Getting More Mileage from Writing Conferences

Sam's Town

Even with not playing slots, my trip to Sam’s Town for the 20Books Conference resulted in a jackpot of opportunities.

Maybe one of your resolutions this year is to attend a writer’s conference. While conferences are a valuable source of information, often pearls wisdom gleaned from a conference are often left to languish on a laptop or notebook. Here’s a few tips on how to better leverage your new-found knowledge.

  • Create a to-do list based on conference materials. Which includes following up with any contacts that you met at the conference. One of my to-do’s from the 20 Books to 50K conference resulted in an interview with Cameron Coral who then invited me to be a guest on her blog.
  • Share what you’ve learned. Conference re-caps make great blog posts. Courtney Kenney recently posted an excellent re-cap of the 20 Books to 50K conference.
  • Schedule time to review your notes a few weeks to a month after the conference. Do any new action items come to mind?
  • Make a date for lunch or coffee with one of your writer peers to discuss the conference highlights. Additional discussion will reinforce what you’ve learned.  Besides there’s something magic about sharing knowledge over a good cup of coffee or a delicious meal.

Wishing all of you much success with your creative endeavors in 2018!


20Books Vegas


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“And everyone’s definition of success is different. Know what yours is before you start on your author journey.”  From 20Books 2017 handout.

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a rookie, most writers agree that writing conferences are an excellent way to network and garner tips on perfecting your craft. However with the vast range of abilities and genres out there, it’s impossible for a single conference to be all things to all authors.  Even genre-specific conferences can have issues with logistics as a couple of my romance colleagues discovered when they attended an established romance conference in Vegas.  The duo trekked long distances to the panels only to discover the rooms filled to capacity.  Not to be denied their HEA, the pair spent the remainder of the conference in their suite working on manuscripts and strategizing for their next boxed set.

I’m happy to report a much different experience from 20 Books Vegas 2017.  Unlike many conferences which are focused on traditional publishing, 20Books is all about Indie publishing. What started as a Facebook group in March 2016 by Michael Anderle soon developed into a significant voice in the indie world.

Held at Sam’s Town, the event reflected the frontier vibe of the venue.  No shoot-out’s at Sam's Townhigh noon, but the spirit of people helping each other resonated throughout the conference.   Twenty minutes before Craig Martelle’s opening remarks, the Ponderosa room was already abuzz with discussion.  With many writers staying at the venue, networking was often as simple as waiting for the elevator.

I returned home with my green spiral bound notebook packed with ideas, business cards and a daunting to-do list.  I can’t say that I’ve got it all figured out, but I now have a better sense of direction thanks to 20Books.

Writer Interview-Maureen Bonatch

EvilSpeaksSoftly_w11335_750Tell me about your latest book.

Evil Speaks Softly is the first book of The Nightwalkers series. It’s a paranormal romance that explores the possibilities of what goes bump in the night. The first person narrative allows the reader to uncover family secrets, struggle with hopes, heartache and love and seek to break an ancient curse along with our strong heroine.

Here’s a short synopsis:

They were never supposed to meet. Fame came easy for Liv by following in the footsteps of the female writers in her family. The cycle repeated for decades…until Liv changed the story. Her villain doesn’t like the revision—and he isn’t a fictional character. In his story, the bad guy always wins.

They were never supposed to find love. Liv never questioned her demanding nocturnal muse, or the strange incidents in her old, family home until she met Gage. His job was to watch her from afar, not reveal the truth about the curse and the stories of the dead.

They’ve broken all the rules. Together they unravel secrets as they strive to stop the cycle. Liv’s ability to find love, and protect her loved ones, hangs on the fickle whims of the dead—and they’ve got nothing to lose.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on edits for the second story in my The Enchantlings Series tentatively titled Not A Chance as well as gearing up for NaNoWri (National Novel Writing Month) this November.

Who are your writing role models?

There are so many writers that I admire. Some of my favorites that inspire me include Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Kim Harrison and Charlaine Harris.

How do you balance your day-to-day commitments with your writing life?maureenbonatch

I start my day really early. Getting up around 4:30 gives me a little time to work on my writing before I get the kids up for school or go to the day job. I take my laptop practically everywhere and sneak some time in for writing on lunch breaks, commercials, waiting for the kids during activities, or if I’m watching television.

What are your other passions outside of writing?

Besides reading, of course, my favorite hobbies include music and concerts, bicycling on the beautiful trails around my home and winding down with a glass of wine and a movie.  Plus since I can’t get enough writing, I’m also a freelance writer specializing in healthcare, careers and mental health.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

We all get the same amount of time everyday. You can find the time to do what you love even if it’s only a few minutes a day, or if you have to give up a little sleep or a television show. Thank you so much for having me here today.

Buy Links for Evil Speaks Softly


 The Wild Rose Press:

 Barnes and Noble:


 Google Play:


About Maureen:

Maureen Bonatch grew up in small town Pennsylvania and her love of the four seasons—hockey, biking, sweat pants and hibernation—keeps her there. While immersed in writing or reading paranormal romance and fantasy, she survives on caffeine, wine, music, and laughter. A feisty Shih Tzu keeps her in line.


