Nationals: Where’d Everybody Go?

                          Somebody’s Gotta Stay Home
                                      
By Jeff Salter 

            It’s kinda lonely here at Four Foxes and a Hound.  At least three of the foxes are in NYC this week for the 31st annual RWA Conference, which ends tomorrow (Friday).
            They’ve joined some 2000 other writers, authors, editors, agents, publishers, and whoevers in the biggest annual get-together you can imagine.  At least I can partly envision it.  I’m not able to attend, so I’ll have to use my imagination.
            For most of my 30 years in librarianship, I went to Louisiana’s annual library conference, which would draw anywhere from 800 to 1200 library folks (depending on which city hosted it).  I also attended at least five national conferences of the American Library Association, including two in Dallas, one in New Orleans, one in Atlanta, and one in Philadelphia.  [In fact, this past weekend (June 23-28) has been the 135th ALA Conference (in New Orleans again).]

             Here’s what I remember about library conferences: 
            Walking.  Lots and lots of walking (and standing).  The best conferences were those with everything in a single huge complex, but some of the host cities did not have such facilities and required you to travel here for this and there for that … and yonder for whatever.  Much of that travel was on foot.  As each conference day would end, my back would be killing me and my legs felt like lead.  And, believe me:  I always wore ‘sensible’ shoes.  Ha.
            Talking.  Lots and lots of talking.  I’m a great listener, but after a concentrated amount of listening to so many folks with so much to say … my brain would feel slightly numb.  I’m not so much of a talker, really.  Oh, I can be glib (occasionally) and charming (briefly) if I need to be, but actually I’m an introvert at heart … and talking is something I use to communicate when it’s necessary.  I don’t talk simply because I enjoy hearing my own voice.  But I know many folks like that … and some of them never shut up.  [I don’t fault them, however, any more than I’d fault someone with freckles.  They were likely born that way.]  Some talkers are actually quite interesting in their ceaseless broadcasts and you can learn things from interesting people.  But some, unfortunately, are just habitual talkers — you won’t necessarily learn much from them but they can become great characters in your next novel.  It’s overload for me to spend many consecutive LONG days with several people who chat for recreation.
            Exhibits.  I don’t know what RWA Conference exhibits would be like, but since they certainly involve BOOKS, I guess some of the booths and vendors would be similar to those I so often visited in library-land.  Publishers, wholesalers, literary organizations — many would be the same perhaps.  But library furnishings, fixtures and equipment; theft detection systems; automation systems; bookmobiles — I guess those won’t be at RWA 31 NYC.
            Freebies.  Every librarian I’ve ever known has loved getting freebies … and the bigger the conference, the more and better freebies.  Sure, some were just cheap bookmarks or trinkets.  But some exhibitors gave away ARC books, colorful posters, quality knick-knacks, and other stuff I can’t recall any more.  I always carried business cards because nearly every booth offered chances to win a grand prize.  Some of those prizes were not so ‘grand’ and I knew getting my card was useful to most exhibitors because it added to their mailing list.  [Some of these years were PRE-Internet, folks, when vendors actually mailed catalogs and flyers to get you to buy stuff from them.]
            Friends.  The best thing about annual library conferences was seeing friends and colleagues.  [I had known some of these folks since grad school and (unfortunately) encountered many of them only at the annual conference.]  Another great thing was meeting new folks.  Some were ‘new’ in the sense that they were just entering the profession (and that state organization).  But some were new because they’d recently gotten jobs which brought them to our state from somewhere else.
            Eating.  I never had such expensive and ‘fancy’ meals as when I was in some other conference city.  Except for the national conferences, there were always ‘locals’ whom I knew and who usually had an automobile … and we’d hit the popular restaurants.  Rich, rich food.  Expensive, rich food.  Fortunately, for most of my years in librarianship, the library I worked for paid for my transportation, room, and meals.  [I’ll bet most of you attending RWA 31 NYC are there on your own checkbook and credit card.  For the ghastly costs of airport ‘limo’, intra-city cabs, multi-course meals in fancy restaurants (where you need reservations) — I feel for you.  Sincerely.]  Had those trips not been funded by my employer, I would not have been able to attend most of them.
            Speakers.  I loved seeing/hearing/meeting celebrated authors.  I’d be hard-pressed to list all the ones I experienced.  But a couple of names will likely be recognizable:  James Michener, Larry McMurtry, Robin Cook, Clyde Edgerton, John Berendt, Robert Cormier, W.P. Kinsella, and many others. 
            Meetings, sessions, workshops.  These were my least favorite events at conference.  Most were WAY too long.  There’s nothing interesting enough for me to suffer through three hours of it!  A few were interesting or useful, but many were just deadly tedious.  When the planners didn’t guess correctly the number of people interested in a particular topic, I sometimes found myself sitting on the floor in the back of that assigned space.  [Don’t like to sit on the floor anymore.]  When I went to conferences toward the end of my library career, I focused more on exhibits and people … and skipped most of the ‘meetings’. 

