by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador
Last weekend I attended the first all-digital writing conference WANACon, produced by Kristen Lamb and her WANA International group. If you’re not familiar with WANA, it stands for We Are Not Alone, and refers to an attitude of service and support among writers while making career choices for success. Check out either of Kristen’s books We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide To Social Media and Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer for more insight into the WANA way.
I wanted to give a review of this conference, as it was history-making event. If you want a technical overview with screen shots, check out Kristen’s post:
It started with a simple click to PayPal to pay and register. Then I was notified by email of the passwords needed to ‘enter’ the conference. Another click on the link, enter the password, and there I was, socializing with my fellow conference attendees in the ‘lobby’ while still at home relaxing in my sweats. We got to know one another through a group IM chat. Attendees came from all parts of the U.S. and the world. How often does this Okie girl get to hang out with people in Australia and Saudi Arabia? That was kind of cool.
The conference started on a Thursday evening and ran each day through Sunday. At the scheduled times, we ‘entered’ the virtual classrooms. There were two classrooms: one for classes and one for agent pitches. Yes, just like at live writing conferences, you could sign up to pitch to an agent. You had the ability to IM chat, ask questions with audio, or show everyone your lovely face with video.
During a workshop if you had a question, a click of a button let you ‘raise your hand’. After a class ended, we herded back out into the ‘lobby’ to schmooze until the next one. The classes covered all the information you’d expect to find at a writing conference: writing craft, publishing trends, social media platforms, e-books.
Just like a live writing conference, I soaked in information until it oozed out of my brain. The top epiphanies swirling around in my head right now:
“What is your business model?” (Yes, authors, you are a business.)
“Sell the hook, not the book.”
“Always be a professional.”
“Define your dreams.”
“Agents ARE looking at your social media platform.”
“Invest in cover art: we do judge a book by its cover.”
“What do you want social media to do for you? Figure it out, then you can make it happen.”
“A villain is the hero of his own journey.”
“Do the research. If you don’t, others will and slam you for it.”
“What’s my word cloud?”
Lest you think it was all business and no fun, hilarity abounded in the comments, and Sunday was ‘Pajama Day’ and those brave enough showed up on their video cameras or snapped a photo and entered the ‘PajamaCon’ contest. I learned a lot, made some friends, and felt I got my money’s worth. All from the comfort of my own house. Being able to attend from my own home is a special help to me right now, as I continue to go through physical therapy, and travel is not good for my condition at all.
To sum up, here are my pros and cons for a digital writing conference:
- Save on travel costs
- Schedule availability
- Can continue with everyday life (I didn’t have to get a cat sitter)
- Advantage for those with physical disabilities or other special health needs
- Save money on restaurants, bars, cabs, and the like
- No rubber chicken dinners (unless you cook rubber chickens like I do)
- No box lunches
- Won’t mess up your diet (unless you want to)
- Easier to engage in in-depth conversations with others that can be hard for introverts to initiate
- Already on your computer so you can follow along and put into practice what you learn about social media
- Can take important calls or emails if you need to
- No worries about long bathroom lines
- No need to cancel attendance for weather reasons
- Don’t have to sit in airports
- No DUIs (Friendly PSA: NEVER Drink and Drive)
- If you miss a session, there’s a recording for that
- Occassional audio issues, but nothing that wasn’t quickly fixed by TechGuy extraordinaire Jay
- Conversations in the IM chat box during a presentation can be distracting if you’re easily distracted (like me) – all those conversations wouldn’t be happening in a live event without lots of stink eyes being thrown around – but an easy fix of closing the chat box can help you regain focus
- If presenters are a little less tech-savvy, they can miss questions from the audience, but a good moderator makes it all seamless. (Yes, I’m talking to you, Jami Gold. You rocked it!)
WANA International will be offering more online conferences in the future. Will online conferences take the place of the traditional writing conference? I don’t think so, and we should continue to support them. With information in the publishing business changing as fast as you can say Jeff Bezos, online conferences may be a good way to supplement in person conferences to keep abreast of what’s happening.
I’ll be attending an in-person writing conference in Oklahoma this year, but I’ll be looking forward to the next WANACon as well.
Find out what other participants thought of WANACon:
- NYT Best-Selling Author Allison Brennan – Digital Conference A New Age
- Author and Intellectual Property Attorney Susan Spann – WANACon, Fear, and an Unexpected Victory
- Author C.C. Cedras – No Lines for the Bathroom
- Author Diana Beebe – Why Take A Sip When You Can Drink from the Hose
- Author Widdershins – WANACon The View From The Back of the Room
- Author Kristen Lamb – How Badly Do You Want The Dream?
- Author Jami Gold – How Should We Deal With Conflicting Advice?
My sincere thanks to all involved with WANACon. It was great. I’ll be back.