Wednesday, August 15

Of Weddings, Writing Conferences, and Dirty Little Secrets


Welcome guest Cathy Shouse today with a new and more affordable look at conferences--and weddings!

There’s been some buzz about the Romance Writers of America national conference that happened in California a few weeks ago. Frankly, attending that event wasn’t in my budget this year. So I’ve tried to pull up my big girl panties, smile, and pretend I’m not green with envy.

Friday’s USA Today report that the average couple spends $26,989 on their wedding jolted me out of my funk. I was reminded of my own modest nuptials that proved wedded bliss can be achieved in a million different ways. And, likewise, so can a writing education.

My husband and I were married in a cute little, unheated wooden chapel in a suburb of Indianapolis on a mild Indiana day in April. Our parents were in attendance, as well as my best friend, a photographer. His brother, a preacher, performed the ceremony. Our largest expense was our rings for several hundred dollars, and the bouquet, which came from one of the top florists in the city. But what was most unusual of all? I borrowed a wedding dress.

Before you think I’m totally unsentimental and cheap, hear me out. I had planned to buy a dress (although I wasn’t going to spend the average price, which today is $1,300). Then a close friend offered me her tea-length wedding dress, kind of as a joke. The idea grew on us. And when I tried on the lacey, white, garment trimmed in ribbon, with its sexy, jagged hemline, we both knew it was perfect.

My parents threw a party for us at their home a few days after the wedding. Today’s average reception is a whopping $11,599!  We loved all of the decisions we made.

Getting back to writing, it’s never been easier to replicate the advantages of a writing conference. And you can avoid the Dirty Little Secret some people have, whether getting married or going to a conference: credit card debt.

Let me say that I totally get that sometimes, “you just have to be there,” and I hope to go to RWA conference in Georgia in 2013. However, if I’m not able to, I have a strategy.

1.      Get to a regional RWA conference in my area at least every two years. (Waving to my friends at the Spring Fling by RWA Chicago North)
2.      Have an Online presence and learn from writers in my genre and agents I’m targeting by following their blogs and tweets
3.      Follow publishers on their Websites, listen to podcasts by agents, and enter their contests
4.      Listen to conference tapes, either purchased, or borrowed from my RWA chapter
5.      Attend as many book signings in my region as possible and pick  the authors’ brains to learn more about the industry
In fact, you can get started today, with a free Online conference called 


Cathy Shouse is a journalist who writes heart-warming romances and lives in the Midwest with her husband and two teens. Her Website is www.cathyshouse.com

23 comments:

  1. Great tips Cathy, but if you can go to one, you should. I went to the ones in Orlando and NYC. I missed this year. There's nothing like a thousand or so authors under one roof. It's electrifying.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Em-Musing! I made it to the Washington D.C. national conference and was in heaven at the huge book signing alone. All those books :) I simply loved everything about being at a major conference and really do plan to go again. I had expected to go to Nashville, but the flooding caused a location change which would have cost me hundreds more dollars. This year, from my location, California was out of my price range.

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  2. Thanks for coming today, Cathy, and for the good ideas. I've only been to one national conference (Chicago) and it was SO MUCH FUN, but in truth, so are regional ones. I can never convince myself I can afford national. Your wedding sounds great, BTW.

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    1. I appreciate the invite, Liz. Our wedding really was sweet, with lots of friends and family over for our party/reception a few days later.

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  3. Hi Cathy,
    You offer some great ideas. Thanks for the insights.:)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Morgan. I've learned some money tips from you at http://thefrugaldivatellsall.blogspot.com/ as well!

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  4. Cathy,

    Don't forget online workshops! They can be inexpensive and sometimes more thorough than live workshops. Plus, you have all the class material printed out!

    I don't go to every National...too expensive, but I am thinking about Atlanta this year!

    suswan meier

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  5. Susan,

    I meant to include online workshops! Thanks for stopping by, Susan. Your workshop "Can this manuscript be saved," was well worth the price (It was $20, I think?) and is also how we became "friends." :) Here's some info. on Susan Meier's class http://www.harlequinromanceauthors.com/?p=238. Hopefully, the link works. lol

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  6. What great ideas you used for your wedding, Cathy, and I would hope dozens of brides-to-be will make some of these ideas/suggestions their own.