            So my library conferences were concentrated periods of several days, in a different city, with lots of walking, too much talking (for me), interesting exhibits and exhibitors, freebies, friends, celebrities, meetings, and rich food.  I always left a conference so exhausted I could barely stand it … but I was nearly always glad I’d attended.  I always brought home dirty clothes, numerous souvenirs, and – especially in the early years when my kids were still young – I’d bring my wife and children souvenir tee shirts from whichever host city.
            So, to my colleagues at RWA 31 NYC — is that about what you’re experiencing this week?  If so, you’ll come home exhausted, with clothes to wash, souvenirs to sort through, business cards from colleagues and vendors … and several extra pounds.
            If y’all see anybody I know, give ‘em a big hug for me.

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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34 Responses to Nationals: Where’d Everybody Go?

  1. Tonya Kappes says:

    Don’t worry! You’re not alone. I’ve opted not to go to New York RWA conference. I love to do all the things that you listed, especially talk, but I find that my time as a writer is precious and few, so I have to be selective where I spend my “author” time.
    I pick conferences that are based around readers. I love my writer friends, but they aren’t the ones buying my books, and most the readers at RWA conference for the big book signings are from the area where the conference is. Then that’s generally it for the author/reader face time. So I love conferences like RT, and The Annual Reader and Author Get Together. I get to eat all my meals hanging out with my readers, and getting to know them. This is what’s important to me. So Jeff, take advantage of this time and write, write, write! I’ve already written 8k words this week with the welcomed silence:)

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Yes, from what I gathered about your recent experience at the Reader & Author get-together, that sounds like something more my speed also. Of course you don’t get to ‘pitch’ there, do you?
      At any rate, it sounds like less walking!
      Thanks for posting, Tonya.

      Like

  2. sandra tilley says:

    Great post, Jeff. I think you got it just right. (But I still wish I were there!)

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks, Sandra. Like I said, somebody’s got to stay and keep the home fire burning. I guess we is them.
      Glad to have you visit today.

      Like

  3. I didn’t attend the conference either and I live in NYC! I was planning to attend the Chick-lit party but it was cancelled 😦

    What I remember most about the many conferences I attended through the International Trademark Association is that the convention halls were always really cold!! And that many of the speakers were really boring! But, I agree, that it was nice to connect with friends/colleagues. The exhibit halls were pretty cool, and staying in a fancy hotel that was paid for by my employer, priceless 🙂

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Yeah, even though my employer was paying, it still made me feel a little off – balance to be spending so much $$ on single meals. Years ago, when I had my first $9 breakfast buffet in a fancy hotel — which was about three times what that meal would have cost ‘outside’ at that time — I nearly turned around and left. But, where would I go? The hotel had me and they knew it.
      Thanks for visiting today, Meredith.

