by Nick Conrad
Two weekends ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Heart of the West conference, hosted by the Utah chapter of the Romance Writers of America. The conference was held high in the Rocky Mountains, and it wasn't just the thin air that took my breath away.
The members of the Utah Chapter worked hard to put that conference together, and it really seemed to pay off. There were at least sixty attendees and a number of workshops—there were discussions about suspense, conflict, dialogue, the power of emotion, and more. I gave a presentation on e-books and e-publishing, and I got lots of excellent questions and lively discussion from the audience, who seemed excited and enthusiastic about e-publishing. The three keynote speakers were authors Julia Quinn and Lynn Kurland, as well as author and RWA president Sherry Lewis. I also sat on the editor/agent panel with editor Megan McKeever from Pocket Books and agent Cori Deyoe from 3 Seas Literary Agency. We had an open Q and A session that felt more like a friendly discussion—everyone seemed rather knowledgable on the subject matter and interested in what we had to say, and I thought the information we gave on the panel was very cohesive and thorough.
I also took a number of pitch appointments, and I have to say, these authors could have been textbook examples of how to pitch perfectly. They knew their material and were professional and thorough, all while managing to keep it within the allotted ten-minute slots.
Oh, and did I mention the chocolate? There was chocolate in delicious fondue form. Use caution with these Utah romance writers. Their chocolate will suck you right in and might never let you go.
This conference and others like it illustrate a very relevant point for authors or anyone even beginning to consider writing professionally. One of an aspiring author's most important tools is a solid writers' organization. I've attended multiple conferences hosted by different RWA chapters, and I have to say, I've never seen an RWA chapter who didn't pour their hearts into the work they did together. And that work isn't always romance-specific, as evidenced by the presentations at the Put Your Heart in a Book conference. So whether you write science fiction, erotic horror, inspirational romance, children's books, political psychothrillers, or traditional Regencies, check out your local writers' groups. You'll find support and solidarity there to help you build your career, and you'll find kinship with authors who line shelves around the world as well as authors who are just starting out.
Thanks again, Utah RWA! Special thanks to Lisa MacDonald/KyAnn Waters, who initially extended the invite, and to Lesli Muir Lytle (w/a Ainsley MacQueen) for all her hard work and generous hospitality. I had an excellent time, and we hope you keep us in mind for the future.