I just came back from the most incredible writers conference. This conference had an amazing wealth of information, workshops, discussion groups, time with publishers… The best part was I could attend more than one thing at once, plus I was home to take care of the kids and handle any crisis that came along. No, I didn't clone myself: I attended MuseCon 2007--the only on-line conference of its kind.
Lea Schizas (aka the Amazing Mother Hen) organized the event, which had 1900 attendees, over 80 worshops (many with exercises and critique sessions that ran the week), moderated and impromptu chats, at least 15 publishers to ping, plus an agent or two. Writers who were so green they were yellow to well-established authors with hundreds of writing credits mingled, taught and learned. (Yes, even the experienced folks learned something new.) Classes spanned from query letters to characterization to poetry to marketing your works--and if you didn't find a workshop to answer your need, there was always a chat session or the chat forum to ask up.
I went last year as a somewhat experienced writer and yellow-green marketer, and left a marketing monster. This year, I came back to give back what I'd learned and store up more knowledge and ideas for the next year. I'm not sure what kind of monster I've become this year, but I can feel the energy, like the lightening that brought Frankenstein to life.
My workshops were a re-run of Faith in Fiction with Maya Bohnhoff and Colleen Drippe, a workshop on worldbuilding and a virtual book tour workshop. Then, after seeing some of the same questions again and again, I held an impromptu chat workshop on marketing plans. That's the coolest part of this con--if you want to do something like that, all you had to do is announce the time in an empty chat room, pull some files off your computer and go for it! Even better, I got a lot of my material from some of the other workshops! Writers working together: that's what MuseCon is all about.
I was overwhelmed by the number of workshops--too many for a week. I finally selected four: Christine Amsden's worldbuilding (She sent the homework ahead of time! Joy!), Lisa Logan's "Promotion on the Web." Earl Stagg's "Write Tight II" and on a whim Devon Ellington's dialogue workshop. Christine's helped me better develop my DragonEye, PI world; I got a lot of tips and links from Lisa's (and probably gave too much unsolicited advice), and came away from Devon's ready to write a story that had been stuck in my mind for a year now. And Earl's--well, my favorite moment was when he gave us this paragraph to re-write:
Mary had been a lonely girl all her life. Even as a young child in school, she had never had many friends. In third grade, she had desperately wanted to be friends with Rebecca, who was the most popular girl in school, but Rebecca had never paid any attention to her. When she was in sixth grade, she had a very big crush on Todd, but he always ignored her. Remaining a lonely outsider even into high school, she was never able to feel like she belonged. When other girls had sleepovers, she had never been invited to them. While the other girls would talk about dating, she would not join in because she never had any dates. Like the school dance in her sophomore year. She pretended to be sick, which was the reason she gave for not going. Once, when she asked her mother what was wrong with her, her mother simply replied absently-mindedly that there was nothing wrong with her and for her not to worry about it. It was as if she didn’t think it was important. But it was important to her then. Now, at thirty-five and still lonely, it still bothered her.
After a couple of posts, he mentioned that it seemed like it'd be the start of a romance novel, which wasn't really his style. "I need a dead body thrown in." This is what I turned in:
You want a dead body?
Detective Staggs frowned at torn yearbook pages littering the bulletin board. Rebecca Changler, "Wish we'd gotten to know each other," with a red X and LIAR! Todd Ames, elected Sixth Grade Hottie; cupid's arrow got him between the eyes. There were more--nameless faces pasted onto magazine covers of girls' sleepovers and prom shots. Below it all, "See Mom? It DOES Matter!"
"Who's next, Mary," Staggs muttered, "And where are you?"
I'm still laughing.
Lea has hit upon a beauty of an idea for conferences by using the internet. It's inexpensive (She asked for donations, which she richly deserved, but has no fees.). You can have an overload of information yet not miss anything you really want (thanks to the beauty of cut-and-paste.) People from all over the world could attend, in any time zone (thanks to the forum workshops) and even if they had disabilities. You could market your books (subtly, just be talking with folks, including characters in your exercises, and of course your signature line.) The only thing this conference lacks is a good pitch session, but I think ask the con continues to grow, you'll start seeing that, too.
If you are a writer, make a note for January to sign up for MuseOnline Conference 2008. Of all the writers' conferences available, this is the most comprehensive, easy and fun!