Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Writing Conferences--Putting Yourself Out There

If you are or have ever been to a writing conference, you know that there's a whole lot more to attending than just showing up. In fact, showing up is only the first step in getting the most out of the experience. Conferences serve up a smorgasborg of opportunity to boost your craft and your career. With so much out there in a snapshot of time, a little preparation may be in order.

1. Evaluate beforehand. What do you really want to accomplish? Are you a newbie to writing? Look at your story, talk to your critique partners and decide where you need help. Plotting? POV? Dialogue? Map out which workshops target your problem areas and go. Of course learning doesn't go to waste so if you want to check out that branding workshop, do it. But remember that sometimes focusing on what you really need serves you better. There really is such thing as "too much information."

2. Stay healthy. Drink plenty of water (air-conditioning is tough on the mucus membranes and stress tough on the complexion). Wear comfortable shoes because you will be walking more and standing longer than you thought. Blisters and lower back pain will last longer than the conference if you're not careful.

3A. Initiate conversation. Many writers are shy and reserved. I am neither. I have no problem with talking to total strangers on a line (it's one of my favorite things to do at Disney World even if it makes my hubby cringe.) Do it! Promise yourself to talk to one new person a day. This is half of the game called networking. Whether you're conversing with a multipubbed author or your waitress at breakfast, meeting people is essential to writing because your audience may be closer than you know.

3B. Listen. This is the other half of networking. And here's a not-so-secret secret: some of the best advice you'll get won't be at any workshop. It'll be on the elevator, or in a line, or at the bar later that night talking to an anonymous someone who's not anonymous at all now that they've handed you their business card. Yippee!! You've just gotten a request!

4. Be nice. Really. This is so obvious and yet overlooked all the time. Don't judge. Don't badmouth. Don't patronize. Just don't do it. Call it being professional or walking in fear of bad karma, either way be nice. Nice matters.

5. Have fun! Celebrate your creativity by joining in the conference activities. It's a great way to reenergize yourself and jumpstart your writing. Every year I drag up a friend or threeup to sing karaoke. It has nothing to do with music and everything to do with being free in company of people who truly understand me. Okay, maybe they don't understand me...but they are nice and listen and even clap at the end.

At last, an audience!



  1. Lots of good advice! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Ugh! I know we're supposed to force ourselves to network, but that is totally my downfall. The most awkward crap comes out of my mouth when I'm fumbling for conversational topics. A lot of times I can't even ask, "So what do you write?" with any finesse. It's a sad, sad phenomenon nobody believes until they see it.

  3. ::waves to Talia:: You are one of the friendliest, nicest people I've ever met. You definitely make the conference experience more fun, and any newbie who runs into you will be grateful, particularly if she's the wallflower type like I am. :-)

    Jody, asking someone what they write is absolutely fine as a conversation opener. Well, unless you've just been introduced to, oh, Stephen King or Nora Roberts, in which case things could be awkward. :-P