    Linda

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  7. I'm a big fan of the television show SAY YES TO THE DRESS, but I have to tell you I'm AMAZED by how much some brides spend on their dresses and their weddings.

    I think...you could get a new car for that! LOL

    But I think when you get older you're more practical. :)

    susan meier

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  8. Susan,

    Age does play a part. Lately, I've been to some fabulous weddings in the past few years, and have enjoyed every one of them, with the ice sculptures, and the fantastic, catered meals. If you've got it, why not splurge?

    However, the article reported that Brides magazine said nearly 1/3 of couples don't stay in the budgets they set for themselves. The reasons?
    They are "victimized by their own fantasies, cajoled by media visions of celebrity nuptials, and pressured by friends, family, even strangers posting idyllic photos on Pinterest."

    Confession: I've been tempted to go to conferences beyond my budget for similar reasons: the fantasy of an agent at a conference "falling in love" with me, wanting to join friends who are going, writers I don't even know talking about the glamorous events. lol!

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  9. Hi Cathy! fellow Heartbeater here. :)
    I agree that regional conferences can take the money sting out of attending, yet they add up, too. All of your suggestions for "instead of going to" conference make perfect sense.

    I too didn't spend a huge amount on my 30 year wedding. I was older than what I thought brides should be, didn't attent a church at the time, and basically just wanted to get married without a lot of stress. We opted for the Judge's chambers and two witnesses each. Like you, we had a reception party the next night at a family home. Nothing splashy!

    They say today you could buy a moderately priced car with the average wedding cost. In some cases, those couples might be better off buying the car and forgetting the wedding altogether. LOL

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    1. Thanks for your comments, Lynne! Even though the stats for a long-term marriage are sobering, I always feel hopeful at weddings!

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  10. Loved the post, Cathy. I agree with you on everything. I didn't go to RWA Nationals this year because of budget constraints. I won't go into debt for it and I can only spend so much. Regional conferences offer a lot, as does having on-line connections. My next conference is COFW in Columbus. COFW is a wonderful chapter and I've haven't missed a conference in five years.

    As to the wedding cost woes? We had the best wedding ever on a budget in one of the most expensive cities in the country. I had the dress, (my sister made it) the photgrapher (a friend who was an action photographer) and the cake, (baked by a friend in the business for cost). We rented out a hall and had a wonderful reception. We achieved our goal which was to have a celebration with all our friends and family. We've lasted 23 years.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Sandy. Given that we met through carpooling to a conference, I figured you would agree about controlling expenses. :)

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  11. Great ideas! I do the same thing--keep up online and just keep plodding on. I have a small child at home, so getting away for a convention isn't a possibility right now. One of these years it'll happen... and until then, I'll keep up in other ways.

    I love your little wedding! Ours was tiny, too. :) I loved it!

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  12. Patty,

    I agree that skipping a conference is not always due to finances. Time constraints and other issues play a part. My husband is a great dad, but not so much the Mr. Mom type! lol

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  13. Loved your post. I've had two weddings (hubby and I renewed our vows on our 12th anniversary)and we didn't splurge on either one. We thought we'd spend our efforts working on our marriage, not the wedding. As for wirter's conferences, I've been to one. It was FF&p in New Orleans. We were able to drive there and since hubby always wanted to see New Orleans this provided the perfect opportunity. Never gone to a national conference. Way too expensive. But I will be at 2013 nationals. I live in Atlanta. I can do that!

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  14. Great post! I've never been to a big conf, not in my budget! Someday, maybe.

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    1. Ann, I feel fortunate that we have the Internet. Just a few years back, writers talked about going to a conference as being the only way to meet other writers. Now we can find each other Online. I love it. Good luck to you!

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  15. Shawn, that's neat that you guys renewed your vows. Like you, I made the D.C. national and make it into a family vacation. Thanks for commenting!

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  16. Cathy, I did the stay-at-home too. Pouted all week. Small conferences are great for workshops and meeting people. I plan to get to the next several RWA Nat'ls, and this year I did an online Not Going to Conference Conference. :)

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