      Like

  4. Stella says:

    Never attended these fancy writer conferences. However, I’ve attended a few Company sponsored conferences as a Food Safety professional. And some speakers could talk until you turned grey! I like the fact that the habitual talkers become characters in your next novel. And the food…yours sounds really exotic, ours were usually snacks and drinks. I would usually go off in search of great local meals. I’m sure you won’t miss much.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks for visiting, Stella.
      LOL … the ‘exotic’ food wasn’t anything provided by the conference itself. I mean, if you went to the Awards Dinner or the Book Dinner or whatever Dinner, you paid extra and sometimes $30 per person or more. And most of those meals — to me — were just average … mainly because they had to prepare 500 of them and my food was cool when I finally got served.
      The meals which were rich and exotic were those in the nearby restaurants. There were always locals who knew the best places to go. And, yes, those were also quite expensive.

      Like

  5. Really liked today’s post, Jeff. You captured ‘la conference’ very well. lol

    My trip to NY was exchanged for a trip to Connecticut for a family function. Favorite nephew and all that sort of stuff. But I’ll be at RWA 2012. And at GCCRWA’s Silken Sands Writers Conference in Pensacola, March 2012! Writer oriented hour long workshops (perfect for my antique attention span!), and one-on-one pitch sessions available with NY editors and agents.

    Writer and craft oriented conferences are more my speed at the moment, though I hope to attend reader oriented ones as Tonya does, some time off in the vague, misty future. Until then I’ll just keep tapping away and submitting! (Good grief, that sounded way to dominatrix oriented, didn’t it?!?)

    Thanks for another great post!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Hmm … sounds like you wouldda ruther been in NYC, Hon.
      Anyway, maybe 2012 will suit you better.
      Your Silken Sands thing sounds ideal.
      Thanks for visiting, Runere.

      Like

  6. I’m flipping terrified to go to an event. For now – “fortunately” or otherwise – my budget makes the decision for me, but the angst I experience just THINKING about “going public” really oughta have burned a few pounds off of me by now. The bad thing is I’d LOVE to meet people, but I’m afraid of people meeting ME! I am THE original introvert. Only, not, b/c that claim kind of makes me stand out a little, right? GAH! Anyway, I loved this post. I feel as if I’ve BTDT. Now I can rest easy … unseen.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks, Sarah.
      Not sure what you mean by going public. You’ve already got book(s) out there, so you’re already public. But if you mean showing up in person … yeah, I understand. Some of us are bolder on the keyboard than on the dancefloor (so to speak).

      Like

  7. Bethany says:

    I understand being an introvert. I’m one myself–although I love to talk.

    I haven’t been to Nationals, but I want to go sometime. It’s just not been in the budget. However, I do get to my chapter’s annual conference and it’s wonderful (NWH RWA’s annual Lone Star Conference). You can wear whatever shoes you want (not a lot of walking) and lunch is generally supplied. I have a lot of fun (although I usually need time to digest the information afterwards). But I have a lot of fun and everyone’s so nice.

    Like

    • Bethany says:

      I should add, it’s comparing apples and oranges. NWH RWA isn’t as large as RWA National (makes sense since it’s a chapter and not the actual National organization) and doesn’t have to accomodate quite so many people.

      Like

      • susan rose martin says:

        I’ve only been to three or four small ones. The Faulkner Conference in New Orleans a couple of times and one at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I received something good from all of them, but for the past several years I’ve been working on forms of fiction, and that’s such a mundane subject it’s better for me to get the information from books. I agree, too, that conferences cost both time and money, and often major inconveniences. I live in Japan, and we get a lot of authors at the Foreign Correspondents Club. Although most write non-fiction, we get a variety.

        Like

      • jeff7salter says:

        Glad you could visit, Susan.
        Living in Japan sounds so exciting. But, then, with the earthquate and tsunami and other issues, I suppose ‘exciting’ could be bad and good. Must give you a lot to write about, though.
        For me a conference — in the library biz — was primarily about ‘networking’. Oh, you sometimes saw or heard something that was ‘cutting edge’ but usually by the time it got on a conference program, everybody had already known about it. But the contact with the folks was usually great. Still exhausting, of course.

