Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Turn Out the Lights - The Party's Over

The conference is over and I can’t think of one thing to blog about. I feel completely drained, sucked-dry from the entire experience. On top of that, for some reason I inherited two bank bags of conference funds. Okay, guys, I know I’m a control freak but this is ridiculous! If only our treasurer knew that I couldn’t count my way out of a paper bag if my life depended on it. Seriously. I counted the money over and over and over again before I finally got the same total more than once. Then when I got to the bank, the teller counted and came up with a different total. How on earth could that have happened? When she told me how much I was off, (thankfully in their favor) I realized I’d donated to our scholarship fund and hadn’t counted it. No, I didn’t major in math and if we’d had an exit exam in my day, believe me, I’d still be taking it, trying to graduate. Needless to say, I don’t believe in exit exams but that’s another story. Don’t get me started.

The conference was a success. Our largest yet. We had less than 60 people pre-register. Total head count was 86 I think. Six people who said they were coming, didn’t show. I’m glad. We didn’t have seats for them. We ran out of goody bags too. Five attendees didn’t get one.

Children's book editor Harold Underdown did an excellent job of staying on track with his critiques and was accessible to everyone who wanted to talk with him. We’d gotten word through the proverbial writers’ grapevine that he was a real bear with his critiques but he came across to me as a gentle man with a kind heart. He gave 100% to our conference and our members. I liked him a lot.

Gary Goldstein, senior editor at Kensington, is a real comedian as many of you know. He sat on a stool at the microphone, told stories about publishing, and made people laugh. I wish I wrote westerns. Wouldn’t mind him being my editor just because of his personality.

Chere’ Coen gave an interesting talk on NF writing and ideas for NF books. I’ve had a lot of online dealings with Chere’ but this is the first time we’ve met. She’s a cute lady with a lot of energy. I always enjoy hearing how writers fall into their book deals and how they get the ideas for books that actually come to be. BTW, all you Louisiana authors out there, if you don't know Chere', go to her Louisiana Book News and get your name on her list. You should be contacting her every time you have book news and that includes books going on Kindle. You know who you are. :) All you need to do is send her press releases of happenings in your life.

Our panel—Pam Thibodeaux, Curt Iles, Lesa Boutin and Wendy Lanier talked about small press, POD, Write for Hire and self-publishing. They did a great job. I’m not sure the audience really appreciated just how much experience and know-how these four had to offer. Pam is a White Rose Press author and has recently signed with Five Star. Curt is the most successful self-pubbed author I've ever known. He has an agent shopping his novels. My friend Lesa owns Boot In The Door Publications and has two YA books in print, and Wendy writes for magazines and has a number of books published as a writer for hire. There's not one question they couldn't answer.

One of the highlights of the conference for me was encouraging some of our members to meet with Gary Goldstein to pitch their books. It was good experience for them to sit across from a real editor and answer his questions. I’ve done it a lot and I’m always scared to death, feel like a fool, forget my pitch and … did I say feel like a fool? Every editor is different. While one may encourage dialogue by asking a lot of questions about conflict, characters and plotline, the next editor may sit and stare and never open her mouth. Ouch! That's when it's tough. Gary was one who asked questions—the kind I like. One of our writers got a request for the completed manuscript. Thank the Lord his book is complete and can be sent right away.

Looking at our evaluation forms, I’m dismayed by what people like and dislike, compliments & criticisms: Too many door prizes, not enough door prizes, love the humorous moderator; please less comedy and long-windedness, good food, yucky food, great bookstore, not enough books in the bookstore; Right down to our praying over the food in Jesus' name. Do evaluation sheets help at all? Well, only if we listen to them, I guess.

I know one thing for certain: putting on a conference is hard work, and there’s a lot more to it than one person delegating. Someone has to be on top of things and keep a running tally of what’s being accomplished and what’s left to do. This conference was a challenge for a number of reasons, yet it was one of our best and most successful. We all came together a couple of weeks ago, checklists in hand and got the fine-tuning done. It's over. We were a success. We're still friends. Now it’s time to think about next year.


sunnycalgirl said...

Sounds like you are glad it is over and now you can get some much needed rest until another conference.. Enjoy a little r&r..

Carole said...

Wow, you did a great job. Now sit and relax for a few minutes, put your feet up, pamper yourself, and seriously, I admire you so much.

Sylvia Ney said...

This was my first conference so I don't have anything to compare it too, but I had a great time. The speakers were very personable and informative. Everyone at my table seemed happy. Great Job!

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds like you're drained in a good way, though. Congrats on pulling it off. I'm sure it must have been immense work.

Jan Rider Newman said...

Jess, I'm so glad you couldn't think of a thing to say. ;-)

Jessica Nelson said...

Hey Jessy, I saw your question about Kindles on rwacraft and came over to visit.
Sounds like your conference was a success! And I feel for you with the bank bags. LOL I'm a bank teller so I def. know how this stuff can happen. You know we count things wrong too sometimes. :-)
Hope you get some rest!