Four and a half years into this gig, I've begun to develop that sense of blase. Whereas my first Romantic Times was frenetic and exciting, I now can look through the schedule with a whatever, maybe I'll sleep in attitude. I still get excited to see friends and attend parties, but the glamor is gone. EPICon is certainly fun, and the people and locations make it more so, but it has also transitioned to where the things around the conference are what I look forward to rather than the conference itself. And the average booksigning engagement is just that: average.
This is not to say I dislike or am bored with those things. That is most certainly not true. Yes, there are annoyances, such as RT's continuing attempts to marginalize the epublishing world. But overall I would instantly and repeatedly recommend attending those events. And of course my book-signings would cease to be average if attended by more people who had actually read my books instead of the sign in front of the store that day.
Yet there is one conference that continues to make me step back and say "Wow!" It is the smallest one I attend, deliberately so, and also the most valuable. The La Jolla Writers Conference.
A small event that is tightly focused on the emerging writer, Antoinette and Jared Kuritz continue to take that hanging curve and knock it out of the park. Every year, I meet a new inspiration or two, make a valuable connection or new friend and receive a major surprise.
I have the LJWC to thank for the wonderful friendship of Robyn Carr, just as an example. It was there that we first met her, as we also first met Lisa Jackson, Steve Berry, Ken Kuhlken, Warren Lewis and Eldon Thompson, among others. It's hard to stop the name-dropping thing, because there are so many fine authors and people we have met at this event. (Note to Warren: Get a website, dude. You rock too hard to be that far off track.)
I can't recommend this conference highly enough. This year was as stellar as any. We met Jane Green, who may forever remember me as the only man to show up for her eight a.m. Chick-Lit class...Lisa Gardner, who spun tales about wandering deserted mental institutions in the dark and the smells of the body farm...and our surprise for this year, the incredible Steven Boyett, for whom I had zero expectations. I must now consider myself a huge fan. The man's passion and energy, as well as his vision and acumen, are simply amazing.
We also renewed our associations with Warren and Eldon as well as author Mark Clements and agent Taryn Fagerness.
We saw some old friends (*waves to Walter*) and also met some new ones, including Marty and fellow Browncoat Dawn Maria. One of the wonderful things about gatherings of writers is that no one looks at you oddly when you scrawl an idea on a napkin or act like you've met a soulmate because you can both identify the nature of the special hell (hint: for people who talk at the theater) or quote a half-dozen opening lines ranging from Austen to Zelazny.
If you are a writer or a poet or a screenwriter...you need to look into this conference. It's not Comic-Con, or RT, or BEA...this is about business and craft and emerging from the small circle of buildings at Paradise Point inspired and aware. And it is the best conference/convention money I spend each year.