This week one of my critique partners, Natasha, offered great advice on the things to keep in mind when attending a writer’s conference. This will be the first year we will attend two conferences. We began slowly as a group. We attended conferences in this area – of which there are a few – and worked our way up to attending out of our “comfort zone”. Anyone considering attending a conference needs to keep several things in mind before making that decision.
Where am I in my writing journey? Beginners are best served by educational conferences. It isn’t as important for you to attend a conference with pitch sessions, for instance. It’s less likely that you have a polished novel ready to market at this point. Focus on how much you can learn about your craft AND about the business side of writing.
What can I afford? In today’s market more than any other this is an important question. Not only monetarily – conferences run from $45 one day versions to cruises in the thousands – but also, time-wise. Do you have a family? Less likely you can sneak away for a week. A day at a time may be the most that you can pull off. Whatever, you can afford, make the most of it. Natasha’s list is helpful with that.
You’ve made the decision to attend a conference, and you have the checklist in front of you. Business cards – check, pitch – check, etc. It may go without saying, but personal experience leads me to remind you that there is another checklist. We writers get all wrapped up in all the writing items we need and forget the basics. My writing partners and I are proof of what happens when you wake up in a hotel with the horrid realization that you have forgotten something vital…like shoes that match, medicines, or a curling iron. (No, those specific things didn’t happen to us, just examples.)
A conference involves more than the physical things you take with you. Days, weeks, months before attending conference attendees should begin the mental prep. For shy writers it’s talking yourself in off the ledge about meeting strangers – a lot of them – or having to sell yourself and your writing. For all writers it’s about getting your head in the right place to accomplish your goals. So, decide BEFORE you leave for that conference. What are my goals? If you want to pitch and that’s your only goal, plan on practicing that pitch on as many people as possible. I’d suggest that not be your only goal. You should also see this as an opportunity to network with other writers and publishing personnel. Make the most of this opportunity while you have it.
Conferences on your mind? What can you suggest or recommend?