DFWWWCon, Swine Flu, Zombies & WINNING! in the Changing Paradigm

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Me with the AWESOME Piper Bayard…and it’s ROOT BEER.

Today, I’d like to talk a little bit about the DFW Writers’ Workshop Conference, which is THIS weekend, and yes, I will be attending. Why? Because, in my opinion, it is one of THE BEST CONFERENCES IN THE NATION.

(Kirk, are y’all paying me to say it ONCE or EACH time I say it?)


The DFW conference is close to my heart for a number of reasons. Without them believing in me and being super-visionary, I would never have become the Social Media Jedi. I meant to blog earlier about them, but that would have required me actually being organized.

*clutches sides laughing*

I’ve been to a lot of conferences and I love most of them for different reasons, but DFWWWCon is my absolute favorite. They are a tough act to follow and once you attend, you will definitely be spoiled.

DFW is THE BEST VALUE for the money.

DFW is a very affordable conference. Thrillerfest is awesome, but it’s over $750 just to register and that’s without talking to any agents.

For half that price, you get craft, panels, business, and top-notch speakers. DFW is big enough to have a lot of choices, but no so big you need to hail a cab to make it to the other end of a massive center in time to hear the presentation.

I loved RT Booklovers and RWA Nationals and I TOTALLY recommend both…but I was exhausted trying to make it around the mega-facilities. That, and they’re a bit pricey, so for most of us, these conferences are more of a splurge than a staple.

DFW is easily accessible.

I loved the Idaho conference and strongly recommend it, but there are few direct flights to Boise. So, if you are an out-of-towner, the odds of getting a direct flight to DFW that’s affordable are fairly good.

Also, since the conference is within several miles of the airport, you can get a shuttle right to your hotel, and DFWWW is AWESOME at getting conference rates for nearby hotels.

They take good care of you.

There are meals of course. BUT the DFWWW crew has always provided ample drinks (Cokes, etc), coffee, water, snacks and all kinds of sustenance to keep you going during the conference. I’ve been to some conferences who made all writers share one coffee pot and two drinking fountains.


DFWWW has a great mix of classes.

Yes, they will have traditionally published authors (big ones), but they generally offer a lot for the indie and self-pub crowd. There are classes on craft, marketing, business, etc. And they have a really great selection of agents to hear pitches.

Some conferences lean too heavily on only traditional. Others are better for the indie and self-pub author. DFWWW has enough to make BOTH happy.

Register now, before the price goes up.

DFWWW was my first writing conference.

Some of you might have already heard the story of my first conference, but the reason I bring it up is that you will have to work pretty hard to screw up worse than I did. Armed with this knowledge, you can then relax and enjoy your first conference. When you feel the flutters of an oncoming a panic attack, chant…

At least I’m not Kristen, at least I’m not Kristen, at least I’m not Kristen…

My first conference was back in February of 2008. I was an overachiever and got Swine Flu a year before it swept the world. For most of February, I had 103-105 fever and wanted to die…then burn my own ashes (again) because I was pretty sure I was so sick that even my cremated remains would have body ache. I nearly didn’t make it to the conference (which was, of course, DFWWWCon).

I was so sure that 2008 would the year I got an agent. All I needed was an agent and then my life would be on Easy Street. My biggest concern was what to do if the agents started fighting over me. How would I choose which one to go with? Would it make future cocktail parties in NY awkward?

Yes…I was a wee delusional, and sadly, I cannot blame it on my fever.

Conferences are vital for showing us how much we really don’t know (but then they give us the tools to remedy that, too).

So, anyway, that Friday night, the agent-author social went really well. I was charming and fun in my own mind, and managed to make it through the entire night without tucking my dress in my pantyhose. I think that was the last thing to go right for the next 24 hours.

First, for those who do not know, I have a zillion food allergies. I might even be allergic to myself. I would live in a giant bubble, but I can’t get cable. So keep this in mind.

Hey, can somebody order me gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, preservative free pizza? Please? Anyone?

The Friday social goes well, but that night I get no sleep. None. I was too excited/nervous. I was going to be an agented author by this time the next night. My future was so bright, I was fairly sure it had caused permanent retinal damage.

