On March 3, I took my ten year-old to her first writer's conference. While she enjoys writing, I was worried she wouldn't like attending a conference. After all, how many preteens want to spend a Saturday in classes? My mom went with us. You can see her and my daughter, to the left, getting their first look around the conference location during registration. That's right, three generations of women in my family at the same conference. Clearly, writing is in the blood.
If you've never been to the Jambalaya Writers Conference, or one similar, there are usually multiple sessions at every hour and you pick the ones you want to attend.
For the first hour, all three of us chose to take part in the "Tale of Two Authors" session. Both authors write romance and spoke briefly about the genre itself, but the main focus of the session was the varying approaches to publishing - Liz Talley got her start with traditional publishing houses such as Harlequin while Jaycee Ford started Indie. Now, the balance seems to be using both methods. These women were engaging and interesting. While my daughter has no interest in Romance (for now), I felt this was a nice, relaxing, open, and even fun first session.
At most conferences I attend, I have a specific goal. All of my day is spent towards one achievement, genre, editor, agent, etc. However, I decided to try a variety of sessions this time since I enjoy writing in a variety of styles. While I encouraged my daughter to attend any of the sessions that interested her, she generally chose the same ones I was interested in attending.
My mother chose a different speaker for the second session, but my daughter and I went to one hosted by Louisiana Poet Laureate Jack Bedell. I found this experience to be quite interesting and enjoyable. We particularly related to his comments on how writers can get too caught up in form and expecting the first draft to be perfection right out of the gate that it interferes with the story of the poem itself. He showed examples of other poets work, and his , where the poem started as a story or free writing with no form. We looked at their development from early draft to publication. Notice I say publication and not completion. Many authors go back a tweak following publication. The end of the class we spent writing our own freestyle story - no line breaks, no punctuation, etc. We both left that room with a promising first draft of our own.
My mother rejoined us in the next class on short stories. While I often write short, I didn't enjoy this one nearly as much because nothing seemed new, interesting, or particularly inspiring. However, I think this was my daughters second favorite, so you just never know what or who will inspire.
Next, we took a lunch break. And of course, we ate Jambalaya!
Afterwards, the keynote speaker, R.L. Stine, regaled us all with funny tales and humorous notes. Did you know he got his start writing jokes? He also shared some interesting news - including upcoming books and movies! This was easily our favorite part of the day.
Unfortunately, the conference organizers opened his following autograph session up for FREE to the public. So, we waited in line for nearly two hours behind people who HAD NOT paid to be there. We were one of the last ones to get his signature as he had to leave for another presentation.
While I applaud the library hosting the event for trying to bring FREE programs to their community, this should not have happened at the same time as, or even ahead of, those who PAID to be there - very tacky!
Our next session, hosted by Pamela Kopfler, was on writing the cozy mystery. She gave a brief explanation of the difference between regular mysteries and cozies. The remainder of the class was spent in a collaborative effort from the entire group on outlining a cozy mystery. I found this EXTREMELY interesting, because even though everyone present wanted something different (so many opinions and desires) it also offered a rare chance at collaboration that you don't usually get in a 45-60 minute session. I think we all left with a better understanding of what would and would NOT work in a cozy. We also left armed with a basic plot we could make our own.
While there were several more sessions available for the day. We chose to leave after this one as all three of us were getting tired, and we had a five hour drive yet to get home.
Overall, this is a good conference, and was a great first experience for my daughter who truly seemed to enjoy it.
What about you? Do you remember your first conference? Have you shared the experience with family members?