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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Getting the Most from Writers Conferences



It's midweek, so time to talk about writing. First, according to the poll I did on the topic of writing goals, it appears that 50% of voters say they "make more progress when I have specific goals" vs. no goals, or even loose goals. *Eww, that sounds terribly close to a bad physical condition. 'Nuff said.* So, according to polling data, it would behoove us as writers to actually w.r.i.t.e. down our goals, break them into small and large chunks, and go after them systematically.

Second, I'm so so happy to see there have been inspiring good news announcements for blogging friends this week, as I predicted according to my trusty gut, there would be. Cannot wait to see if there'll be even more. Please please share it when you have it. If we can't toot our own horns and bang our own cymbals, how are we going to promote books, poems, short stories and other writing projects...and sell future work?

Here's a shortened form of a blog post I did for our beloved The Rose & Thorn Literary E-zine which I hope you will enjoy --

The success of writer’s conferences depend mainly on the quality of speakers and material presented, but there are several things participants can do to increase returns on the time and money invested to attend.

  • BE PREPAREDDO arrive fully prepared to work on your writing project. Have supplies including hard copies and digital copy (on disk/flash drive) of your polished writing project; pens and paper; business cards (even if temporary ones with just your name and email address made at Kinko’s or on home computer); laptop; and appropriately dressy and casual clothing and shoes. Bring your comfort items if not provided by the conference or hotel, such as a travel coffeepot, bottled water, a special pillow, and whatever helps you sleep soundly away from home. Be well-rested beforehand. Chances are, you won’t be getting as much sleep while away, so stock up on it before you arrive at the conference. If possible, plan to arrive early and/or stay late so you can relax and unwind. DON’T pack everything you own. Most hotels now provide blow dryers, irons and toiletries. Conference organizers will probably arrange for simple supplies on-site. Lots and lots of extra luggage and “stuff” to haul around will tire you unnecessarily.
  • SCHMOOZING –DO take every opportunity to interact with speakers, classmates, agents, and editors as much as possible, including breaks between sessions, social gatherings, at the coffeepot, and anywhere possible. If your conference is mostly breakout sessions or classroom style, think about bringing a small gift to the teacher and/or organizer. Most work hard to host a good conference and will appreciate the thought. After the conference, thank-you notes are always nice. DON’T stalk or harass conference presenters. They need downtime, too, and efforts to invade their personal space at every moment will not cause you to be remembered kindly. Maybe a speaker, organizer, agent, or publisher would enjoy dining with you if he/she doesn’t have plans, and either way, it never hurts to ask.
  • TAKING NOTES –DO bring a fully charged laptop if taking notes is easier on a keyboard vs. longhand if you will be at a table or desk. You may also want to “swap notes” with a fellow attendee afterward to make sure you’ve gotten as much solid information as possible. DON’T think you will remember all the information presented without having to jot down a few reminders. Most conferences are intensive and packed with important tips and how-to data you’ll want later.
  • AFTERWARD –DO transcribe notes while they are fresh. Organize handouts and information however it’s most useful and accessible. A three-ring binder might be helpful, or creating a new computer file may be more your style. Whatever method you choose, spend the extra time needed to get your notes in order to save time and effort later. Begin work on your writing, submitting, querying, or whatever your goal was before attending the conference. There’s something to be said for striking while the iron (and information) are hot, especially as it pertains to contacting agents, publishers, or speakers if given the green light. DON’T go home and get back to business as usual. Make the effort to compile and process the information you got at the conference and make a plan of attack concerning writing goals. While enthusiasm is at a peak, you’re more apt to make strides. Many agents, publishers and speakers travel frequently to conferences, so do not assume they will remember who you are and what your writing is about six months from now. Make contact as soon as possible after the event.

18 comments:

WendyCinNYC said...

Useful post. I never thought about a thank you note. My mama would not be proud of me!

Anonymous said...

Being prepared sounds like a mantra, but it works. The list works great except when the list gets lost and its back to square one.
Oh well, time to start another list.
Oren

Terri Tiffany said...

Excellent list!! I'm getting better at the schmoozing--that part takes some warming up to but I know that is the part that makes it all work! SO important to network at conferences. Can't wait to go to my next one!

Angie Ledbetter said...

LOL, Wendy. I bet Mom's always proud of her girl!

Oren, you can't fool me. I know as a good Boy Scout, you're ALWAYS prepared.

Thank you, Terri. When you get to that conf., just pretend you're talking to fellow bloggers. ;)

Janna Qualman said...

Ack, the schmoozing would definitely be my downfall. But, like Terri, I'm getting better at that, too. I'd have never tried to chat with people in such a setting before, but now I know I can at least fake confidence, if nothing else, and muddle through.

Thanks for the list!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Janna...put on one of your braver/bolder character's persona and go for it!

Kathryn Magendie said...

Hmm, I Can see the commercials now for "Loose Goals" HAW! laughing....

as always, a pleasure and learning experience, and laughter experience, when stopping by here.

Melissa Marsh said...

I have sort of "loose" goals because I found that when I had really tough goals, I never met them. But when I loosened things up a bit, I did a whole lot better.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Thanks, Kathryn. Hope you don't get struck down with a case of loose goals anytime soon! ;)

Melissa, glad you figured out the monkey wrench to more successful writing. Kudos.

Barbara J. Kirby Davis said...

Thanks a million for all the good information!

Pink Ink said...

Great suggestions. I always come away from writing conferences full to the brim, and I'm not sure I know where all that went...

Angie Ledbetter said...

You're more than welcome, Barbara.

Hey, Pink Ink! I hear ya on the after burn a conference brings, then we dwindle away from. Sometimes it helps to get those notes out and reread. ;)

The Paper Whisperer said...

Write? Write! I'm still reeling from "loose goals!" Wow, if that is what you get from a Writer's Conference, I'm not real sure I want to become a real writer. I'll just continue eating my words and NOT DRINKING THE WATER!! Huggage!

colbymarshall said...

I've not yet been to a conference, but I'm positive these suggestions will be useful when I go!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Aww, now don't be shy, PW. What ya got to lose except foot in mouth disease? You can always bring your own water too. ;)

Colby, I hope you get to a conference soon. Like Mardi Gras, it's something everybody should experience at least once.

Nannette Croce said...

This is so very important. I blew my first writer's conference bad. Turned out the workshop reader loved the piece I submitted, but I hadn't scheduled time to meet with her at the beginning of the conference (before I knew she liked my work) 'cuz I was too shy. I still kick myself about it.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Nannette, don't you just hate those woulda/coulda/shoulda moments? But, on a good note, you never forgot it or repeated the experience again, I bet. ;)

David Heeren said...

I don't know much about blogging yet, but you certainly have an attractive and cheerful blog. By the way, I'm not sure I'm ready to accept the word blog. Sounds a little, well, obscene.

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