Ruth A. Casie on Writing Conferences


Ruth A. Casie on Writing Conferences

As a rule, we open RU posts with a brief introduction of our guest blogger of the day. Today’s Visiting Professor, RUTH A. CASIE, has done a great job of introducing herself. Take it away, Ruth!

Since 2009, Romance University has been one of my go to places for enjoyable and informative posts written by industry experts and friends. When I read the August 30th post I contacted the RU staff about their proposed posting schedule changes. I suggested they begin a dialog with the Romance Writers of America (RWA) National Conference Workshop Committee. Once the workshop committee sets the schedule for the 2018 RWA conference each of the one hundred twenty-five speakers could post about their upcoming workshops. It would be a win-win situation for everyone, great content for RU and a wonderful exposure for the presenters and RWA.

My heart is in it…

I love to attend writing conferences. Where else can you find people immersed in imaginary worlds with imaginary people who try to make those worlds and people relevant to their readers? With common interests, we talk about the days spent researching just the right place for the story, name for their character, or reasonable explanations behind the attraction, and motivations and even the villain’s actions. We brainstorm plots, black moments, and conflicts. It all translates into helping and inspiring one another.

Conferences aren’t only about networking. Classes given by some of the biggest brightest in our industry, Kristan Higgins, Cherry Adair, Virginia Kantra, Alyssa Day, Robin Covington, Michael Hague, Damon Suede and many, many others fill the schedule. Over the years, I’ve attended workshops on book marketing, work-life balance, character development, POV, GMC, quick acting poisons (my husband shook his head when he saw that handout), medieval weapons, well, you get the idea.

At the end of the conference authors hurry back to their story, with a fresh outlook, enhanced skills and sometimes with fresher ideas.

What does it take…

I appreciate what it takes to organize a workshop schedule. I cut my teeth a few years ago when I chaired the New Jersey RWA chapter Put Your Heart in a Book conference and was responsible for choosing and scheduling forty-five workshops. I leveraged that experience and served as this year’s Workshop chair for the RWA National Conference in Orlando.

The overall goals of the workshop program, whether for the chapter of for a national conference, are the same, to provide writers with the tools they need to succeed. As authors we share certain challenges and issues, but our careers and our approaches are anything but cookie-cutter. Conference attendees don’t simply want a workshop on pitching, deep POV, or even balancing writing with home life, but a customizable array of interactive workshops to meet the needs of writers at different skill levels and pursuing a variety of paths to publication. The workshop program must focus on extending a hand to members across the spectrum to help them build a personalized conference experience that met their interests and goals so that they could take advantage of the opportunities with confidence.

How to get it done…

To do all this on the national level, planning began before we left the 2017 conference. Throughout the summer the nine person committee tele-commuted with RWA staff in Texas and developed a plan and guidelines. Feedback from the 2016 conference gave us a good idea of what attendees wanted. We also looked at the conference center logistics to determine capacity and flow. While we worked to lock down these workshop elements we developed the proposal form. By the end of the summer we opened submission.

By the time the submission period closed, over six hundred proposals had been submitted. To attack the overwhelming number of workshops, committee members focused on specific topics (career, craft, research and wellness) and began the arduous job of reading through each proposal, workshop outline, handout, and presenter bio. When available, speaker presentation skills were reviewed. The proposals were organized by category (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) to ensure we addressed all levels of expertise. Each workshop was scrutinized to meet the needs of the conference and the attendee.

For our published authors, a separate committee worked on workshops to fit their needs. We also identified a new opportunity. With some of the conference changes, and working closely with the published author team, we found time Wednesday afternoon to provide a line-up of killer classes focused on the advanced professional, indie and hybrid author, as well as comprehensive classes for the emerging (newbie) authors.

A close look at the list of accepted workshops indicated there were some holes. We also identified classes attendees couldn’t get at the chapter level. The team drafted a wish list of classes and presenters and curated these classes.

We developed a new concept, the 20/20 Expert Hour program, a group of 20 attendees join experts for a comprehensive look at a particular subject in a dynamic 20-minute presentation, before rotating to a new session on topics like social media, taglines to synopsis, historicals (cooking, dressing, etc.). Attendees could tailor the hour to their needs and interests. The small group dynamic lent itself to conversational presentations with one-on-one interaction. Feedback on this program was so positive that next year’s conference committee plans to expand the idea.

In the end…

This year’s conference in Orlando was a stunner. The committee was excited and pleased to provide a customizable program that extended a hand to attendees at every level, in-depth workshops geared for targeted interests, and greater interaction with experts and colleagues. Feedback demonstrated that this expanded format helped all our members explore topics of distinct interest, developed their unique skills, and joined the kinds of conversation and crosspollination that transform careers.

After the amazing experience I had working on this project, I can’t stress enough how important it is to get involved. For those who are RWA members, vote for the board and help create the future of the organization. For those who are authors and not members, join us. We can do wonderful things together.


Have you attended any RWA workshops? What were some of your favorites?




RUTH A. CASIE is a USA Today bestselling author of swashbuckling action-adventure time-travel romance about strong women and the men who deserve them, endearing flaws and all. Her Druid Knight novels have both finaled in the NJRW Golden Leaf contest. The Guardian’s Witch, part of the Stelton Legacy series was a Reader’s Crown Finalist. Her short story “The Game’s AFoot” finaled in the Aspen Gold contest. Ruth also writes contemporary romance in the Havenport series with enough action to keep you turning pages. Ruth lives in New Jersey with her husband, three empty bedrooms and a growing number of incomplete counted cross-stitch projects. Before she started writing time travel romance, she was a speech therapist, international bank product and marketing manager, but her favorite job is the one she’s doing now—writing romance.

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