Thursday, April 24, 2008

Finance Your Fun!

by KJ Howe
American Title finalists from several years in Pittsburgh: (left to right) Janice Lynn, Lindsey Brookes, Michele Ann Young, Jenny Gardiner, Judi Fennel, Raz Steel, Trish Milburn, KJ Howe

The theme on the Bandits this week seems to be conferences. While many professional organizations have conventions where attendees fall asleep in industry-related panels, romance writers are guaranteed a good time when they meet up with fellow fans, writers, and publishing professionals. RT is the perfect example. Unless you’ve experienced one of these extravaganzas, it’s hard to describe. Picture cover models sweet-talking soccer moms, Fabio strutting through the lobby sans goose, costumes from another century, vampires looking for blood, wearing pajamas to a slumber party, psychic readings. The list goes on, but the bottom line is that RT is wild!

From the small local ones to the large National ones, conventions have their own flavor. Finding the right one for you is half the fun. For example, because I write romantic thrillers, I enjoy conferences where there is a spotlight on romantic suspense, thrillers, and any other adrenaline-flowing activities. Next up for me is Thrillerfest in July, where ATF agents will show writers how to blow things up and share information about the latest weapons. It should be a spine-tingling week!

But, alas, these opportunities mean a solid investment of funds. Many readers and writers would love to attend conferences, but find it difficult financially. So, today is devoted to spreading the word about ways you can attend conferences no matter what your fiscal situation. Everyone should be able to experience this wonderful opportunity to meet with fellow fans of fiction!

I’ve listed several opportunities below, but please feel free to share other ones in the comments section.

RWA National: New this year! RWA will raffle off one free conference registration (for 2009) every day to one lucky volunteer. So, it could really pay to help out in San Francisco—next year’s conference could be paid for in full! Visit for information on how to volunteer.

RWA National: The Valley Forge Romance Writers offers the Writer's Rafflemania. This year they raffled off $1500 toward the cost of Nationals and they will be doing it again next year. For more info, visit Tickets will be available starting in June.

Thrillerfest: Mingle with bestselling thriller authors and join over 35 top literary agents at Agentfest (sort of like speed dating with agents!). Tfest organizers are running a contest where the prize is a free ticket to attend Thrillerfest in NY this July. For more information, visit or go to

Some conferences, like RT, offer a small discount if you are doing a workshop. I know of at least one RWA chapter that pays for the chapter president’s conference fee. After all, this volunteer promises to attend the President’s Retreat and the Annual General Meeting, then reports to the membership about both meetings.

Several generous authors, like Lora Leigh, Jill Barnett and our Anna Campbell, offer to sponsor people at conferences. And there is always the Jeannie Gray Golden Friendship Award which pays the conference registration fee to the winner of the essay contest each year. Our Jeanne won it last year!

Another idea is to volunteer for the RWA board—executive members have their conference fee paid. You could contribute to a wonderful organization while saving a few dollars, a win-win situation all around.

If you really want to attend a conference, there are ways to do it. Let’s hear some of your ideas for cutting costs and making sure that you don’t miss out this year.


Helen said...

Has he come to Australia for Anzac Day

Have Fun

Helen said...

Some great ideas there Kim and volunteering is always fun it gives you good feeling of helping people.

You all obviously had so much fun at the conference as I said yesterday there is a Romance Readers Conference in Melbourne in Feb 2009 and I have already started saving so as I can go not sure yet how much it will cost but Hubby and I have decieded that we will drive down which will take about 10 hours and he will find things to keep himself busy while I attend the conference.
I am really looking forward to going

Have Fun

Joan said...

Congrats on the GR, Helen!

Great suggestions, Kim on ways to fund conference attendance.

The cost can get steep sometimes but I consider it an investment in my writing career. The sheer force of energy derived from a gathering of other writers and readers is worth it's wait in gold.

Donna MacMeans said...

Yay Helen - Good on you for catching the Golden Rooster and for being able to attend the Melbourne conference. Be sure to say Hi to Anna and Christie there.

My RT conference fee was paid through a raffle at my local chapter. I probably invested $20 worth of tickets in that one prize *g* but it sure beat paying the $400+ for regular registration.

