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I just had the most phenomenal weekend!  My husband registered me for the Chicago North Spring Fling Romance Conference as my Christmas gift, and it was the best gift ever!  I bagged many new experiences and met so many great people that were willing to share their time and their expertise.

The Keynote speakers Laura Dane, Mary Balogh, and Kristan Higgins each gave inspirational, witty, and wonderfully entertaining speeches.  The one thing I took away from their talks is that I have to keep going, perseverance will be rewarded with success. I may not achieve it next month or even next year, but I will succeed if I keep writing.

I sat in on a very interesting workshop with Mary Burton. She writes romantic suspense.  I had never read any of her books before this workshop (which filled up quickly- luckily I had a seat), but since I love writing thrillers or suspense when I’m not writing erotica, I figured it would be a good workshop.  I loved it! Her attitude about killing characters mirrored my own.  When I was in college- not too long ago- I couldn’t write erotica for my writing classes so I wrote thrillers. My mom asked me why I had to kill someone- “Someone always dies in your stories!” She complained.  I explained that it wasn’t my fault…the character just needed to be killed. I don’t make these choices- the characters do.  I will be searching out Mary Burton’s books on my next trip to the library. I feel a romantic thriller boiling in me somewhere.

The workshop I was most excited about attending was presented by Katie Porter.  The workshop went over the toys and in and outs of BDSM for erotica writers.  I’ll be honest that I didn’t learn anything new in this workshop- I own every toy they showed. However, it was still an exciting workshop to sit in on because it was covering a topic I’m familiar with and enjoy chatting about.  It also didn’t hurt that I won the gift basket and now own three of their books- which I have already began to read and will finish probably within the week.

The self publishing workshops were very informative and have given me hope that I will be able to do exactly what I planned out.  It confirmed that my plan for the next year is actually doable, realistic, and sound.  I also acquired two books during this workshop and will be readings those next. Actually, throughout the entire conference I walked away with 15 books (Two were autographed).  So, I’ll be reading a lot and writing a lot and reviewing a lot.

The most disappointing workshop I attended was the Flash Fiction workshop. I held such high hopes for it, but it failed.  The presenter seemed more interested in getting us to submit to his magazine and buy his magazine than he did in helping us write good flash fiction.

The highlight of the first night was the Hot Critiques Sponsored by BDSM Book reviews.  I sat in the “scorching” room and read (first) a scene.   Katie Porter gave the most honest critique I’ve received, ever.  Very helpful and after I took a moment to look at it from their viewpoint- spot on.  I’ll be doing a re-write for that scene and probably most of the novella to be sure I get it right everywhere.

So many more awesome experiences were had, but I can’t fit them all here.  Everyone was helpful, insightful, and shared my love of writing romance. Historical, paranormal, thriller, or erotica writing romances bring us joy as writers and also to those that read our stories.  If you are a writer, I encourage you to attend a conference.  Continuing to hone our craft and get support from the other writers out there is priceless.

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