Is The RWA Conference worth it?

1:05 PM Nina S. Gooden 2 Comments

I feel as if this is going to be a particularly long post, something that I don't do that often. I'll try to keep it short but I imagine it'll be a little bit rambling, --even more so because I'm dictating it-- so I apologize for that, but I've got to get this off my chest.

When I was a kid we never spoke about money in my family. It's only in recent years that I've realized how rare that is, but that's just where it is. My family and I never spoke about money, whether we had it, whether we didn't: it was just a topic that my dad was  really uncomfortable with so we avoided it. Even though I can understand why he didn't want us, as kids, to worry about our financial situation, I've found that as an adult it's given me an aversion to the most basic of monetary conversations.

Something as simple as my husband asking me if I have enough in the bank to pay such-and-such bill, is pretty much enough to send me into a fit of sputtering. And that's my husband.

I tell you guys this because I want you to understand how uncomfortable I am with this post. It's something that I wouldn't write out unless it was extremely important to me.

Well, getting to the nit and gritty: I'm not sure if I should spend the money for the RWA Conference.

First off let me say that I don't have anything against the RWA. I understand that for some writers, it's a valuable tool and support system. Unfortunately, I also think that writing is a very personal and at times solitary endeavor. Not so much that I like to sit in dark rooms and write on a typewriter while Tchaikovsky blares in the background,but that the process of writing is very individualized. What may work for one writer does not always work for all.

And that's where I come to my problem with the RWA. When I first signed up to be a member, I thought the organization would be…more like what I understand now is a critique group. I thought it would be large groups of individuals, getting together, not only to discuss their craft, but to work on it. In my mind I had images of women with ink stained fingertips surrounding a board table, or swarming a library, while they discussed characters, love, and cheesy gimmicks.

I suppose that's what happens when you idealize something, only to be disillusioned later. It's not so much that I'm disappointed with the way the organization works. There are many merits to what RWA does. They are a good source of information, and being a member does establish you as someone who is serious about a career in writing. In addition, RWA provides a common thread between you and whatever editor or agent you are attempting to pursue. These are all good, valuable inputs to any career, but only if you are a person who will utilize this leg up.

I feel as if being a member of RWA doesn't establish me in the community. I've signed up for all the newsletters, joined all the forums, and I've listened to all of the advice, only to feel that much of the progress I've made in my career as of late has had little to do with any of that. My Chapter members are fantastic and fun, but I'm not sure what we do during our meetings, besides raffle off baskets and pay to listen to other people talk.

There are contests you can enter, and workshops you can go to, but I feel that much of the information that's being circulated can be found in other avenues.

A few months ago I attended a workshop by a talented and prestigious editor. While she was smart and funny, I walked away from that class (which I paid $35 for), with information that I already had from an entry level marketing class. In fact, almost all of the information I got from that seminar is fairly common sense: if you want to sell books, write good books. If you want to build a brand, connect with and please your customers.

It's not that I think that the efforts are wasted. I'm sure that there was somebody in that class who didn't know that. And of course I'm not saying that I already know everything about publishing (far, far be it from me), I'm just saying that many of the things taught to us by these web classes can be learned through good old-fashioned experience.

I appreciate the effort, but I just find myself unsatisfied with the end product.

It was my understanding that RWA would serve more as a union guild for writers, and less as a grouping of resources that may or may not be utilized. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I've missed something valuable in the whole process. The point of this blog post is not to debulk RWA as an organization: some people swear that it's helpful, that it works. Some authors find these tools to be invaluable to their growth as writers, I'm just not seeing it.

Anyway, this brings us to the actual purpose of this post. Is this conference going to benefit me as an author?

I sat down with my husband to figure out how much attending would cost us, if he also wanted to take the trip but not attend the Convention:
  • First of all, if I register before April 9 the fees are $495.
  • We live in Las Vegas, and currently the cheapest price to fly is $130 per person.
    • It's important to note that this price will land us in Los Angeles, which is 35 miles away from the convention. I'm hoping that there will be shuttles, but if not we will also have to pay for some kind of transportation, perhaps a taxi.
    • We considered driving as well, in which case we will have to factor in gas.
  • The hotel costs for the duration of the conference are hundred $199 per night. Just for those three nights, that amounts to a little under $600.
    • In order for our flight to be there in time for the first workshop, we will have to leave the day beforehand. This will add an extra day to our hotel stay.
  • This does not include meals.

Ultimately, there is some wiggle room in travel depending on which way we go. There are also other hotels, but that still presents a problem of transportation. In the end, I could easily pay about $1000 for this trip.

Now, I don't mind paying the money. I started saving early, so the funds are there…but is it worth it, given how I feel about workshops and speakers?

After careful consideration, the only real reason that I would like to attend this meet and greet, is to meet the writer friends that I found on Twitter. This is a great group of gals, they're supportive informative, and everything that I thought the RWA would be. But realistically speaking, I could fly to each of their home towns, spend a one-on-one weekend with them, and fly back, for the same price.

I understand that networking is an important part of this business, but I'm just one of those people who prefers to meet people through my work. Yes, I could find the perfect agent at this Conference. I could bump into him or her at the buffet line, get to talking about how much we love cheese cubes, and cleverly seque into how much the heroine of my Paranormal Romance loves cheese as well... or I could send them a query letter. Yes, this way I get to make a personal connection with somebody who would being knee-deep in something that I've spent a good chunk of time on, but I'm not sure I'm willing to pay $1000 to rub shoulders with someone who's probably rubbing shoulders with thousands of other authors.

There's something just so...cluttered about the whole environment. Classes to make me a better writer? I'm not sure if I want them. Or if I need them. I've always learned better with my hands dirty, you know?

But if I've missed something, please let me know. If this is a glaringly beautiful opportunity that I'm just too blind to see, explain it to me. I see from Twitter that a lot of people are really excited about this conference. They say that it's got great speakers, a fantastic production schedule, and cookies from the dark side… but I'm allergic to cookies.



  1. I love RWA and its conferences, but since I wouldn't be a published author without RWA, I might be a little biased ;)

    If the format doesn't work for you, I think you're making the right decision to find another path. Writing is a very individualized process, and publishing is become more personal too.

    RWA offers great information and opportunities but it does come at a price -- in cash, time, energy, and commitment. I guess I would say if you've never attended the national conference, it is an EXPERIENCE. Whether it will be a valuable experience totally depends on where you are in your writing and where you want to be.

    All thoughtful weaseling aside though, I ADORED my first national RWA trip. I highly recommend at least one such pilgrimage to any of my writer friends, JUST for the experience.

  2. Thanks, Jessa! I really needed another opinion and it's good to hear from someone the system works for. I'm also super glad you got that I wasn't trying to put RWA down, just trying to figure out whether or not it is for me.

    I will absolutely take your suggestion to heart. Whether I go this year or next year (I have TONS of family in ATL), I'll try to enjoy it...just as an experience.