You had some opportunities I wasn't aware of, Kim. Great Post!

Tina M. Russo said...

Wow, some great ideas, Kim. Thanks for sharing. The years I attend conference I fund my trips via freelance writing.

doglady said...

Terrific post, Kim! I wrote a letter for the scholarship contest for my RWA registration fee this year. Keep your fingers crossed.

This is some great info on opportunities to help out with the expenses of conferences. I have been to some minor ones and always considered the money spent as an investment.

When the Golden Heart nomination I really pondered how to finance the trip, but my brothers reminded me this is a once in a lifetime opportunity so I am going by hook or by crook!

terrio said...

Congrats on the GR, Helen. And great blog, KJ. I didn't know about some of those either. A woman in my local chapter won the raffle and that was the first I heard about that. She's really excited and we've already decided she's buying the drinks. *g*

I know the Romantic Inks site has been doing fundraisers so they can send some lucky essay writing winners to Nationals on them. And I wouldn't spend this kind of money on a vacation for myself so I'm happy to have the rationalization that this is for my writing to make me feel better about spending the cash.

The only cost cutting idea I have is shove as many into a room as possible. That at least cuts down on the hotel bill.

Gillian Layne said...

I'm tucking away a bit here and there to go somewhere, hopefully D.C., next year. It's amazing the "spare" change you can find if you start to question some of your purchases.

I need to put my three girls to work...funding Mom's conference-fund instead of college, now there's a mother-of-the-year plan. *g*

Judi Fennell said...

I'm president of the Valley Forge chapter and am thrilled to say that we will be doing our raffle again. Tickets will be on sale during Moonlight Madness at National this year, and via snail mail as in the past. Check our website for when tickets go on sale and if you're going to be in San Fran, stop by our table and meet this year's winner, Nancy Naigle.

Kim Howe said...

Great ideas!

Helen, congrats on the GR...he's in good hands today! I hope you get to go the conference down under.

Donna, congrats on your win. That investment really paid off!

Joan, I agree that going to the conference is a great opportunity for our careers. Networking there is so much fun.

Terrio, I hear you on the roommate idea. I've heard of up to six gals staying together (in a suite) to save on funds.

Gillian, hopefully your girls will repay you ten times over when they graduate and become mega-entrepreneurs.

Doglady, you must come to SF so I can scream in support of you for the Golden Heart!

Tina, freelance writing is also my way of funding the fiction habit. :)

Judi, thanks for stopping by to share info on the Valley Forge opportunity.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Thanx KJ for your very timely and useful post!

Since we are close to SF, a lot of people in my area are planning to commute into the conference rather than stay at the hotel. While this does save $$ I also caution people that you really do miss out on a lot of opportunities to network by not staying at the hotel where the conference is held. Remember my elevator story!

Gillian, WTG on getting your girls to do fundraising. But they are not the only ones. We could ALL do a wee bit of extra fundraising for ourselves by having a yard sell, selling on Ebay, or as Tina and KJ mentioned, doing a little extra freelance work.

Going to conferences is SOOO worth it! And don't forget, at least for those of us in the US, you can claim at least part of the expense as a tax deduction!


Maureen McGowan said...

Great post, KJ. Smaller conferences are a great way to get the experience without the huge outlay of cash, too. But nothing beats nationals... thanks for the heads up on ways to help defray the costs.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Wow, these are great, Kim! I'm going online now...well, after I post. :>

I actually won my conference fee for last year from the Kiss of Death Chapter. They have some wonderful opportunities for members to write essays about being a professional author, about being a volunteer for KOD and so forth. It was a great! And wonderful that they do it.

The Jennie Gray Friendship Award was a $100 award which helped defray some expenses as well and when I can, I'll be contributing to that fund so others can have that same opportunity. :>

Pam, you are SO going to love conference. And it really is a huge investment in your career as a writer, as Joanie said. :>

Thanks for all the great tips, Kim!

Deb Marlowe said...

Hi Kim!

A generous, timely post! Cost is an issue I struggle with, as a new author, trying to decide where best to put my few promotional dollars.

