One month from today I'll be on an airplane headed for Orange County. This will be my fourth RWA® National Conference, but my first time as a Golden Heart® Finalist. I have to say, I still can't believe it when I type those words. The time since the Finalist announcements in March has passed so quickly, and it feels very much like a dream.
I attended my first National Conference in San Francisco, shortly after I joined RWA. I've spoken about it before, but I have to say I was totally unprepared for the experience. I've attended conferences before--bigger, even--but all of them were related to my previous career in High Tech. I was used to huge, noisy crowds, so the RWA conference should have been old hat. Shyeah, right!
Those other conferences? 90-to-95% male. I was used to walking into a room filled with guys and being one of a handful of women, and I was comfortable with it. I didn't realize how much I'd internalize that experience as the norm until I attended that first RWA® conference! The emotional impact of entering a room filled with upwards of 2,000 women, all there to advance their writing careers, was overwhelming. I'm sure there were men in attendance, but unlike the tech conferences where I could pick out the other women, I had a difficult time seeing them.
I went against all my previous conference experience and tried to cram every minute full. Not surprisingly, I spent a lot of that first conference in a bit of a daze. Thank goodness for the conference recordings! Learning to pace myself was a lesson I've since taken to heart.
I attended the Washington, D.C. conference the following year and that experience was just as incredible. I made sure to take some time for myself. I'd been to D.C. before, so I took the Metro to the Mall on a couple of afternoons and spent time revisiting the monuments and the Smithsonian. I don't regret a moment spent away from the sessions. My head was clearer when I returned and my energy level was up. I'm a card-carrying introvert, you see. I enjoy the energy of the conference, but I eventually feel drained if I don't recharge with alone time (and alone can mean being out amongst strangers, so long as it's by myself, if you get my drift).
2010 was the year of personal setbacks and heartaches that I won't go into here, but suffice it say, I skipped the 2010 conference. I have, however, listened to the conference recordings. May I say, getting the recordings, especially if you don't attend the conference in person, is a GREAT way to get the workshops and stay up-to-date.
I almost didn't go to last year's conference in New York. I'm very, very happy I did attend. I credit Chapter-mate Barbara Cool Lee with encouraging me to not only attend, but also to pitch to an agent--as well as for all her invaluable advice on preparing my pitch! I'm not sure I would have committed to entering the Golden Heart® if I hadn't gone to New York. And if I hadn't, I wouldn't be here now, feeling as if I were living a dream!
I already know the Conference in Anaheim will be special. I'm one of a group of over 60 other incredible women--my fellow Firebirds*--many of whom I've had the privilege to get to know online since the Golden Heart® announcement. I can't wait to meet them in person. I have a feeling I'm going to have to learn that whole "pacing myself" business all over again!
What about you? Will you be attending the RWA® National Conference in Anaheim this year? Do you have any Conference experiences or advice you'd be willing to share? Or, if you haven't attended Nationals yet, and/or aren't planning on going this year, do you have any questions about the conference?
* Each Golden Heart® class chooses a name for itself--one which they feel represents the feelings/experiences/etc. of the group. We have chosen the name FIREBIRDS. Our motto is: FIREBIRDS: Forged in fire and flying higher!