There I was, taking a big-girl trip on a jet plane to a weekend writers’ conference in sunny Orlando.  I reveled in the frightening freedom of solitude, enjoying a smooth, overpriced totally adult beverage in the airport at…yes, 10:45 AM.  Before they had time to pass the peanuts in the sky, we landed in Atlanta, and I rushed through the labyrinth to catch my connecting flight to Mickey.

Alas, the conference was so jam-packed with great sessions there would be no time to steal a few hours in the parks, but I did manage a kessel run to the Star Wars store and virtual reality adventure.  If you ever want to feel like you are in a galaxy far, far away this VR experience is just plain awesome.

So, what can you expect at a writers’ conference?  If you’re picturing a bunch of stodgy old men in tweed jackets with elbow patches, you are way off.  If you’re picturing a bashful bevvy of Emily Dickinsons in broom skirts and bifocals, you’re in the wrong century.  Writing conferences are a blast!  This particular conference featured dynamic speakers whose topics ranged from best practices in book publishing to the process for creating audiobooks.  I got to learn about maximizing social media marketing and mesmerizing live audiences with public speaking techniques.  All the while, I schmoozed with a colorful cast of real life characters, including not one, but two New York Times Bestselling Authors!

Attending the sessions can be groundbreaking, but where you really get rolling is in networking!  A writers’ conference is no place to be a wallflower.  Aside from fellow authors, you can meet publishers, agents, and vendors. There were no pompous windbags to be found.  Tell everyone you meet about your book(s), but more importantly, listen to what they have to offer.  This conference included a cocktail social and a networking dinner. DON’T SKIP THESE! Exchange bookmarks and business cards.  Last year’s conference was the beginning of a great business relationship with a web designer/ information analyst as well as multiple friendships with authors who work in all sorts of genres.  This year I got to film a book blurb for a Texas printing house, meet several publishers, and get the honor of being tapped to review an ARC (advanced reader copy) of Lisa Black’s latest forensic thriller.

Yes, an actual New York Times Bestselling Author sought me out after her presentation!  “Are you Rocky?” she began.  Holy smokes!  Lisa Black knew my name!  Now, I’m working on a review of her new book, and she’s returning the favor for mine.  How cool is that?!?  That’s what networking can do!  If you’re an author or if you want to be one, find yourself an opportunity to learn from publishing experts and other writers.

That’s what these conferences are all about, y’all.  You learn about the industry and then you live your dream.  Be positive, be energetic, be attentive, and believe.

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