I was very thankful for Donna's post yesterday. I couldn't go to RT this year, but a friend told me that there was not a big historical presence there anyway. Glad to hear that might not be so!

I will be in San Fran, and can't wait to see all the Banditas! It will be my first literacy signing too, which is exciting! We'll have a ball on Rita/GH night, cheering for everyone and partying after!

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Geeze, Kim. You forgot to mention the plan I'm considering--cutting lawns in the neighborhood LOL

Honestly as I drove down the street this morning I thought "Hmmm...That actually wouldn't be a bad way to earn the money to pay for this writing habit of mine!"

Of course I hate scratchy grass on my ankles, and I don't like loud noise, and pushing the mower up those steep lawns...

Perhaps I should steal some of the babysitting clients away from my teenager ;-)

Suzanne Welsh said...

KJ, good ideas for ways to get to conferences!

Congrats to Helen, apparently that GR loves a good party!

I'm with Joan on the positive energy one gets at conferences. I always, ALWAYS want to come home and write after being in such a great enviornment. Also, the chance to hang with friends and party without worrying about family or work is just the greatest!!

Trish Milburn said...

Great tips, KJ. I've taken advantage of two of these methods myself -- my chapter paid my conference fee one year, and I'm currently on the RWA board. It's not a "free" ride since you have to work for the privilege, but it does certainly help -- particularly when the National Conference is in one of the pricier cities.

doglady, good luck on winning the scholarship. It'll be great fun to have you hanging out with us in San Fran.

Tina, I do freelance writing and copy editing as well. Since I'm a former full-time journalist, it just made sense.

Deb, how exciting that it'll be your first lit signing. I'm looking forward to wearing my First Sale ribbon and doing the signing next year.

Jenny, LOL on the lawn mowing. I don't know how people do it all the time. Of course, I've been mowing the lawn today -- for only the second time in my life. Hubby has been traveling a lot for work and hasn't had time to do it. Considering I was expecting cattle to start grazing any minute and I didn't think the rest of the cul de sac would like that, I managed to get the mower started and have been plugging along. I'm 2/3 done! Must finish last third before it rains. Hubby will be so impressed. :)

Anna Campbell said...

Sorry I'm late to the party, Kim. It's Anzac Day here and while I didn't sleep in, I definitely seem to be moving slowly! Great post. I received a scholarship for my first RWA conference, the one in Atlanta, and it made a huge difference to me which is why I now contribute to help other people to go. There are opportunities professionally and personally that only arise out of a personal get-together like a conference.

Helen, congratulations on the GR. He must have wanted to see the marches!

Gillian, laughed at your child labour solution to the funding crisis! SOOO wish you were coming to San Francisco. Meeting you in Dallas was one of the highlights of my visit!

Kim Howe said...

Donnell Bell asked me to post her goes!

Hi, Kim! Congratulations on your 2008 GH, I'm so behind, I'm still catching up. Conferences! I will throw in my area's multi genre conference, the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in glorious Colorado Springs, touted one of Writers Digest ten best. We offer scholarships on a as needed basis. Unfortunately, I throw in my hat every year to get one, and they lose the hat. Also, if Judi Fennell is reading this, I have to say :)))) her contest is rigged. Lois Winston and I bought $30 dollars worth of raffle tickets and neither one of us won. Complaint deparmtment, Judi? :))) Seriously, when we're barely published, working toward publication or multi-pubbed it's still a major strain on our checkbooks. I appreciate your post, Kim, and I hope you have a wonderful time in San Francisco. I'll be cheering from home, but I'll be in Washington. I'm already looking under my cushions for money, and it's adding up!

doglady said...

Good evening, Banditas and Friends! Guess what? I got a call from the wonderful Jill Barnett today! I won one of the scholarships! I am just so thrilled and honored! I really can't believe all of the wonderful things that have come my way. I am so very, very lucky!! Now I HAVE to live up to all of the fantastic gifts that the wonderful writers in this sisterhood have honored me with. San Francisco here I come!

Caren Crane said...

Oh, Helen, so glad the GR was with you for ANZAC Day! I hope you made him some ANZAC biscuits - I love those!