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    • jeff7salter says:

      I think I would like some fo the state chapter conferences … or, I guess most are actually regional. For one thing, those mega-cities (like NYC) tend to intimidate me slightly. So much confusion and noise. Locals do okay because they know the rules and the routes. Strangers are likely to be killed in a crosswalk if they hesitate one second too long.
      Thanks for visiting, Bethany.

      Like

  8. ~Sia McKye~ says:

    I didn’t go. Too expensive for my taste–as is about anything in NYC. Tentatively, I’m scheduled for next year in Anaheim, IF my son and husband come and it’s part of the family vacation. I do like the reader conferences and some of the more local type conferences which are priced under $300 for room and conference. Smaller venue is nice and a little less stress with the good info.

    I can chat with the best of them, but being in a huge room with a gazillion people sucks me dry. I usually find a way to escape for a while and then dive back in.

    I suppose it’s all in what you want to get out of the conferences and where you are on your writing path.

    Sia McKye’s Thoughts…OVER COFFEE

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Glad to see you here, Sia.
      I love your comment about the gazillion people sucking you dry. That captures the way I feel. And, like you, I need to find a corner where I can breathe quietly for a moment before I ‘dive’ back in.
      Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  9. Tonette says:

    I wondered as I read about these conferences just how helpful they really would be…I guess a little networking possibly and hearing some speakers, (maybe helpful) , and I guess there is a general ‘feel-good’ experience for new writers : “Hey, I’m one of you! I can do this!”, but really, do they help you write or publish, really? A serious question.
    What I really wanted to comment is about talkers. I was a non-talker for a very long time, very introverted and I know that I still am, bt I don’t seem to appear to peopel that way…I have become a ‘talker’…I ‘ve gotta watch it!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      What I have heard the most — from my author and writer contacts — that IS really good about these conferences is that sometimes you get seated near an editor/agent/publisher and make a valuable contact. I can certainly see where that could justify the expense and hassle of travel to a large, far-away city.
      Thanks for visiting, Tonette.
      So … you’ve become a ‘talker’?

      Like

    • Hey there, Tonette! (Jeff might beat me later, but I had to jump in. *Back away, Jeff. Put the stick down! I have a broom and know how to ride, er, use it!* lol)

      Smaller conferences are not only more affordable, your one-on-one chances with editors and agents increases to an unbelievable degree — and that’s on top of your scheduled time with them. Pitch sessions are the greatest benefit since they bring NY editors and agents to you. You have a face-to-face opportunity to ‘sell’ your MS to the brightest and finest in the publishing business. Most eds/agts seem to like the smaller venues because it gives them a chance to get to know the authors as individuals, and not just an email address. (I pick their brains every opportunity.) People like Lindsey Faber with Samhain, and Megan Records with Kensington both have said they like to guage the personality of a potential author first hand to be certain it’s a good match, and the decidedly less hectic atmosphere of chapter cons is perfect for that. The workshops are craft oriented (and since I was asked, quite seriously once, I don’t mean knitting *grins*) with plenty of take home materials to work from as you need them. Finding a compatable critique partner is another boon!

      Find a fairly local conference that caters to your needs and genre and try it. Pretty sure you’ll be pleased!

      Hushing now. *Jeff, I’m not gonna tell you about that stick again!*

      ~Runere~

      Like

      • jeff7salter says:

        No sticks or stones, Runere. In fact, I appreciate you jumping in with great advice and insight.
        See? I can play nice. Ha.