The next morning I peeled myself out of bed and drove to Grapevine, TX, which was about an hour away. I looked stunning in my new suit, but I was so fried that I forget to grab the food I’d packed the night before.

I arrived at the conference half-starving already and it wasn’t even 8:00 a.m. That entire morning, I barely paid attention to any of the craft classes because 1) I was exhausted 2) I was starving and 3) I had my agent pitch right after lunch…which I could smell and it was making me half-mad.

I dodged out of a class early to talk to the caterer and asked if he had anything that was gluten and dairy free. He said “Yes.” The angels started singing. YES! I could get something to eat.

I grabbed my meal and began wolfing it down prison-style, knife at the ready to stab any of the kitchen staff who might decide to take my plate before I had eaten the garnish and the Sweet & Low packets (fiber).

I finished eating before the other writers were even let out of class. I was feeling great. The writers filed in. I started socializing to take my mind of the pitch that I knew would catapult me to fame and fortune.

Candy Havens stepped up to do her keynote and…

My heart rate suddenly kicked up to 150 beats a minute, and felt like I was having a heart attack. I felt dizzy and my fingers and feet went totally numb, along with part of my face. I struggled to stay conscious as I watched Candy’s speech.

I couldn’t get up and interrupt her, but I was terrified that I was going to pass out right there. My peripheral vision was soon gone. Black. And I could tell I was inches from blacking out. Clearly I got into something I was allergic to. I chugged every glass of water at the table trying to dilute whatever foul element I ingested.

I hung on Candy’s every word…waiting for the last one. The second people start clapping I dove out of the banquet hall and stumbled to the bathroom. I was in bad shape. A couple of the speakers happened to be in there and apparently it was clear to them that something was definitely wrong with me. They wanted to take me to a hospital.

NO! I had come too far. I could do this.

I still had an hour until my pitch session…the 15 minutes that would change my life forever…although I did grant permission to call an ambulance if I passed out. Either I had seriously poisoned myself OR the Zombie Apocalypse was beginning and I was on the Zombie Team.


Food poisoning? Or the beginning of the Zombie Apocalypse?

Food poisoning? Or the beginning of the Zombie Apocalypse?

During that hour, I drank another gallon of water and the symptoms, blessedly, started to subside. About a half hour after I staggered into the restroom, another woman stumbled into the bathroom with a screaming migraine.

Apparently the caterer forgot to mention the liberal amounts of MSG (monosodium glutamate) in the broth used to cook the rice. We were both in pretty bad shape.

Thus, I missed another craft class trying to be at least coherent for the agent pitch. I got into the room and my beautiful suit is all rumpled and my hair is flat on one side (from leaning on a chair trying not to die).  I am also pretty certain I only had makeup on one eye.

I sit down and begin to talk, but have no idea what point I am trying to make…and now I have to pee. Like BAD. Like 12 seconds after I sit down I am now aware of the 6 gallons of water I drank.

So now I am wiggling and trying to think, but all I can picture are waterfalls and sprinkler systems and babbling brooks and speaking of babbling, what the hell was my book about anyway?

It was a disaster.

But, an hour after the pitch session, I felt better and I finally got to do what conferences are all about. I made loads of friends and connections, and took some great classes to improve my skills.

I learned so much at that conference and met some of the most AMAZING people who are my friends even to this day. Candy Havens is still one of my all-time favorite people, and it is really cool to now be one of her peers instead of this strange neophyte-stalker.

Okay, I am still strange and slightly a stalker but she now doesn’t jump when she spots me in her shrubs.

Anyway, after the conference my life changed. I was a member of the DFWWW, and the then-president asked me to present on social media because he liked the way I taught it to terrified writers.

I think one of the reasons this conference has grown so quickly in such a short time (aside from being a FABULOUS conference) is they have vision. When everyone in publishing was laughing at Facebook and saying e-books were a fad, DFWWW looked ahead and spotted the shifting paradigm. They recruited great people (not just me–OUCH! I got a cramp from patting myself on the back!). Seriously, they recruited top talent to train authors for the emerging marketplace.

I am now I am a regular speaker for DFWWW because they are a fabulous conference, and I am very honored and completely spoiled to be able to attend. If you can’t make it this year, then definitely put it on your MUST ATTEND list.

Have you been to DFW? What are your thoughts? What other conferences would you recommend?

