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Retreat from solitude

J.T. Bock and me

J.T. Bock and me

Writing is often a solitary profession, and though the Internet can provide us with the networking and learning opportunities we need, nothing compares to getting out and mingling with other writers.

I spent the weekend at my local RWA chapter’s annual retreat in a cute college town in Maryland. The mini-conference eats up precious time with my family and a nice little chunk of change, but it’s worth it. Just knowing that you’re in a room full of people who “get” you is valuable. Not to mention the ideas that start pinging around in my head as we discuss our craft, our stories, and our struggles.

Editors and agents become real people—rather than sources of fear and stress—as we sit next to them during lunch, or share cookies and life stories with them after a mean game of Romance Jeopardy.

Bestselling authors share their long road to success, their fight to stay relevant, and the self-doubt that never seems to fade, no matter how many books you sell. We are not alone. Every fear we harbor, every doubt that plagues us, every nasty rejection we receive is part of the process that thousands of published writers have faced before us.

Like a hazing ritual that you must endure if you’re serious about making a living at this crazy profession, it would seem even the best writers have suffered for their success.

Of course, conferences are not just about tales of commiseration and lessons on better pacing or dialogue. There’s fun too. Meeting friends you’d only known online, making new acquaintances, talking to an editor or agent without the strain of trying to pitch to him or her.

Some of my favorite moments this year:

– The epiphany I had while trying to answer questions about the barriers between my hero and heroine during a workshop presented by Kathleen Gilles Seidel and Pam Regis, Ph.D.

– Hanging out with Christopher Keeslar, Editor in Chief at Boroughs Publishing Group, an incredibly well-respected editor in romance, and a super nice guy.

– Learning that publishers (traditional, and especially e-publishers) are realizing they have to compete with the ease of self-publishing. They’re now trumpeting their rights reversion clauses, marketing, and editorial quality.

– Spending time with writer friends old and new, which always gets my creativity flowing and buoys my flagging motivation.

Do you go to conferences or belong to a writing group? Why?

Tell your friends!


  1. Reply

    Nice Post, Gwen. Glad you enjoyed the conference.

    I’ve thought about hiring out to writers’ conference organizers as a bad example. Haven’t yet, though.


  2. Reply

    Thanks for sharing some of your thoughts about the writer’s conference, Gwen. Sounds like it was a great experience. I’ve not gone to any conferences, nor do I belong to a writing group, but I think that perhaps I should add both to my goals for this year.

    • Reply

      Dave: I can’t tell you how much I get out of being able to connect with other writers in person. Maybe start small and see if your local area has a writing group, either affiliated with your genre, or just a general group. It’s worth it.

  3. Reply

    Writers’ Conferences led to the publication of the memoir I co-wrote with female boxing champ, Deirdre Gogarty. I met lots of people in the industry, guest blogged for a few, and met many well-known authors who gave me invaluable advice. Hope Dave and others will get out there.

    So glad you had fun!

  4. Reply

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, Gwen. As always, I learn something when I read your posts. I love to go to conferences when I can and am looking forward to the big one in Atlanta this year. I also belong to a very small RWA chapter and look forward to the monthly meetings. It’s a great little group with a stupendous amount of support. 🙂

  5. Reply

    Hi Gwen! I’m thrilled you had such a productive, fun time at your local conference. I attend my local chapter meetings whenever I can, brainstorm with my writer buddies, attend our June Luncheon where 25 agents/editors join us for a pitch fest, and this year….am registered for Nationals.

    Writing is solitary, but I believe networking is critical to our ultimate publishing success. Have a super week! 🙂

    • Reply

      Yay, Jolyse, you’re going to Nationals too! 🙂 Networking and support have definitely made a huge difference in my writing career. I remember first starting out and not even having anyone to ask “stupid” questions like, “How do you calculate word count?” I work alone, but I never feel alone.

  6. Reply

    Great post, Gwen! It was so nice to see you and catch up. I couldn’t agree more that going to these conferences and talking to other authors gives me much needed perspective. I’m not alone in my self-doubts and struggles. I’m not alone in my love of writing even when non-writers may not get why I spend so much time trying to create the perfect world. I feel rejuvenated when I leave the conferences and so happy for my network of writing friends to guide me, give me encouragement, and share ideas with me. I honestly couldn’t do it without you/them! Hope to see you again soon.

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