        Like

  10. crbwrites says:

    Good capture of conference elements, Jeff. I’m not at RWA either, but hope to experience it sometime. At the moment, the sea oats are waving in the breeze and a heron is fishing in the marsh grass. New York? I don’t think so.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks, Chris.
      I love your description of the sea oats and marsh grass. Up here it’s the hayfield, which was just cut last week (very late in the season) and raked and baled. They picked up the bales today. Now it just looks like about 9 acres of scruffy lawn. But in a few weeks, with some average rainfall, it’ll be waving hay again.

      Like

  11. I’m at home, too, Jeff. Though I’ve never been to RWA, I did go to my first Malice Domestic this year. Great experience! Though, I’ll admit, the best part was discovering a Benihana within walking distance from the hotel. That and the quiet time between panels. You’re right about all of the talking!

    Hope you’re getting some writing in during the “alone time”!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks for leaving a comment today, Diane.
      I thought you HAD been to the RWA National. Hmm. I must be thinking of another story.
      Anyway, not a shred of writing today — had to take Mom to bank and grocery, and then ran some errands related to the visiting in-laws, then a meeting at church, and then more in-laws.

      Like

  12. Kitty Wood says:

    Just came back from ALA. I love New Orleans. Only live 1 1/2 hrs away but I did more walking the in the Morial Convention Center that ever have as a tourist any where. Good freebies. Good networking. Good sessions for the most part.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Kitty! Glad you visited today. I thought my article about Conferences might bring you in! LOL.
      Yeah, that conv. ctr is HUGE. Bet your feets is sore!

      Like

  13. Mel says:

    Hey, Jeff.
    Went down to the Convention Center Thursday and Friday afternoons for ALA.
    Met up with Sona and Connie. Had a wonderful time seeing them again.
    Did NOT register; only went to see old friends, no exhibits, no seminars, etc. Luckily being a hometown boy I knew where to park close by for free. Even with that I still did a lot of walking (The Morial Center is a mile long.)
    Sunday evening there was a library school reunion at one of the hotels; a ballroom was occupied with about 25 tables for that many library schools, of which one was for LSU of course.
    Sadly I saw no one that I knew. I suppose, after 33 years, it was too much to expect.
    I’m reminded of a line from the book “The Snow Leopard” by Peter Mattheson.
    “For tomorrow I descend the Suli {River}, and the last chance of seeing the Snow Leopard will be gone.”
    As you know I retired last year. This was my last “library function”. I went to say goodbye.
    For me, being an ex-librarian is not like being an ex-Marine; no Semper Fi. I did my part
    and was lucky to have had an occupation that I truly liked. I had the pleasure of associating with some of the best people, and many of those I met during that defining moment we shared and called library school.
    Everything you said about the library conferences is true. For me and for many, the most interesting and instructive encounters with our fellow professionals took place in the hallways and lobbies; and let’s not forget animated discussions over drinks at local gin mills and vendors’ parties.
    And so it goes.
    Aw hell, maybe we should have our own motto.
    “Semper fidelis ad libros.”
    See ya, guy.
    -Mel, headin’ down that ole Suli River.
    P.S.: Mattheson never did see the Snow Leopard.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Wonderful to hear from you, Mel. Glad you can still walk that mile in the Conv. Ctr. Ha.
      Glad you hooked up with Sona & Connie —it would be difficult NOT to enjoy their company. I remember one of the conferences in Lafayette when you, me, Carlos, and Sona were ‘hunting’ a place to eat. You were driving and Sona had directions. By the time we got there we were all laughing so much my stomach was sore. [There’s nothing intrinsically humorous about driving in Laf. — so it had to be the company.] And that anecdote merely illustrates the point we both made on this blog: it’s about the people, folks. Or, it’s about the folks, people.

      Like

  14. Mel says:

    True that, my friend. I remember that Lafayette escapade. (BTW, Is this that WW1 volunteer squadron of Americans who flew for the French?) Ah, the days when GPS meant a compass and a road map. As I recall we had neither that night.

    The people; first, last, and always.
    – M.

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  15. Pingback: Contests and Conferences, Oh My | fourfoxesonehound

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