To prove it and show my love, for the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of April I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!


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    • Lanette Kauten on April 30, 2013 at 10:18 am
    • Reply

    I won’t be taking your class, but I’ll look for you and say hi.

  1. Ah, you’re making me jealous. I’m still not at the level where I can justify spending $300+ on a conference (plus travel expenses–yikes!). But everything I’ve heard about this conference has made me seriously excited about going.

    • Melissa Lewicki on April 30, 2013 at 11:02 am
    • Reply

    DFWWW last May was my first conference. I learned so much–and based on all the authors and books recommended by the presenters–I have continued to learn since then. I attended your class and so began to read your blog and to join WANA.

    The DFWWW does spoil you. I attended the New England Crime Bake last fall. It was good, but not as good as the DFWWW. In part, it was because of the format difference. The DFWWW had individual presenters for each of their classes. The NE Crime Bake had a lot of panels of presenters. The moderator would ask a question and each of the 4 – 6 panel members would answer the question. This was not an efficient way to present information.

    I look forward to seeing you this weekend.

    • SweetSong on April 30, 2013 at 11:08 am
    • Reply

    Aw, I really wish I could go! Unfortunately I live in Western Canada and it’s just too far away and expensive…

    1. I’m a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA) and they have a great conference every July/August. Maybe this is closer to you? I won’t be able to attend due to my work schedule. 🙁

    • patty hawthorne on April 30, 2013 at 11:09 am
    • Reply

    Thanks for letting us know about a good conference. You are a really funny lady. Great blog!

  2. I agree. This is an awesome conference. A friend of mine was supposed to go with me the year I went, but she accidentally signed up for another conference around the same. We made our flights etc. and then realized, er, we were not signed up for the same con. lol

    Candy was super sweet too. She saw me sitting by me lonesome, and invited me to sit with her. Love that lady! Plus she and another wonderful author practiced taking pitches with everyone. It was great. 🙂

    Sorry you had a terrible 1st con. Kristen.

    1. It was priceless for the story, LOL. So I don’t know if I would have it any other way :D.

  3. I will be there! In fact, I’m having a hard time focusing on doing my “real job” this week because I’m so excited to going. This will be my first conference and I’m not quite ready to pitch yet. But the adorable Lindsay Cummings convinced me it’s worth the 6-hour drive to attend. I can already see that I won’t regret it.

  4. I lived in Dallas/Ft Worth for EIGHT YEARS and never knew about this conference. I must have been living under a rock! Lol…

    Donna L Martin

  5. Someday maybe. What would be the flight time from Detroit to Texas? lol – plus the border, the two-plus hours to the border… I am saving up for ThrillerFest though. Hoping to go next year.

  6. I cannot wait to be at DFWcon and see so many WANAs again! The classes really are diverse and offer a bit of something no matter what stage you’re at. I have a question I’d love your opinion on though: How many times should one go to the same conference? I know they always bring in new speakers, but since different conferences offer different kinds of things, do you think it’s better to spread out the conferences you go to over the years? I’m asking as an attendee not a presenter, I know presenting would be different. This was something several WANAs were talking about on FB during registration, and the feelings were mixed. Would love your thoughts!

    1. DFW always has new classes with new speakers. It’s relatively affordable and easy to get to. I think it’s a good staple. If you can splurge, great. Go to an RT, RWA Nationals, or Thrillerfest. I like OWFI, but it’s in the spring (in OKC) and I was hit by a tornado when I went there. If ur willing to chance the weather, it’s good. I don’t like the Austin conference mainly because of the venue. The hotel where they always have it would charge for consuming AIR if they could get away with it. It was SUPER PRICEY and not worth it.

      The La Jolla Conference is FABULOUS and another favorite. It’s in November, very intimate and top-notch presenters. Any event hosted by an RWA group is always worth any writer’s time, but normally they bring in only a speaker or a couple speakers, so not an exact comparison. The NTRWA group has a fabulous conference. Smaller, less expensive and I can’t emphasize how awesome and professional ANYTHING RWA always is.

      1. Thanks Kristen!

  7. As I matter of fact, I remember my first conference when I stepped into a social media class a few minutes late, and this confident blond woman welcomed me by name. (She didn’t know that I was an introvert and about to die when all eyes turned to me, but anyway…) I learned so much in your class and others that I returned home not only wanting to write books, but to write them right! DFWCon 2011 got me to recognize that I had a lot to learn and to feel inspired to get out there and learn it.

