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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Have You Been Yet?

Okay, so I'm going to delve into writing conferences today. This is not the first time we've discussed these blessed events on the blog. Oh no. Mary expounded on why she goes to conferences here. And then she gave some excellent advice on etiquette at a conference here. Both are worth your time.

Since I'm literally hours away from being on "the other side of the desk" at a writers' conference, I thought it would be a great time to revisit the topic.

I'm going to give you some tips as I prepare to not only attend classes at a conference, but PRESENT at one too. Tips from both sides, I suppose you could say.

As a (terrified) presenter, here's what I'm hoping each attendee will do--and what I try to do when I attend classes/workshops:

Learn one new thing in each class/workshop. Attitude is everything, and if you go into a class just expecting to learn one new thing, you'll be surprised by how much you hear.

Listen, don't write. I know, I know. This goes against everything I stand for too. I mean, we're writers, right? We write stuff down. But instead of writing every. single. thing. someone says, listen and interact with them. Make eye contact. Just absorb what they're saying, then write it in your own words, if you must.

Eat, talk, laugh. I found my critique group by eavesdropping on two people talking in the lunch line. I'm actually pretty embarrassed to admit that, but I'm also proud that I said something because those ladies are awesome. So converse. Smile. With the attendees and the presenters--after all, they're people too!

Be prepared. If you've signed up for pitches with editors/agents, be ready. Class/workshop schedules are usually online way in advance. Choose the classes you want to attend and prepare intelligent questions. And don't forget the chocolate. That's important too.

So, have you attended a writing conference before? What did you like? What did you wish were different/better? I seriously can't wait for Friday morning, even though I have to be somewhere at 6:30 AM. Because there's nothing better than hanging out with writers. And that alone is enough to attend a writing conference. So have you been yet?



Zoe C. Courtman said...

I've been thinking about conferences a lot lately - there are a couple coming up that I'd really love to attend. Trouble is, they're often so expensive! It just seems impossible - what do other writers do when they find themselves facing down hundreds in travel and conference registration costs?

Unknown said...

I've attended a few smaller SCBWI events, such as the Letters & Lines Conference. This weekend, I'm attending the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. I LOVE meeting other writers and I'm excited and nervous (about the whole live pitch thing).

Zoe - do you have any local conferences near you? The travel costs are much cheaper if you can drive there! Also, I helped judge a contest for the conference I'm attending this weekend and got a discount on my registration. Some conferences offer scholarships as well.

Christina Lee said...

Yeah I have, close to me. And I hope to go to a NY or LA one soon. Those are such good points. My first time I wrote down everything. And where are those stack of notes now? Who in the heck knows.
GODD LUCK, Ms. Elena!

Roni Loren said...

I've been to two local conferences this year and just signed up for RWA Nationals (my first national conference ever, yay!), so I'm a big fan of these. Beyond the incredible learning opportunities, meeting other writers is alway so much fun.

And I also find these are great for my motivation. When I'm dragging butt or hit a wall in my writing and I go to a conference or workshop, I always leave re-energized and excited. Good luck being on the other side of things! :)

Suzette Saxton said...

You'll do a wonderful job, Elana. :)

I ADORE conferences. So much so that I've decided to attend them all my life, no matter where I am in my writing journey.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I sooo need a conference. The last one I went to was put on by the Highlight's Foundation. I learned so much and made wonderful connections...

Unknown said...

I haven't been to any conferences yet. There's one in Chicago this weekend, I believe. I thought about going because it's right in my backyard, literally 20 minutes from my house, but didn't because even without travel expenses, I couldn't afford it this year. Maybe next year. :-(

Lisa K. said...

I haven't been to one yet, but I'm dying to go. And with my proximity to NYC, I keep telling myself there's no excuse...well except for the expense, that is, which for me has been prohibitive. Still, from what I hear from people who have attended conferences, the connections you can make are just priceless. So I think this is going to be the year I go. Time to start squirreling away funds I guess!

She Wrote said...

I'm on my way to the Maine Writers' & Publishers' Alliance conference this coming weekend (Portland, ME). My first for this group but I attended a RWA conference in San Francisco several years ago and the So. Calif. Writers conferences in both San Diego and Palm Springs.

What I learned is: Key Note Speakers late at night are often already into the party and not what you may have come to hear. If you've made friends with new writers there (and maybe are sitting with them), do not hesitate to leave something that isn't worth your time. You and your new friends may learn more by going off by yourselves and share whatever you've learned in workshops. Hint to Speakers: Your audience is with the attendees and not the sponsors so keep the inside jokes for later (alcohol, too).

