Sunday, October 16, 2016

NJRW 2016 - Another Fantastic Conference!

Well, it's the end of another whirlwind weekend! Many of you know that every year, I attend the NJRW Put Your Heart in a Book conference. And since it's really close to my local RWA chapter, Hudson Valley RWA, a good portion of my fellow members attend as well, which guarantees a really fun weekend. This year, our very own Liz Matis was a finalist in the Novella category of the Golden Leaf, a contest for published works. Sadly, she didn't win, but I still advise you to check out that book – Guarding the Quarterback. All in all, the conference was truly a great time. Again.

Also this year was the very first time I presented a workshop - "Twisting History – Using Real Historical Events and People to Propel Your Plot." I worked really hard on hitting specific ideas prior to submitting the proposal; once it was accepted, I polished it up, expanded it and practiced giving it, so I could get a sense of how long it actually lasted as opposed to how long it should. Oddly, putting it together was actually harder than writing fictional characters and their stories. And special thanks to Kelly Janicello for pointing out all the places I needed to pause and take a breath - and add a bit of drama. :D But I think I have a handle on how to really make a presentation pop. And now I have to go back through it and add all the notes I made this weekend before I actually presented. Plus, I've had some ideas for a few more workshops, so I'll be toying with putting together some thoughts on those. I actually found myself having fun while I was presenting, now I want to keep doing it! :D

One of the best parts is always hanging out with friends, and making new ones. While many of us see each other year after year, there are always new faces to get friendly with, and this year was no exception. There were a lot of laughs.

This year, the conference committee made some changes to the event format, and, I think they were changes for the better. There was an additional energy this year, and I think those changes are a large part of the reason.

Normally, at the end of the conference on Saturday afternoon, there is an author book signing, with proceeds going to literacy charities. I have noticed, since I always participated, that over the last several years, attendance to that portion, which is open to the public, has been declining. I think a large part of that is due to reader habits today, which in the last several years, have changed dramatically. Ebooks had been making steady progress for some time, but once Amazon launched the Kindle and the KDP publishing arm, industry trends and behavior changed in ways that I suspect a lot of people, myself included, never could have imagined. I do still know some people who are holdouts for a paper book, but that number is far fewer now than it was just five or six years ago. Almost everyone I know reads digital formats in some way – I myself have four different devices I regularly read from, and few other older ones that I can use in a pinch if necessary. So while it is cool to get a signed print copy of your favorite book by your favorite author, it's not necessarily the most important anymore. With everyone on social media these days, you're likely already interacting way more intimately with authors you read than you'd be at a big signing like that. The appeal simply wasn't as great as it had been in the past.

So, back on target here. This year, instead of the bookfair, NJRW launched an Author Services Expo, a trade show for cover artists, editors, formatters, etc. That was very interesting and a nice change. Plus, it gave authors who provided such services another networking opportunity. I thought that change really enhanced the conference. I perused and took note of a few folks – there are some very talented people out there. Consider me impressed.

I also want to say again, thank you so very much to Casey Hagan, the conference committee chair, and all of the people on the committee who gave tirelessly of their time to treat us all to a great, and productive, event. There's a lot that goes into a conference like this – I know, I've coordinated similar events myself in a former life. Casey and her committee did a fantastic job, everything ran smoothly, and I can imagine that everyone on that committee is looking forward to a week or so of downtime. I hope they get it!

Another new event took place this morning, Sunday - the first inaugural Hearts and Sparks Readers and Bloggers Appreciation Brunch. Terri Brisbin and Joanna Shupe coordinated and hosted, and again, I was so impressed. Their efforts to make this brunch a fun time were remarkable. When the guests arrived, there was a game for them to play, called First Line Bingo, which was a Bingo card with the first line from a book of each of the authors attending. Mine was the opening  line from "In the Mage's Arms," and when I introduced myself and explained that "I write the kinky stuff," everyone pretty much figured out which line was mine. What a really cool idea – and so much fun! It helped to break the ice and get people mingling and talking and getting to know each other. Great company, great food, and lots of laughs. That's what it's all about folks! 

Overall, another 5 Star weekend! And while I'm tired, I'm also energized and motivated and hopefully can keep that going before I hit the road again to visit my daughter at college next weekend.

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