I'm so glad you will make it to the 2009 Romance Readers' Conference in Melbourne. You're bound to see Anna Campbell and Christine Wells there. And the way Aunty Cindy gets around, I wouldn't be surprised if she showed up as well. *g*

KJ, these are great opportunities. I'm always so awed by the generosity of romance writers in offering scholarships to others. Anna C., snaps to you for participating in that. You rock!

Pam, your brother was SO RIGHT. You simply MUST go to conference when you are a GH finalist. It's imperative! No other time will you be treated like such royalty. And it's fleeting, so enjoy every second. *g*

Terrio, although it seems like a huge indulgence, you will get so much out of conference. Just remember: get out of your room and mingle. Go to workshops. Go to pitch sessions if you have a complete ms that's ready to go. My first RWA conference, I had only one book finished and wasn't sure I should pitch it, but I did it anyway. It took years to get that rejection (which showed up on Christmas Eve, 2006, I think), but it was great practice.

Oh, Pam, I just saw your late update. CONGRATULATIONS!!! It couldn't happen to a more deserving writer. Can't wait to see you there!!!

Trish Milburn said...

Pam/doglady, fantastic news on the scholarship! Congrats!

doglady said...

Thanks, ladies! Can't wait to see everyone in San Francisco!

Trish, I will see you soon as I will be attending the Heart of Dixie Readers' Luncheon in Huntsville!

Kirsten said...

Congratulations, Pam!! We are so thrilled you'll be there in San Francisco! :-) Hurray!

Raz Steel said...

Sorry I arrived so late, Kim. It was a pleasure to see you and Trish at RT. You know, Judi promised that I would win their raffle, this year, next year and the year after. Still waiting on that. What's up, Judi?

I just wanted to mention, I've thought about Jenny's lawn mowing idea, and I think I've come up with a better one. On advice from a friend in ATIII, I've purchased numerous cases of Sleeping With Ward Cleaver. She said it was an investment in the future, kind of like buying gold futures.

She said first run copies would appreciate in value when the book went to a second printing.

They have! And now I can fund my next RWA conference. Anyone wanting to purchase a copy of Sleeping With Ward Cleaver for $19.95 should mail the check to me, and Jenny will ship your copy. (This way, my back inventory won't even be depleted and when Jenny's book goes to a third print run, I'm sure my copies will continue to appreciate! I'll be looking for $29.95 by the time we get to the NJRW conference.

And if Jenny would come sign my copies, I'm sure we could get a few dollars more.)

This sure beats lawn mowing!

Kate Carlisle said...

Kim, great ideas for cutting conference costs!

And congratulations, Pam!! This is surely your year! See you in San Francisco!

Hey, it's a Raz Steel sighting!! And what a great money-making scheme! My check is in the mail. I love your idea, too, Jenny! Could you swing by and get my lawn, too? LOL

Congrats on the GR, Helen! Hope you're having a lovely Anzac Day with our favorite feathered fellow. :-)

Donna MacMeans said...

Doglady - Major squeal!! You got the Magic Gold Ticket! I'm so happy for you and anxious to meet you face-to-face. Congratulations!
This is turning out to be your year. I'll be cheering loudly for you at the GH ceremony. San Francisco is going to be so much fun.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Pam! Huge congratulations! It couldn't go to a more talented or nicer candidate!

Raz, welcome to the lair!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

YAY for you, PAM!!!!

SF may not be Salzburg, or Vienna, but I GUARANTEE you will have a FABULOUS TIME! Can't wait to see you there!


Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Oh, Raz, thanks for the good laugh. I really needed that.
And huge congrats, Doglady! Really awesome!

Michele Ann Young said...

Hey, great topic, since I am a conferencaholic! I know HHRW Hearts Through History offers a scholarship if you are a history addict or is that a historyaholic? And I believe the chapter has had a raffle too.

If you give a workshop at RWA you get a refund on the conference fee. the American Title 2 sisters are doing one, on how to promote before you are published, but we have to share one between us. Still every little helps, so now is the time to start thinking about what you can propose for 2009.

I hope to see the rest of the addicts in SF. Note, I am not yet at the point of mortgaging my home in order to go, but who knows, maybe for 2009....