I've been back from the New Port Richey, Florida, conference since April 20, and I would have written about it sooner, but I had to hit the ground running, the moment I returned. Well, forgive the cliche, because it's not even true; I couldn't run. I developed a painful condition in my foot that made walking difficult, so walking through the airport wasn't much fun, but as soon as I returned home, I faced three deadlines, all within a few days of each other.
Now that I have met all the deadlines and cleared a little space on my desk and in my mind, let me tell you about the great conference I attended. It took place in a library that supplied meeting rooms for the whole group as well as small, quiet rooms for one-on-one conferences. The conference bookstore comprised an elevated circular table on which presenters and attendees displayed their books. The setup worked perfectly, because attendees walked around the table, picked the books they wanted, continued around the circle, found the authors to sign the books, and continued in the same arc to the cashier, to pay for their purchases. For such a small space, it worked perfectly.
We have been hearing financial gloom and doom in all forms of the media, and perhaps the news kept some people from spending money on their dream of becoming a published author. As a result registration had been a little lower than the promoters had hoped, but it wasn't down by much. Eager writers and learners filled almost every seat, and no one was short on enthusiasm. In one day some ten or more sessions educated writers on a wide variety of subjects, and no one left feeling short-changed, not even the speakers.
As the keynote speaker, I chose to talk about how how to make a living writing. I have supported myself with words for more than three decades, and I trust that anyone who is willing to be flexible, educated, and open can do it, too. Later one of the other presenters told me I could be a motivational speaker, because my talk was inspiring. Hmm. I hadn't thought of my talk as motivational, only educational, but if I motivated one person in that room to quit a boring or stressful job and enter the world of freelance writing, I succeeded in my mission.
By the time the event drew to a close in the afternoon, many people had met a literary agent face to face for the first time. Most had learned a great deal about how to catch the eye of a publisher or agent. All had learned ways to make their writing stronger, better, and more marketable.
I watched as people trickled out of the library, all with smiles on their faces. We all felt as though we knew each other; we'd been in close quarters, eating lunch, changing rooms, listening to speakers, and wandering around the circular table in the bookstore. I think all of us made new friends. I know I did.
At one time in my life my huge ego made me think I could give every talk offered at any writers conference, but I've grown since then. Now I enjoy having a free period or two when I can slip in and hear at least part of what the other presenters have to say. Even after all these years of writing, editing, freelancing, book doctoring, attending seminars, and giving seminars, I still learn something new, every time I attend a conference.
Good writers never stop learning. I hope you'll find a conference to attend this year. You can never predict what good things may come of it.