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Random Thoughts: RT Convention Wednesday

I had the opportunity to attend the RT convention today. I bought my special day pass a couple months ago, but wasn’t sure until I actually got into the car that I was going to go. I had never been to a conference like this before so this was a completely new experience for me.

Although it’s called a convention, it’s not like the car shows at convention centers where you walk around and look at the products. At RT there are actual panel discussions you register for and then attend.

RT may not be as big as the BEA, but it is still a pretty big deal. Some of the biggest names in the YA urban fantasy/paranormal genre were slated to be there today – and many more on other days throughout the conference. Now that I’ve attended today I wish I had registered for tomorrow, too.

I knew going in that I would be attending as an interested participant in the discussions and not as a fan. So, I do not have pictures of the authors on the panels. For three of the four panels I was seated in the front row and the last thing I wanted to do was to be rude and snap photos. But I do have some pictures from around the hallways.

I figure if I do go back for the book fair on Saturday, then I will have plenty of opportunities to get those author photos and be a fangirl.

But today I wanted to learn more about the writing process and about how the authors create and handle the many facets of the business of being a writer.

I almost left during my first thirty minutes. There was no one telling you where to go and I got lost amidst the crowds of romance authors, their fans and the numerous tables heavily laden with swag depicting half-naked men. Tantalizing, perhaps, but definitely not quite what I was expecting of this conference. (Yes, I knew this was the Romantic Times convention, but as there were so many YA urban fantasy writers on the panels I assumed the displays would be more equally balanced.)

I wandered around for a bit and finally found where I was supposed to be. I took my seat in the front row, got out my notepad and readied myself to learn.

The first event I attended was called “Urban Fantasy: Worldbuilding in Urban Fantasy.” Jackie Morse Kessler was the moderator, and the panelists were Rachel Vincent, Kelley Armstrong, Jaye Wells and Diana Rowland.

It was wonderful to hear the authors talk about the process, to get more insight into who they are as authors and to interact with them in this setting, rather than at a signing which is a rush and gush event.

I always had the feeling that building worlds would be such a challenge, but these authors all made it seem much more doable, even if not easy. Back in the days when I had wanted to be a writer, I would never have written something in an urban fantasy genre simply because of the difficulty it entailed, but to hear their passion for it is something truly extraordinary.

I then attended the “Young Adult: Risky Business: Promotion, Marketing and Avoiding the Mouth of Madness” panel. Kelley Armstrong was the moderator, and panelists included Melissa Marr, Kami Garcia, Ally Carter and Jennifer Lynn Barnes as a stand-in for Cassandra Clare. Holly Black did make a surprise appearance on the panel.

This was quite the eye opener in which I learned much about what authors think about various types of marketing and the importance, or lack thereof, of social media. The best advice I heard was for writers to just write the book. Don’t worry so much about the marketing. The most important thing is to have a book written.

Once the topic turned toward reviewers I felt slightly guilty being in attendance. I was not attending as a blogger/reviewer but as someone interested in writing, yet I felt like some sort of spy while the authors openly discussed reviews. Especially as I knew I would be writing about my experience today. I didn’t think the panel was slated to discuss reviews or I might have chosen another one.

The third panel I attended was “Reader: Rebel Without a Cause: Is a Bad Boy Really Good For a Girl?” This was such fun. I didn’t have a front row seat, and the room was much bigger, but the panel was moderated by Holly Black and the panelists were Cassandra Clare, Richelle Mead, Mari Mancusi, Simone Elkeles and Sarah Rees Brennan.

This had to be my favorite, simply because the stories I most enjoy as a reader always have a bad boy. And it was a lively discussion, made all the more lively by Sarah Rees Brennan, who appears to be quite the cheerleader for the bad boy.

The final panel of the day, and yes, there were no real breaks in between, was “Young Adult: The Never-Ending Story: YA Series and Sequels.” The panel was moderated by Jennifer Lynn Barnes and the panelists were Carrie Ryan, Stacey Kade, Rachel Vincent and Melissa de la Cruz.

This was the most informative of all the panels. I’ve always wondered about the challenges involved with carrying an idea across many books. I took quite a few notes, and got a number of great tips from what Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Carrie Ryan and Rachel Vincent had to say.

Overall this was an amazing day and one I will remember for a long while. I got a chance to hear my rock stars in a forum where they got to be themselves and interact with other rock stars. And I got a chance to be a part of the discussion. Yes, I did ask questions. I wanted to learn, to know more about their process and I did not want to let fear get in the way of making the most out of this opportunity.

As I was in back-to-back panels I didn’t have much chance to mingle and left soon after the day was done. It was a long, but amazing day and has given me a lot to think about.

I’ve only been reviewing and blogging for five months and have been learning all I can from this side of the fence, interacting with authors from a reviewers perspective. But I hadn’t had a chance to experience things from the other side. And this was simply an unforgettable experience. This was the road that I had wanted to venture down in my younger days. This was my road not taken.

Oh and for those bloggers that are reading this, yes, there was swag. All of which will be there on Teen Day, I’m sure. I took just one item from each panelist that had the bookmarks, postcards, magnets or pins. And there were a couple ARCs given away which I did not win. The big giveaways are all at the parties on Thursday night and Friday night, which I am not attending.

But I didn’t go for any of the freebies, just for a once in a lifetime experience, which I can definitely say I had.

For anyone interested in becoming a writer, these events are must attends.

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