my bookmarks arrived a day later than I did.)
2: Having everyone show up on my panel.
(RT 2004 - I was the only one to show up on a five person panel. It was my first panel. I will be forever grateful to Marianne Manacusi for stepping in to sit with me behind that huge table, and for Cheyenne McCray for taking over the role of panel host.)
3: Having agents in my genre show up.
(NYC 2001 - I flew from France to attend a writers' workshop with agents. The three agents I'd hoped to meet called in sick. No one was left who took my genre.)
4: Having books to sign.
(This has happened to other authors too, I found out. My publisher forgot to bring my books. I was dismayed, they were dismayed. I signed bookmarks.)

Anonymous said...

My dream conference.
I meet an agent who is so excited to represent me that she signs me on the spot. Then she goes and has drinks with an editor who is so excited about my book that she has a contract faxed to her at the hotel for me to sign.
Oh and to attend the conference in sweatpants and sneakers.
Chris Redding

Maria said...

A conference where all the agents that show up are looking for clients (I've attended two where right on the synopsis, several agents had in bold, "NOT LOOKING FOR NEW CLIENTS." It seems that several agents attend conferences to teach. I don't mind learning, but as a paying attendee, I'm hoping to learn and Meet Possible agents that are Looking.

None of the agents at this dream conference would try to sell me their client's books.

No awards/speeches during lunches and dinners so that chatting at the table is fun and "productive" in the sense that you get to know the agent(s) at the table.

All the agents that are on the synopsis show up (I've attended 3 where agents cancelled--there goes my careful research!)

A panel has been set up where the questions from writers were sent in ahead of time--the agents on the panel all get to answer the question and they've seen it ahead of time so they have time to plan an informative answer. Maybe follow up questions can be asked during the panel.

The food is really, really good (I haven't been to one yet that had excellent food.)

MBG said...

Ah...my dream conference. It would be at a beautifully restored bed and breakfast in the Virginia mountains. Four writers and no more than 3 agents talking shop and life over cups of coffee or glasses of wine in the parlor or on the porch. Everyone there to learn, to rest, to explore writing, agenting, and publishing. When I make my first million, I'm going to arrange it...

Sharon Page said...

I'm making notes for my RWA chapter's next conference :-)
My chapter's first one was my dream conference. It was small and intimate, which meant lots of opportunity to chat with our speakers. I threw a book launch on the opening night--the hotel did all the food and wine, a bookseller took care of the finances, and I got to sign, chat, and enjoy the wine. The editor in attendance was Brenda Chin of Harlequin, who invited me along to dinner with her authors. Definitely a lot of fun--and no packing or traveling!
(Shameless promotion--my chapter is the Ottawa Romance Writers Assoc. of Ottawa, Canada, and our next conference will be Sept. 07)

Gina Black said...

I think the Emerald City Conference where I met you, Jessica, is about as close to a perfect conference as I've ever found.

That's also where I first met Gerri Russell who became a fellow American Title 2 finalist. She was a doll and made sure I had a great time since I was a finalist in their contest. They even picked me up and dropped me off at the airport.

I recall the food being quite good. I was introduced to lots of people and they were all nice and friendly. The workshops were interesting and so were the speakers. (I remember Cherry Adair was a hoot!).

The surprise of the conference was coming down to breakfast on the Saturday and discovering that the person I'd sat next to and chatted with the night before at dinner was an *agent* on the agent panel. That was you! And you were the first agent I ever met! LOL

2readornot said...

I like the idea of a little free time...but I think there should be free wireless internet in every room so authors can work on suggestions given them by agents/editors ;) And i like the lunch/dinner speakers -- of course, I've only heard a few, but they were all really interesting.

You should come to the Pikes Peak Conference...beautiful surroundings ;)

*Europe would be wonderful, but who would want to conference then??? We could just all take a tour of the countries together, instead, he-he.

Chumplet said...

My dream conference would be a literary conference. Any literary conference.

Is there a chance of one happening in Toronto anytime in the next decade?

ORION said...

Oh come to the Maui Writers Conference! I love it there and go to the retreat each year.
I think it meets nearly all your requirements.
(I already have an agent so I am not just saying this to lure you into my territory!)

Anonymous said...

To be surrounded by agents who believed all aspiring writers were talented, and they wished to really help them reach that next level.

We can both dream, can't we?

Chumplet said...

I don't think I'll find enough loonies under the sofa cushions to get to Maui. *sigh*

susan lyons said...

I love these comments and, like Sharon, am taking notes because I'm conference chair for Write On, Vancouver (sponsored by the Greater Vancouver Chapter, BC, Canada) -- May 4-5, 2007. (www.writeonvancouver.com)

We're doing our best to get most of the things Jessica has suggested in place, but... We so rarely get speakers who are interested in spending extra time with us. Everyone seems so darned busy, they have to fly in and out and can't take the time to explore a wonderful city like Vancouver and/or hang out with writers.

Once, the amazing Barbara Samuel came to speak and she spent an extra day or two, having dinners with us, going hiking (one of her favorite activities) and just hanging out. It was wonderful and I wish it happened more often.

It's a real pity life's so frantic that people rarely have time to explore or just hang out.