This post is for mid-career authors and aspiring writers alike. Going to an annual writing conference is an investment in your career with many payoffs. Sampling a variety of writing approaches taught by attending authors, adding to your writing tool box, conversation with like-minded writers, meeting editors and agents, forming writing groups and keeping up with the transforming publishing world are just a few of the many reasons to attend.
But how to get the most out of these events?
After almost two decades experience with these conferences, here are some of the guidelines I still use:
Before the conference
Decide if you need a conference buddy and if you do, arrange to attend with one. If you are introverted, this is my #1 piece of advice.
Read a couple books by presenters. Don’t be insular. Expand your horizons.
If your conference lists attendees, write down names of people you know. People love to be remembered.
Check out the websites of some presenters. What are their book titles, how do they present themselves on the internet? Look up their reviews on Amazon. What are the common threads?
At the conference
Start conversations with fellow attendees. Some will lead nowhere, and some will garner you incredible opportunities. Oh, the stories this introvert could tell! You just Never Know.
Commit to the whole day. Don’t skip the opening ceremonies or the afternoon wrap up. This isn’t all about earnest note taking. Relax and let stuff happen.
Don’t be afraid to start a conversation when you see a presenter in the hallway. Authors are usually happy to answer questions. Of course, never ask them to read your manuscript!
On your program over, write down the names of people you’ve just met. File the program when you get home. Over the years, you’ll have a record of people otherwise forgotten.
If you attend with a friend/spouse, plan to split up for part of the day. Don’t cling to a buddy, or you won’t meet people as readily.
If attending a very large convention, understand that people schmooze in the bar (especially after fourish, but not limited to then!) Join in. Yes, you! Plan to meet a friend there after a half hour on your own.
Take notes and date them. File them in a “conference notes” file. I have often paged through this file to find names, ideas, solutions.
If you have print books, give a few copies to the event organizers, and say Thanks! It gets your work circulating and is a lovely, unexpected gesture.
And for my favorite conference: (Disclaimer: That I help organize!) Read on:
Write on the River Conference – May 18-19, 2013 – Wenatchee, WA
J.A. Jance keynote. Limited tickets available to public.
15 workshops and 12 inspiring teachers on such topics as:
Writing that critical page one
Creating memorable characters – workshop by top author and presenter, Robert Dugoni
The nonfiction book
Writing for young adults
Memoirs – workshop by nationally acclaimed Jennifer Lauck, author of Blackbird
Two-hour fiction workshop for high school writers
To register or for further information, click here.
Appointments with Pam van Hycklama Vlieg, Larson Pomada Agency, and Gary Luke, Editor of Sasquatch Books.