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CONFERENCE SUMMARY 2016

May 4, 2016

SETTING UP

I arrived at 7:30 and the door was unlocked. I went inside and the tables in the hall leading to the ballroom were already there. I went into the main ballroom and the Sam’s Town hotel staff were still vacuuming the carpet and setting up the tables.

Soon, Alba Arango showed. She was in charge of the raffle prizes. Next came our club president, Gregory Kompes followed by vice president, Donald Riggio. It wasn’t long before we were unloading things from Gregory’s car and setting up. More people showed up, in the meantime and some stuffed the swag bags while I set up the stands for the scratch pads to go in each room. I then put the signs on each of the classroom doors, rooms 1-4 and the schedules. Then I went in and helped Alba set up the raffle prizes for the drawings Friday and Saturday.

During a lull around 9 or so, I went back to the car and got my ten copies of Treasure Of The Umbrunna for the bookstore, which was well on the way to being set up by Darlien Breeze, John Dohanich and Ariel Belanger.

From there, I took my spot at the registration desk with Donald Riggio and Loraine Erikson and we prepared for the flood of people to come through the door.

THURSDAY

Thursday went off pretty well with the expected minor glitches, which are to be expected of any event of this magnitude.

Loraine, Donald and I worked out the process to check in each attendee, give them their badge, swag bag, program booklet and initial raffle ticket. Things went well. We got flooded with questions about the agent pitches. All we could do was point to the next table where Audrey Balzart, our pitch coordinator had set up. She manned (or womanned) the table Thursday, then the next day moved down to the Silver City room where pitches took place on Friday and Saturday.

Since this was my eleventh conference, I stayed mostly at the desk, only picking one class that interested me this day. In my case, it turned out the class wasn’t useful because it was redundant information. However, it might’ve been valuable for some of the other people in the room.

Since there were no meals that day, I met my wife at noon and went to the bowling alley for lunch. I came back and manned the registration table for most of the day. I took an occasional trip into the ballroom to hobnob with various people scattered about the tables, the bookstore or one of the vendor tables. Deborah Dorchak was there with her excellent fantasy series at one of the vendor tables as well as Toni Pacini with her brand new autobiographical book, which just came out, as well as her line of jewelry.

A third vendor table was taken up by some motivational group I’ve never heard of and the fourth table was empty because that vendor never made it in, for some reason.

The thing about vendors this year is that they were severely limited in space because none were allowed in the main hallway, like in years past. They did this to cut down on the the noise level and crowding. With only the registration desk and pitch desk there, not only was it less crowded, but the noise level was much less. The caveat was that only four vendors were able to reserve spots at the conference.

As for the registration desk, I was able to meet every faculty member, who happened to all show up on time this year. I also met almost every attendee, except for one or two who I missed while away from the desk.

Because I had a book in the bookstore, I stayed late for the meet and greet at the end of the day. Also, I was curious if any of the agents took the one genre I have no representation for at the moment. I stayed for the roundtable event long enough to get to the agent I’d targeted. He gave me a letdown that was kind of abrupt, though not quite rude. After that, I’d had a long day and bowed out of the rest of event. I’d have plenty of time to chat with the rest of the staff anyway.

FRIDAY

I arrived early, as usual and went to breakfast. I sat at my usual table, #4, to the right of the stage and waited for others to sit with me. Since we had almost a full house, I knew at least a few people would have to pick a seat at that table. They did!

I met and chatted with new people and some old friends along with a couple of the staff. This pattern worked through every meal both Friday and Saturday, never repeating, even though I sat in the same chair at table #4.

There were a couple of classes I was vaguely interested in, but I chose only one that looked like it had promise. Unfortunately, since it was about editing, it turns out the instructor was telling the audience almost word-for-word what I put here on my web site! In fact, I could mouth the words a second before she said them. She gave an excellent presentation, but I only stayed through half of it because after looking through the agenda, I saw subject matter right out of my web site posts.

Since there were people standing at the back of the room, I gave my seat to one of the ladies.

I never attended another session that day. There wasn’t anything I either couldn’t teach or was interested in.

Folks, that’s how many times I’ve been coming to these conferences. I still will gladly take a class to learn new things.

Everyone else packed the rooms, sometimes standing room only. I could tell this was one powerhouse of a good time for most everyone involved, especially from the expression and comments of attendees between sessions.

During both lunch and dinner, they had first-page reads. This is where a narrator reads first pages of novels, blind submitted by writers. An agent panel would listen and raise their hand at the moment they’d stop reading. If the narrator got through the whole thing without all the agents raising their hand, that might be a pretty good first page.

This year, the first page reads were all on Friday and they went off well, with lots of constructive feedback and none of it was nasty, which was how we’ve always stressed it. There were plenty of comments of how much people learned from those two sessions.

SATURDAY

I got in early, as usual and found Donald there already. Got breakfast and socialized a bit before sitting at the registration desk. We checked in the rest of the attendees. Like Friday, there were a few that were only for one day. Plus, we had the students that were only there for Saturday. Then, I wandered a bit, met more people and finally found a great class on media brands. This was the gold glass for me and the one I got the most out of. The instructor was great and made the whole day worth it. I attended one more class, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. Can’t win them all.

The rest of the day was similar to Friday, except I found out I sold one book! To me, that made my day. I brought the books in with absolutely no expectations. I discussed that with several people throughout the day. The most common comment was, “You only sold one book? Aren’t you disappointed?” My response was, “Are you kidding me? I sold a book! I found one potential new fan. That’s a win as far as I’m concerned.” I went on to explain that it’s not a matter of low expectations. It’s a matter of I started with nothing so I have to build my brand and my fan base, one book at a time. If I sell one book per event, that means one new potential fan who can spread the word to others. Rome wasn’t built in a day, to use a well-worn, but true cliché.

When dinner rolled around, I took my usual spot and after a few new people sat around the table, to my surprise, our keynote speaker, Larry Brooks plopped down next to me. We ate dinner and had a nice conversation as he went through his notes for his keynote address, which was, I have to say, very good.

It was with a note of sadness that I had to pack up the rest of my books, gather my stuff, say goodbye to everyone and head to the parking garage for the final time. The last thing I did before leaving was put in my early bird registration for next year. I can’t wait to come back again.

Happy writing!

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