September 14, 2008

Take a Chance: Am I a Conference Groupie?

I am a recent convert to conferencing. Just this year I attended my first writing conference. Two in fact, the first one was a Mini Conference, a one day event that was held locally. I wanted to try it on for size and see what all the fuss was about. I’d been told by writer friends that going to a conference needed to be experienced by every writer. Until this year I was unable to afford the expense or the time to attend.
I was pleasantly surprised by the professional quality of the event and by the welcome I received as a visitor to their circle. It was well organized and a true learning experience. The speakers were professionals in the publishing and agent fields who were helpful and eager to share their knowledge with us. We were treated to a great catered lunch and small breaks to mingle with the other participants. This first taste of conferencing was a tasty appetizer for the main course.

A few months later I headed for San Francisco and the national conference for RWA (Romance Writers of America). Or just “The Nationals” for short. There was nothing small about this conference. Being held in one of the largest and most diverse cities in the world made it the perfect setting for a writer. And as a first timer I learned and experienced more then I ever thought possible. Over the next five days I learned quite a few things I hope to put to good use on my next conference trip.

· Go with a friend. I originally planed on going alone but my writing buddy (Jackie) was able to go with me. We were able to share all the ups and downs of being the new writers on the block.

· Make and take business cards with you. Check. But you need to remember to pass them out and not forget them in your hotel room.

· Go a day early. We did and it was worth it to be able to check out the host city without the worries of meetings or schedules.

· Take a fold up wheel bag. Thanks go to Sandy for this tip. It wasn’t until the second day that I truly understood how many free books I could conceivably come away with.

· Don’t stress over the workshop list. So many classes to choose from left our minds in a mess for the first two days. Then a wonderful thing happened. You too can buy the Conference C.D. for one amazing low price. This piece of advice brought the realization that we could attend the classes we felt we would get the most from and six weeks later when the C.D. arrives we could listen to all the classes we missed at our leisure.

· Introduce yourself and say hi. To everyone you meet. This is a difficult thing to do if you are an introvert but this is the best place in the word to practice. Say hi when you sit down in a class, standing in line at a book signing and to the people sharing your table at the luncheons. Many of these people will be first timers also and will be glad someone else said hi first.

· Take your camera with you everywhere you go. A photo opportunity is a terrible thing to waste. Yes I did forget it in the hotel room. Twice. Ask. Most of the authors and presenters are happy to pose for a photo with or without you in it. Most will ask you to email them a copy.

· Have fun. This should be a given. But it can be easy to lose site of this important goal under all the desire to step up your writing career. So just remember to take a deep breath and let it out slowly and look around you. Take in all the emotional electricity. Store it all away to be remembered and used another day.

I was so energized by the Conference and the City by the Bay that I can hardly wait for the next one. Plans are already being made.
The last best thing about going to the conference for me was five days of no laundry, no dishes, no cleaning, and no 9 to 5. No demands except from myself, no expectations except for myself and no responsibilities except to myself.

I’m looking for more tips to add to the list.
Give me your best shot.

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At September 15, 2008 at 8:27 AM , Blogger Marilyn said...

I love to go to writers' conferences. Don't pass up the PSWA writers conference if you're interested in any kind of crime writing.


At September 16, 2008 at 10:10 AM , Blogger Sunny Frazier said...

A couple other suggestions for conferences:
Wear comfortable clothes that pack well, and comfy shoes.
Pick up plenty of freebies off the give-away tables.
Take a nap. 2 days will feel like four.
Take notes--not just for content, but also anecdotes about authors. This makes great blog material.


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