Liberty States Fiction Writers 2010 Conference

The Liberty States Fiction Writers Create Something Magical conference was last weekend at the Renaissance Hotel in Iselin, NJ. Someone apparently ordered a flood, as well, because the day of the conference it rained so hard, light poles in the parking lot fell over. No kidding- it was more than torrential. If it was an orgasm, this rainstorm would have gone on with waves and crests for more than sixteen pages.

So, understandably, people were a little damp, and as the day went on, people went home a bit early, I suspect to drive while it was still daylight (not that driving in that rain during the day or night would have been easy).

The sessions covered technique, dialogue, editing, pitching, marketing and promotion, and one of the highlights for me was the keynote address over lunch by F. Paul Wilson, who revealed the secret life of writers – and what they Really do with all their time. Some key points:

- The only meal they pay for is breakfast. Otherwise, they are wined and dined constantly, and the topic of discussion is always insider publishing gossip.

- They don’t use computers, because then they can’t tear the paper out of the typewriter, ball it up and toss it across the room.

- Every night brings a booksigning, which is of course crowded with eager book buyers dying to meet him, and then a launch party, and then to Elaine’s.

- Most of the time, they sit and wait for inspiration. Often while drinking.

The truth is, as Wilson stated, writers are now spending a lot of time not writing because publishers cannot mount effective publicity and marketing campaigns for every book they buy. So the writing of a book is often a very small part of that book’s success, because so much more depends on the author and his or her outreach (so you can take bloggers to Elaine’s! That’s my suggestion! Right? Right!).

The message behind Wilson’s speech, which was way funny, was that even when you make it, there’s still work to do, and for that reason, everyone in the room was in a similar place: lots to do, lots to write.

One thing I love about chapter conferences is how enthusiastic and inspired people become as they sit next to other writers and talk about the craft and practice of writing. One person at my lunch table said they’d been struggling with a scene and after an hour or so at the conference she realized she’d figured her way out – conferences can make your brain all sparky.

I presented two sessions. The first was on Digital Publication for Self-Promotion, and was very well attended (thank you, people who weren’t as caffeinated as me, for coming to a morning session!). The second was after lunch, and was scheduled against the editor and agent panels, and was very sparse. I felt very bad for the publicists scheduled after me, who only a handful of people in their session – though I also understand leaving early to get home in that storm.

One cool thing about Liberty States, which is not a member of RWA and welcomes writers of all types of fiction, even “those books,” whichever “those books” are, is how focused they are on distance membership. First, their meeting location is at the Edison Public Library, which is across the street from the NJ Transit train station on the Northeast Corridor train line. So if you don’t have a car and want to join them from Manhattan, you can – or from anywhere else on the NE Corridor line.

Second, all of their meetings and speakers are recorded and an exclusive podcast is available for members who cannot make it to meetings. Recently they hosted a demo of martial arts titled ‘Kicking Butt on Paper’ with Melinda Leigh and Kathy Fawcett, and the fight sequences were videotaped and will be available later this month. So even if you’re not there, or can’t take a Saturday to attend their meetings, you’re still able to participate from a distance. That’s so cool.

Like I said, I really enjoy chapter conferences, and hope I can attend or present at more of them. I’ll be presenting and writing about the Chicago Spring Fling conference in April, and heads up, Chicago, I know “spring” is a flexible concept in Chicago, so if it’s about 40F I’ll be kvetching about it.

What chapter conference is your favorite? Which one did you learn the most from? And which keynote speakers have rocked your world?

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  1. 1
    PK says:

    Wha?? Now I’m going to be mocked, MOCKED I TELL YOU, if the weather is effed up?  Usually you can lay odds that it will do something wacky weather-wise like SNOW, Monsoon (hey, with all the other crap Lake Michigan’s got going on maybe there might be a warm current somewhere) or shake up an earthquake here in the Midwest around that time.
      I knew when Northwestern got knocked out in the first round of NCAA that my lucky weather charm was going to glow a big fat NO on my request for 70F.

    Nonetheless—rain, sleet, snow or dark of night, we’ll be doing the happy dance when you arrive Sarah.

    *waves*

  2. 2
    KIm says:

    Thanks, Sarah, for the fun post!  I attended the Washington Romance Writers (WRW) Annual Retreat in 2008 (the first year after the legendary Hilltop closed).  Victoria Alexander was one of the keynote speakers and she entertained us with humorous antidotes.  I sat with her at lunch and we chatted about Air Force life (she was a brat and I am a spouse).   

    I attended Heather Graham’s Writers for New Orleans during Labor Day Weekend 2009.  Heather invited F. Paul Wilson and Cathy Maxwell to open the conference with a breakfast meeting.  They joked about having to evacuate the previous year with an approaching hurricane.  Paul and Cathy made an excellent team with their banter and advice.  That night, I sat with Cathy at dinner as we watched Paul join Heather’s band of misfit musicians (he held his own on the drums).  Most of the attendees were paranormal writers, but Cathy’s panel sessions were packed, demonstrating that it doesn’t matter if you write historical or futuristic, the craft is the same.  Cathy is an excellent speaker and I would attend any conference with her.

  3. 3
    Rosemary says:

    Hey Sarah!

    Middle-aged fangirl checking in. Your morning session inspired me to new heights of creative bravery, and I’ve spent the week working on it.

    I’m a member of LSFW, and thought the conference was great. (Next year I’m SO staying for cocktail hour. . .)

  4. 4
    travesti says:

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  5. 5

    I wish I could have attended the conference.

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