Amazon Author Page:







Writer Interview-Rachel Leigh Smith


Tell me about your latest book.

My newest book is the fifth novel in my A’yen’s Legacy paranormal sci-fi romance series, Hidden In Ashes. It does stand alone, but I recommend starting with the first book, My Name Is A’yen. It’s free everywhere.

The series is set in the far distant future, after we’ve made contact with a humanoid alien species. As is humanity is wont to do, we stole from them and enslaved them. A’yen’s Legacy is the story of their fight to regain their freedom.

 What’s next for you?

In the fall, I’m joining the world of shifter and mythology-based paranormals with my first shifter romance, To Hold A Siren’s Heart. Sirens from Greek mythology, shifters created by the Egyptian gods, and a blood feud between the Greek and Egyptian gods of war. It’s a lot of fun to write.

 Who are your writing role models?

I don’t know that I have role models so much as me being a serious fan girl of both  Nalini Singh and Sherrilyn Kenyon. I’ve met Nalini twice. Her especially, if I can write half as good as her one day I’ll be over the moon thrilled. Her imagination astounds me, and I love her almost poetic dialog descriptions. That woman can capture more emotion in a handful of words than any other author I’ve read.

 How do you balance your day-to-day commitments with your writing life?

I actually have a very charmed life. I’m single, no kids except for my cat, and live at home with my parents. Due to chronic health issues, I only work part-time. I’m also a pretty extreme introvert, so I don’t go out much. I don’t have much difficulty balancing things most days, mostly because there’s not a lot to balance right now.

When I do have to balance things, it’s because of the aforementioned health issues. Fibromyalgia to be specific. That’s what steals my energy and makes life interesting in a bad way sometimes. I learned a long time ago to guard my down time and not bend my schedule to others’ whims. The physical price is never worth it.

What are your other passions outside of writing?

I don’t really have any, to be honest. Not ones that I’d qualify as a passion. I have several hobbies I enjoy, including counted cross-stitch, knitting, and coloring. And in the summer, floating in the pool with my mom and sister. We talk about all kinds of stuff out there.

I’m part of multiple pop-culture fandoms ranging from Doctor Who to Star Trek: The Next Generation to Sherlock to Orphan Black, but I don’t actively participate in any of them online. I just enjoy the shows a lot. Though I have been to a comic con to see Matt Smith from Doctor Who, and Alan Tudik from Firefly. And the opening night midnight showing of Star Trek: Into Darkness.

But passions? Nope, just writing. Putting words on the page, dreaming up characters, learning more about the craft, it’s truly my happy place and where I’m most fulfilled.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

If you have a dream, go after it. Don’t let work commitments or any other kind of time suck derail you. Chase it until you catch it, then hold on for life. You won’t regret it.

You can find out more about Rachel at her website:

My Name Is A’yen, A’yen’s Legacy #1MNIA 200x300-7-30-16

They’ve taken everything from him. Except his name.

The Loks Mé have been slaves for so long, freedom is a distant myth A’yen Mesu no longer believes. A year in holding, because of his master’s murder, has sucked the life from him. Archaeologist Farran Hart buys him to protect her on an expedition to the Rim, the last unexplored quadrant of the galaxy.

Farran believes the Loks Mé once lived on the Rim and is determined to prove it. And win A’yen’s trust. But she’s a breeder’s daughter and can’t be trusted.

Hidden rooms, information caches, and messages from a long-dead king change A’yen’s mind about her importance. When she’s threatened, he offers himself in exchange, and lands on the Breeders Association’s radar. The truth must be told. Even if it costs him his heart.

2015 TMCC Writers’ Conference

new TMCC logo 1pms PC - WDCEToo often writers avoid writing conferences because they’re not ready, their work is not finished or the cost is too high in terms of time and money.  If you’re a writer in the Reno area (or live within driving distance), it’s time to stow the excuses, grab a notebook (or your laptop) and head to the TMCC Writers’ Conference .

This one-day conference is now in it’s 25th year. A writer in her own right, Kathleen Berry always assembles an impressive line-up of publishers, agents and writers.  This year’s panel includes, romance novelist, Kristen James and literary agents, Elizabeth Kracht and Gordon Warnock. Conference topics cover the craft and business of writing.

The lunch break offers the opportunity to network with other writers or the panelists. You can pre-order a box lunch for an additional cost or bring your own. Private one-on-one meetings with the panelists are also available for an additional fee.

I’ve attended the conference in the past and have always come home inspired with a notebook full of ideas.

Here are the details:

When:  Saturday, April 18, 2015

Where: TMCC Dandini Campus-Reno-NV

Cost: $119 (register before March 10th and save $15) or call 775-829-9010

Writer Interview Mignon Fogarty

 GrammarGirl.finalTell me about your latest book.

