In April, I attended Chicago Spring Fling. It was my very first romance writers conference, and I learned a lot. I decided I could pursue a writing career, and I joined RWA and the Wisconsin chapter shortly afterward.
In June, I attended the Write Touch Conference in Brookfield, Wis. It was equally educational, although my experiences at the two conferences were very different.
Chicago Spring Fling was like attending a Big Ten university, with many classes to choose from, famous speakers and crowded lectures. It was easy to hide in the back of the room and be quiet. Much like when I attended UW-Madison, however, some more outgoing people made a point of saying hello and drawing me into conversations. Everyone who registered was promised exactly one pitch meeting, and I got my first choice. The meeting was very brisk, and although the agent was cordial and professional, she was not very enthusiastic about my project. To be fair, I was still learning the proper vocabulary to use to define things like genre and heat levels, and I was too nervous to come across as confident and enthusiastic myself.
The Write Touch Conference was like attending a small liberal arts college. The class sizes were smaller, and there was only one track. There were high-quality instructors who were able to interact more with attendees. The registration form asked us to rank our top three choices for pitch meetings, and I assumed I might get one of those if the slots weren't all full (I registered shortly before the deadline). Instead, I got three pitch meetings, and all three resulted in a request for a full or partial manuscript. One of my meetings was the last in a particular editor's block, and she was kind enough to spend a little extra time critiquing my pitch letter (I asked her to do so when she invited me to ask any questions I might have of her).
They offered different ways of learning and processing a lot of new information, and I came away from both conferences far more knowledgeable than I was before I attended. In future years, Write Touch will be alternating years with Chicago Spring Fling. That makes a lot of sense, and I'm sure there will be some terrific synergies when people don't have to split their time and travel budgets. However, I'm very glad I had the opportunity to attend both conferences this year, when I needed a crash course in the business of romance novels.