Why You Should Go to a Conference

With the one year anniversary of The Violet Femmes fast approaching, I’ve realized once again how blessed I am to have such a great group of women supporting me.

As you may or may not know, The Femmes came to fruition at last year’s Put Your Heart in a Book Conference, put on by New Jersey Romance Writers, an excellent sub-group of Romance Writers of America. Encouraged by a glass (or four) of white wine (it’s surprising how much wine can promote creativity), holed up in a hotel room after the awards ceremony, the Violet Femmes were born. It goes without saying that if we weren’t all at that conference, our little group might not exist. Which is what prompted me to write this blog.

First of all, I want to propose that we coin a new term…Pro-ference. Because, really, there are no “con”s to attending a writers conference.

So, here are my top five reasons for attending a Pro-ference…whether it be Put Your Heart in a Book, another local conference, or (gulp!), RWA Nationals:

1.  Camaraderie.  There is no better feeling for a writer than being in the company of others…lots of others…who understand the daily trials, self-doubt, and successes of being a writer. Plus, the sharing usually involves cocktails!


 2.   Advice.  Michael Hauge recently spoke at a special event for New Jersey Romance Writers, and he made an observation I found to be true from my first NJRW meeting. Romance writers, he said, above writers of all other genres, are generous to a fault when it comes to sharing information about our business.  Sure, there are egos, but I have never met a romance writer who guarded trade secrets more closely than Colonel Sanders guarded his secret fried chicken recipe. For example, at my first NJRW conference a couple of years ago, USA Today bestselling author Leanne Banks gave the Special Presentation, reserved for the first 100 registrants for the conference. We spoke a bit before her presentation, and I actively participated in a little exercise she conducted.Photo: Me sipping a "Harlequin Heartbreaker" at the Harlequin bash.

Later, she sat on a panel with Susan Litman, of Harlequin, and they talked about what Harlequin looked for in its different lines. Susan had just requested a full manuscript from me when I pitched her my category romance, so I sat in on that session. Leanne greeted me when she came in the room. Afterwards, I cornered her (poor woman!) in the bar as she grabbed a quick glass of wine, and asked her a question that had been nagging me ever since I had pitched to Susan. Leanne spent about fifteen minutes with me, answering questions and giving advice. And I had just asked her one question!

3.  Pitches.  As Michele discussed in last week’s blog, pitching is a prime reason to attend a pro-ference. Where else do you have the opportunity to meet, chat with, and pitch to several editors and agents in one place? Most regional conferences offer pitch sessions. NJRW’s conference offers lots…probably aided by our proximity to New York City, that publishing mecca. This year, NJRW’s Put Your Heart in a Book Conference offers a choice of almost 30 agents and editors…that’s a lot of potential to sell your manuscript!

 4.    Workshops. Probably the biggest draw for serious writers is the schedule of workshops offered. From the craft of writing, to resourcing, to brainstorming, workshops give us writers the tools we need to get the job done…not an easy feat, I can assure you. They help with confidence building, show us ways to get out of that corner we’ve just written ourselves into, and tell us what to do once we feel our manuscript is ready for someone’s eyes other than our own.

5.     Market knowledge. Whether it’s gleaned from editor and agent panels, or in conversations with other authors, finding out what agents and editors are seeking is invaluable information for aspiring and published authors alike. As audience demands are constantly changing, it is important to understand where the minds of the people helping you sell your book lay. Understanding the business of writing is instrumental in getting those books of our hearts published.

So, have you attended a pro-conference? What was your reason for attending, and what did you take away with you?



p.s. Stay tuned for a special contest celebrating the one-year anniversary of The Violet Femmes! Thank you to everyone who has followed us over the past year. We appreciate your support!

Leave a comment


  1. Nicole Doran

     /  September 10, 2012

    First – Welcome home…and you Femmes are gorgeous!! Secondly, this post/commentary couldn’t have come at a more apropos time – with NJRW’s con only a month away. Last year was my very first Conference ever. It was jammed packed with information that me – as a newbie writer – couldn’t have gotten in one place all at once – anywhere. For that I am eternally grateful. But, the camaraderie was the best aspect of why I attended and will do so again – not only NJRW but other Cons too. As Assist Chair of NJRW this year – the help and support on everything from planning, to creativity, to just knowing there are others who are like me – makes it all worth it.

    Happy Anniversary and Congrats Femmes on a great year! Salute!

    • Aw, thanks, Nicole!…for the welcome, and the compliment. Back at you!
      Last year’s conference was when I really felt like I had come into something really special. It was a combination of meeting really great aspiring authors who are also phenomenal women, and helping out wherever I could. The more you get involved, volunteering to help out, the more you get out of the conferences, I think.

      You’ve done a great job as Assistant Chair this year. Everything is running so smoothly and this conference is going to be the best one yet. Let’s make sure we get together for a drink while we’re there!


