by Janet Lane
Time for conference – exciting! You may have just begun writing fiction, dancing in the joy that comes with it, or you may be a conference veteran like me with over a decade of attendance under your belt. Or you may be somewhere in between.
You may have an appointment with an editor or agent. Along with published authors, they will be mingling with writers at several events – workshops, pitch sessions, panel discussions, and even at our tables during meals.
You may be a contest finalist, heart thumping, wondering if you not only accomplished the significant achievement of reaching the finals, but also won in your genre category. You may be published, with contests far behind you, wondering how all the drastic changes in the industry will affect your career.
Whatever your circumstances, conference is an opportunity to share and learn.
As we prepare for it, consider ways to take full advantage of the opportunities. Here are some common conference pitfalls to avoid:
1. Tame the green-eyed monster. Expressing jealousy, trash-talking or minimizing the accomplishments of that writer who is a finalist in the contest this year, or that writer who just got published, or made a certain best-seller list, because you know your writing is better than his or hers.
2. Come out of your shell. Fight off the Shyness Dragon and Negativity Dragon! Don’t let them keep you from mingling, making new friends, sharing and networking about industry news and opportunities that might benefit you.
3. Squelch your Inner Critic. Face your mirror, give yourself a genuine smile and say, “I can do this!” If you need more, here are some to speak, loudly and confidently, to silence that ne’er-do-well critic:
▪ I am in control of my own thinking.”
▪ “I think only thoughts that create and fulfill the best in me.”
▪ “My mind is constantly in tune with the positive.”
▪ “I am full of great thoughts and positive ideas.”
▪ “My thoughts are bright, cheerful and enthusiastic.”
▪ “I consciously choose what I think.”
▪ “I always choose thoughts that are most positive and beneficial to me.”
▪ “All of my thoughts create healthiness within me.”
▪ “I remember to think positively all day, every day.”
4. Know when to speak and when not to. Conference may inspire dozens of new ideas, but be sure your timing’s right when you wish to share them. Avoid interrupting a workshop presenter or discussion group because you have very helpful and interesting anecdotes, jokes, research, statistics and/or opinions to share, and you’re so eager to do so that your timing is less than ideal.
5. Open your mind to new possibilities. Does this sound line you, poking your head in from the hallway and listening to 2 minutes of a workshop and thinking you know all that stuff already, no need to waste your time at that workshop? Be open to new ideas. Don’t find yourself sitting in an overstuffed chair in the empty lobby while everyone else is in the workshop rooms visiting, getting to know new writers, authors, industry professionals, and exchanging ideas and knowledge. Get out! Meet! Learn!
6. Make a list now, before conference begins. Get your money and editor/agent requests in early, allowing for plenty of time so you can book your most desired professional for a pitch session or workshop. Mark with bold felt-tip ink the workshops you want to attend. Follow up on your best intentions. If you think it would be helpful to have business cards when you network with other writers and meet editors and agents, design and print them now so you’ll be ready. Practice your self-introduction so you’ll be prepared to meet new friends and describe your writing and interests. Familiarize yourself with the conference information packet so you don’t find yourself joining the wrong workshop, or arriving late at a workshop in progress because you don’t know your way around the hotel. If during the year you’ve borrowed books and/or materials from fellow writers, the conference is a convenient place to return them without burning extra time or gas or, worse, keeping your friend’s materials when s/he might need them.
Next up: the final four tips, including one of the most important tips for conference preparation.