Finding even one good panelist or workshop leader that you can connect with may be worth the price of the entire conference.

Yes, Listen instead of taking notes. (Maybe you can tape record the workshop which saves all that writing angst.) Make eye contact with speakers. The casual time around lunch and cocktails later is a gold mine waiting to be tapped into.

Making pitches to agents can not only be terrifying, it can be a "game" if they ask you to send materials and then write back that whatever you have written is not what they're looking for. Weren't they listening to the pitch - or really pay attention to the answers you gave to their questions?

Bottom Line: Conferences are worth the investment IF the topics are meaningful to you. But until you find a group that is really on the same wavelength as you are, "touch and go" landings may be wise.

And by all means, truthfully fill out evaluations provided. Having been a conference organizer in the past, the evaluations tell organizers which part to include the next time and which ones need to fly away.

Tracy Loewer said...

I'd love to go to one, but even the close ones are way too far away! One day, though. One day.

Alpha-Mom said...

I'm attending my very first conference ever in a couple weeks. All signed up and ready to go. I'm nervous/thrilled. I will definitely try to learn one thing, keep my ears open, and not be shy. Great advice.

Gail said...

I think going to conferences is soooo inspiring! I'm planning on going to the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA for the 1st time!!!! Pricey but I think the connections are worth it! Registration opens today!!!

Conda Douglas said...

Thanks for mentioning "listen"! So hard to do and yet so effective.

Michelle McLean said...

good luck on your presentation! You'll do awesome - let us know how it went! :)

Matthew MacNish said...

I tell myself I could never muster the courage to attend a conference, but of course I really could.

Best of luck with it Elana, I'm sure you'll do wonderfully!

Carolyn V. said...

Going this weekend! I love the people I meet and the opportunities I get to mingle with the professionals. It's awesome!

Nichole Giles said...

You'll be fantastic as a presenter. Can't wait to learn lots of new things from you.

Good luck.

Brooklyn Ann said...

Ah, the fabled conferences. I love hearing about them, but it will be years before I'll be able to attend one. The closest city to me that has them is 400 miles away.
For everyone that is fortunate enough to be able to attend a conference, please blog about the experience, so those of us who live "nowhere" can live viacariously. :)

Rhyanna said...

I would love to attend to a writers conference, unfortuantely without any income, let alone the conferences are soooo far away, I can't attend. That's why I often wished they'd hold an online conference. (Free preferably)
I live in Corvallis, OR...I would love to see one here. Unfortunately, I lack the $$ to get to Salem, let alone Portland or Seattle or down to California.
Also the fees to join writers groups are expensive as well.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Excellent advice Elana - especially "don't write" (which I would totally have done) and "Eat, talk, laugh".

Thanks! :-)

Liesl Shurtliff said...

Great advice!

For children's and YA writers you can follow the SCBWI conference blog.


Of course it's not the same as being there, but contributors post some great stuff from the conference. And all for free!

I'll be at my first conference this year in Utah with Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. Yippee!

KaraLee said...

Perfect timing for this post! I'm attending my first writers' conference this weekend (the Chicago-North RWA Spring Fling conference).

Good luck with your presentation, Elana. I'm sure you'll be great. Just pretend the audience is made up of all your blog followers- we all love you!

Natalie Aguirre said...

I love going to good SCBWI conferences and am going to one in Michigan May 1st. They are great for learning and making connections.

I know you'll do great as a presenter just from reading all your blog posts. I'd be more than nervous. Good luck.

Silke said...

Years ago I went to NJRWA's annual conference, and RWA National.
It was an interesting experience -- but I've never attended one purely as a writer.
Back then I ran an epub, and was there to support our authors and to promote the company.

The conferences tend to be in the US, if there are any in the UK, then I seem to be out of the loop for them.
I hear some of you on the "It's far away", but most of you talk hundreds of miles - rather than my three and a half thousand miles. (Although it works out the same, no matter how far you're away. If you can't go, then you can't go. Whether you're 30 miles away or 3000)
However, there are also online conferences, with online pitches, online workshops and virtual talks via video.
http://www.themuseonlinewritersconference.com/ is one of them, and best of all... it's free. So if you're stuck somewhere and broke - why not take part in this one?

Terri Tiffany said...

I'm headed to one in Seattle in two weeks and planning to do my first pitch. Not excited about that one!

Stina said...

I've become a SCBWI annual conference junkie. I get so awe inspired by the keynote speakers, I usually forget to write notes. Fotunately everyone blogs about it afterwards, so I don't have to write notes. :D