      • Nicole Doran

         /  September 10, 2012

        Thanks – The credit goes to a incredible collaborative effort by all our Committee people and more… spearheaded by Ruth – whose been a great Chair. We will toast..for sure.

  2. Congrats on your anniversary you hot femmes! I couldn’t agree more about the value of conferences. There is something very special and motivating about being surrounded by writers. Attending my first NJRW conference two years ago, I remember experiencing an “a-ha” moment when I realized “These are my people!”

    • Thanks, Diana! You’re right…”These are my people!” is definitely the feeling you get. It’s so nice to know you’re not alone, isn’t it?

      Looking forward to catching up with you in person next month!

  3. nettrobbens

     /  September 10, 2012

    Way to go you awesome femmes! I’d have to say, there’s never been a conference(particularly romance) that I’ve attended and didn’t learn something. And I’ve been fortuntate enough to get the best advice (and gentle persuasion) from some of the most generous, successful authors. They’ve always been willing to share, encourage and help. Conferences are also great for catching up with your literary BFFs for drinks, advice and support! Can’t wait until Oct. 12!


    • You are so right about the “gentle persuasion” of generous, successful authors. When I left the party last year, Victoria Alexander asked me if I was going to Nationals. I said I didn’t know (and I didn’t end up going). But she said, “If you go, be sure to look me up!” If that isn’t gentle persuasion and impetus to go to a conference, I don’t know what is. Poor Victoria…now I’m stalking her to find out when she’ll be at a conference I CAN get to, because you know I’m not going to let that invitation drop, lol!

  4. hieubietusa

     /  September 10, 2012

    I made sure not to read any comments b4 posting mine. I want this to be from the heart.
    Why? Why? How about…do you wanna ever be published?
    NJRW has supplied great workshops in monthly meetings…can you imagine what is available at a weekend conf? Second…meeting more agents than drivers that cut you off on Route 1…yes…that many.
    If you are lucky, and this is not unusual…a casual mention of a completed ms. or even an idea can spark the interest of an agent.
    Example…Jaye..our author met an agent at a conf. and found out the woman had been scouting out WW II romance stories. Jaye(yes you) told her about my tales and I submitted to her…no query…no synopsis…just three chapters…ok…no excuses…

  5. Great post, Jaye. This year, our goal should be to take a more dynamic / better photo of the Femmes. (With cocktails?)

    You’re so right about all of this. I’ve attended two conferences in my career, and each has been invaluable. More than anything, I think I walk away inspired. Inspired about our craft, our genre, and even my humble ideas. I’m SO looking forward to October!!

    • Definitely, on the photo, Joanna! And yes, inspiration is a big reason to go to the conferences. They really give you a kick in the pants, and get you thinking about ways to improve that manuscript you are working on. Can’t wait!

  6. jennablueblogs

     /  September 11, 2012

    Femmes, Congrats on your 1 year anniversary!!! I’m so honored to be a tag along with you all! Agreed, all important reasons to go! For me, too, the resurgence of writing motivation is great too!

    • Thanks, Jenna! You are so NOT a tag-along! And yes, as you and others have said…the motivation coming out of the conference is huge!

      This year’s conference is going to be especially fun, I think, after a year of cementing our friendships with each other and others at NJRW. Getting excited!!

  7. This year will be my 3rd NJRW conference. My first one I didn’t really know anyone. I had met Michele the month before but didn’t know anyone else. There’s nothing worse (for me) than walking into a room where I don’t know anyone-talk about a deer in the headlights! Last year was so amazing. Being part of the contest and part of the conference committee has made me feel so included-part of a family. I’ve met great friends who help encourage me to write. I’ve learned so much since joining NJRW and getting involved. I can’t wait for this year’s conference!

    • Yes, Maria, my third NJRW conference, also. And while I had been to other writers’ conferences, (SCBWI Nationals), the intimacy of the regional conferences is really nice. I had the same experience as you, too…not knowing anyone the first year, finding my footing a little more the second year. Third year is going to be phenomenal!

      Getting involved is a great way to meet even more people, and you certainly have your hands full, you and the other Femmes, with the Golden Leaf. I’m really looking forward to a great time.

  8. Hey Jaye, Has it been a year already? Who knew how much fun it would to both collaborate on our Violet Femmes blog and get to know such an amazing, talented, interesting, funny . . . group of women! And, to be part of a bigger organization, the NJRW. I feel I’ve evolved as a writing since joining two years ago. Like Maria said, I’ve attended two conferences – the first with Maria and not knowing anyone. Last years conference was terrific, knowing the ropes a bit better and having a group of friends to laugh and cry with. Happy Anniversary, Femmes. See you at this years conference 🙂 Michele

  9. I so can’t wait…and with three of you in the running for PYHIAB, it’s sure to be an exciting conference!


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