My most recent book came out in 2012: 101 Troublesome Words You’ll Master in No Time. It’s the fourth and last book in my 101 Words series, and I saved all the hard words for last. This book covers many of the usage problems for which there aren’t hard-and-fast solutions. Are you feeling “all right” or “alright”? (“All right” is the traditionally correct answer, but “alright” is gaining some ground.) Does “biweekly” mean twice a week or every two weeks? (It can mean both, which is why it’s better to use a different word.) Do you run a gauntlet or a gantlet? (Traditionally, you ran a gantlet and threw down a gauntlet, but today, most sources say it’s OK to use “gauntlet” for both.)

My previous books lay out what most people think of as the standard rules, but in this book I had to take a stand on controversial issues. Each topic discusses what makes it troublesome and ends with a short “What Should You Do” section, which readers have said they like.

What’s next for you?

I just started a full-time job as a the chair of media entrepreneurship at the University of Nevada, so along with doing all the things I still do for Grammar Girl, that job is taking most of my time these days. In the spring, I’m teaching social journalism, which will put my social media experience to good use, and I’m developing courses that encourage students be more entrepreneurial.

I do aspire to write fiction, and I belong to two fiction writing groups—one that meets every two weeks and one that meets more sporadically.

Who are your writing role models?

A few years ago, I won a seat at a writing conference called the Superstars Writing Seminar that was run by Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Eric Flint, and David Farland. I learned a lot from them, and the organization maintains an active Facebook group for alumni, which gets bigger after every new seminar, and I’ve found that group to be especially helpful and inspirational. I have also been listening to the Writing Excuses podcast for years, which is hosted by Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells. They have significantly shaped how I think about writing and storytelling.

How do you balance your day-to-day commitments with your writing life?

It’s hard to find balance since I essentially have two full-time jobs. I don’t work on my fiction every day; in fact, sometimes months go by when I don’t work on it. But I always try to keep at least a kernel of my mind focused on fiction writing. I do that by listening to podcasts, reading blog posts, following fiction writers on Twitter, and critiquing other people’s work in my writing groups. In short, I hang out with fiction writers in person and online. Then, when I have more time, I work in big chunks. For example, I plan to do a lot of writing over winter break.

What are your other passions outside of writing?

I love to ski. I’m not very good at it—I’m an easy-blue skier—but I love being on the slopes. It’s one of the few things I do that completely focuses my mind. It scares me just enough that I believe I’ll die if I don’t pay attention.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Sorry, can’t think of anything.


Mignon Fogarty is better known online as Grammar Girl. Her website was named one of Writer’s Digest’s best websites for writers in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and her podcast won best education podcast in the Podcast Awards in 2012 and 2013. She has about 250,000 Twitter followers and 500,000 Facebook fans. Her first book, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, was a New York Times bestseller, and she has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and Today Show as a language expert.

Writer Interview-Mary Frame

Mary EB

Tell me about your latest book.  Imperfectly Criminal is a New Adult Romantic Comedy with a dash of murder/mystery. It’s a companion novel to my first book, Imperfect Chemistry.

Freya Morgan thought it would be a great idea to hire the bad boy on campus to beat up her douchebag ex-boyfriend after he cheated on her and treated her like crap. Fast forward a few months, and the bad boy she hired is in trouble and it’s sort of her fault. After all, she started the trend of all the ladies on campus hiring him to do their dirty work. Now, two of the boys he was hired to beat are dead and he’s the prime suspect.

What’s next for you? Good question. If you find out, let me know 😛 actually, I am working (i.e. struggling) on a novella to go along with the two books in the Imperfect Series. However, ever since I finished Imperfectly Criminal, I’ve been bouncing around from one idea to another, without anything sticking. Hopefully, I can get rid of the bookish ADD and get something accomplished soon!

Who are your writing role models? That’s a very good question! I seriously love pretty much every writer I’ve ever met. I’ve been lucky that I know a lot of talented and uber-supportive writers. I love Colleen Hoover because she’s so successful, and yet so classy and definitely pays it forward to other writers.

How do you balance your day-to-day commitments with your writing life? Writing is like anything else: if you really want to do it, you find the time. I think it starts with knowing when you work best. I’m most clearheaded in the morning, so I get up early and write before work. But, I know other writers who are night owls, and they are able to bang out words after they work or their tasks are done for the day.

Also it’s very easy to multitask. I bring my lap top with me when I have to go to the doctor’s office, DMV, or anywhere else that I’ll be hanging around with not much to do. Half of the battle when you’re writing is working through plot lines or character arcs, which I do in my head when I’m at the gym, in the shower, doing chores around the house, driving, etc. I have a notepad app on my phone that I use when I want to jot something down to remember, and there are pens and notepads all over my house. Gotta love technology.

What are your other passions outside of writing? I minored in dance in college, and I still love it even though I haven’t been able to do it in a while. I also love cooking, camping, and hanging out with my crazy monster children.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers? Both Imperfect Chemistry and Imperfectly Criminal are available in both ebook and paperback format. They are both stand-alone novels, but feature mutual characters. I love writing books that make people laugh, and creating characters that have unique voices. I also LOVE hearing from readers, so please don’t be shy and drop me a line!

Find my blog at

Imperfectly Criminal Buy Links:


Imperfect Chemistry Buy Links: