Monday, August 2, 2010

In Praise of Conferences

I love conferences. Whoever first came up with the idea of combining travel, parties, and professional development, and tossing in a luncheon and a banquet and a really good excuse to buy new shoes, deserves a medal in my book. But there are conferences and conferences – the larger ones are wonderful, but privately I’m partial to the smaller ones, like Bloody Words in Canada, and the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference, which was held this year in Greenwich.

They’re less dizzying, these conferences. More welcoming. And in that kind of atmosphere, amazing things can happen. Case in point: On my first day in Greenwich, I found Julie Cohen and Christina Courtenay, both fellow writers I had met before and liked and kept in touch with, and Liz Fenwick, whom I’d briefly met a year ago in London and whose blog I liked to follow. And before I knew it Liz was texting wake-up calls and taking me for breakfast at McDonalds where I met her good friend Biddy (also friends with Julie and Christina), and that evening everybody introduced me to their good friend Anna, and we all just got along so well that by the barbecue on Saturday, while we were sitting drinking wine (as one must, at these conferences) somebody said – and I confess it might have been myself – but someone said, ‘You know what we should do? We ought to start a group blog.’

And the others, who were also drinking wine, thought it a Very Good Idea.

So we’ve started one, and here it is.

Which goes to show you, many good and unexpected things can come from conferences. Has anything happened to you at a conference? Did you make a lifelong friend? Meet someone famous who really inspired you? Get lost in the hotel? We’d love to hear your story.


  1. Love it, Susanna! There was definitely something in the air at Greenwich, wasn't there?

    I've made so many great friends (or met them for real, after meeting them online) at conferences. That's one of the big joys for me - getting to put faces to names and catching up in the flesh.

  2. What a great idea and what a great group to do it. I'll be looking forward to reading your posts heroine addicts!
    I was lucky to meet you all at the conference, but Julie Cohen and Susanna Kearsley inspired me with their advice on writing, which they were willing to give in order to help anyone trying to follow in their footsteps.

  3. I love them too, Susanna! At my very first RNA conference, a friend and I chatted in the bar to Joanne Harris and we got to hear all about her visit to the set of "Chocolat" (Johnny Depp included of course!), which had just been adapted from her novel. She was wearing a pair of fabulous shoes too, so now I always use the conference as an excuse for buying new shoes!

  4. Love your idea for a group post Susanna! I used to work for a Canadian youth organization which held staff conferences yearly all over the country. It was a great time to connect with fellow co-workers, hear their stories, share ideas, and just have plain old fun. My favourite memory was at a staff conference in the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec. One evening, my friend from Winnipeg bought cigars and wanted me to come for a walk with her and smoke them! I had never smoked a cigar before! So I was excited. The humid evening air left clouds of fog clinging to the mountainside. As we walked through the massive iron gate that led to the golf course, I felt like I was in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. It was eerie yet amazing. My friend and I chatted about life and smoked our cigars. It was during this time, I was encouraged to pursue a different calling. I have never looked back! Conferences are such an encouragement!

  5. Got to agree that the Romantic Novelists' Association conference is one of the very best. But that's probably because the RNA is the very best, too. :-)

    Great to see you again, Susanna. Are you coming to Wales for #RNAConf11?

  6. Great stories, everyone. And Sue, I agree that the RNA is the best.

    I'd love to come to Wales next year -- I used to live there, and Caerleon is gorgeous. But I shall have to wait and see how the travel budget and my husband's holidays work out, since he watches the kids while I'm gone.

    I will be going to New York, though, for the RWA Nationals, which I expect to be huge.

  7. Hopefully I'll see you in NY, Susanna, because I'm planning to go. Good grief, that will be my fourth RWA conference!

    Fab to meet you in Greenwich too. As for naming something great that's come from a conference...there are just too many things to mention!

    The "I love your shoes" moment, which is almost as good as the "Will you sign my book?" moment, neither of which compare to the "I loved your book" moment.