    Last year was even better with online friends becoming real-life friends. (Love that pic with the Moxie root beer!) I’m back again this coming weekend because, as you said, it’s great value for the money. See you soon!

  8. I can’t make it, I’m still much too poor.

    However, for future events, give us a little more notice if you can. I should be able to make an event like this in the future. I’ve road-tripped to DFW, its a good ride

    • Tamara LeBlanc on April 30, 2013 at 3:13 pm
    • Reply

    Won’t make it this year, but I love this post on it!!
    Thanks so much, Kristen.
    Have a great evening,

  9. I will definitely miss out. I loved going to Dallas. I have driven the eight hours drive one way several times from Southwest Missouri and I even flew on a wobbly old Delta jet in cheaper only ticket left smoking section next to a turbine from Tulsa (2-hours to airport).

    The visits to Dallas were for job interviews that did not work out. I wanted to live at Dallas since the Dallas TV show thinking Dallas women all looked like the ladies on the Dallas TV Show. And I was right. The secretarial pool of the high-rise building was heavenly of where I had to train for an insurance company.

    My college roommate lived at a Dallas suburb, but I lost his info decades ago.

    I would go to the RT Booklovers convention at KC as well. But I cannot.

  10. I REALLY want to go, but the day job won’t allow it. Maybe next year…

  11. Oooh I wish I could go now that I’ve read your post, but I’m on the other side of the world in Brisbane, Australia. Maybe one day.

  12. My first conference was DFW last year. I had the best time. I ran into one of my grad school buddies and met some great people. My pitch was the most hilarious failure ever. LOL. I got over it after that and then had wonderful conversations and a couple of extra pitches with agents later.

    And I’m so glad DFWW wanted you to teach, because I was clueless about social media last year. Now, I’m a lot less clueless–thanks to your Blogging for Brand class. 🙂 Thank you!

    I’m really looking forward to this weekend!

  13. The more I read about this conference, the more I want to go. This is definitely on my “Make it So, Number One” list.

  14. I’ve yet to be able to go to a conference, even if it was here in Florida. But when I do, I could totally see myself repeating your first experience. I’m gluten-free too, and from the moment I read that you’d forgotten the food you had packed, I knew I was in for a very relatable read. lol

  15. YES! I will be at DFW this year. I. Can. Not. Wait. I hope to attend both your session and Piper’s.

    I should already have be-bopped over to the schedule to plan my days, but was too busy planning shenanigans with the other WANA’s.

    Yes. You know some of the details. Surprise is a good thing. Right?

    H-O-W-L-E-D (how cruel!?!) at your story about your first conference. It’s the way you told it, Kristen. Priceless.

    Question: Do I have to speed date all of the Star Wars movies to understand the analogies that will be made? Just asking. No reason. Of course I’m not one of those people who never saw the movies.

  16. It is always so much fun to go to conferences and meet new people and learn a lot along the way. Much like the fun I have reading your blog. (smile) Years ago, I was part of the Greater Dallas Writer’s Association, and we sponsored a major conference, The Craft of Writing, for a number of years. I think some of the attendees started the DFW writer’s group, which then started this conference.

    I loved your disaster story. I’m glad I am not alone in my stumbling and bumbling through the business of writing.

    • Debbie on May 1, 2013 at 7:50 pm
    • Reply

    Love the agent meeting story…too funny. I’m still trying to figure out a grabbing premise and I love agent stories. Perhaps you could tell us what really goes on in those meetings?

  17. Great picture of you and Piper!

  18. See you there!

    • Rachel Thompson on May 2, 2013 at 5:19 pm
    • Reply

    No, sorry, the best writer’s conference is the GLVWG conference. (GLVWG.org) It’s cheap, you get agents and it’s well organized. If you want to spend more you can do pre-confernece work shops at prices so low even Crazy Eddie admitted it was insane.

  19. I’ll definitely try to make it out there next year, especially since my sister-in-law will live in the area. I’m sure she’ll put up with me and incessant writing talk for a couple of days. She’s awesome like that.

I LOVE hearing your thoughts!

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