by Mindy Obenhaus
Conference season is upon us and the excitement is building. Whether you are a regular attendee of writers’ conferences or this is your first, you need to approach your conference experience with the right attitude. So today I thought I'd share a few tips to help guide you to a productive and enjoyable conference.
DO expect to learn –
No matter what writers’ conference you choose to attend, you can expect to come away with some new knowledge. It may be a different way to plot or how to market your books. It can be something as simple as finding out that the publisher you’ve been targeting is no longer looking for the genre you’re writing.
Before you head off to your conference, look at the classes being offered and see which ones would serve you best at this point in your writing career. If you’re a relatively new author or you haven’t submitted a manuscript yet, a course in marketing your book might not be the best fit for you right now. However, a class on how to increase tension and emotion in your story could benefit you greatly.
DON’T be disappointed if the agent/editor you meet with does not ask to see your work –
There are many reasons an agent/editor won’t request your work. Yes, it could be that they feel like your project needs more work. That, based on your pitch, your story needs to be more focused or have a better hook. But that’s not the only reason.
Editors know what their readers want and are looking for projects that will fill that desire because their goal is to sell books. Perhaps your story isn’t a good fit for their line. Don’t take it personally. Don’t storm off in a snit and then bad-mouth the editor/agent. Yes, I have actually seen people do this. Agents/editors are business people. They’re not trying to be mean. If they don’t ask to see your work, simply thank them for their time, suggest that, perhaps, you could work together at some point in the future and then go on your merry way. Because the last thing you want to do is burn a bridge you might need in the future.
DO expect to meet new people –
One of the best things about a writers’ conference is that you go into it knowing that you have at least one thing in common with everyone else who’s there. Writing! And you could even throw in a love for books. If it’s a Christian writers’ conference, then there’s one more thing you have in common. Even if you’re an introvert, those things make it easy to strike up a conversation. Let’s say you’re sitting in a room, waiting for the next workshop to start. Someone asks if the seat next to you is taken. You say no, they sit down and BOOM, the conversation has already started. Introduce yourself. This will likely lead to questions about what you write. You exchange business cards and who knows where that chance meeting will lead. Or someone introduces you to someone else. You discover they write Amish Vampire Romance too and the connection is made.
On the flip side of that coin, if you’re used to hanging with a few specific people and you meet a newbie who looks like a deer in the headlights, invite them into your fold. I know the ladies of Seekerville are great about that and it’s always nice to feel like you belong.
DON’T compare yourself to other writers –
The more conferences you attend, the more people you will know. And it’s sometimes a tough pill to swallow when you run into Lucy, a conference friend you thought was at the same level as you in your writing career and then learn that she’s received a three-book contract while you’re still collecting rejection letters. Of course, you’re happy for Lucy, but inside you’re wondering when it’s going to be your turn.
The first thing you need to remember in a situation like that is YOU’RE NOT LUCY. You’re YOU (if your name happens to be Lucy, then insert another name) and God has a plan for YOU. It’s unique, designed specifically for YOU. Rejoice in the fact that the Creator of the universe has His eye on YOU, that’s He’s called YOU to something no one else can do and He will reveal it to YOU in due time. YOU simply need to be obedient in what God has called YOU to do.
DO expect to be flexible –
When things don’t go as planned, think of it as an opportunity for something even better. Say that workshop you’ve been looking forward to attending more than any other is full to the gills and you can’t get in. Instead of getting upset, take the opportunity to find another workshop or take a timeout in the lobby or coffee shop. Sometimes those timeouts can lead to chance meetings. Or as I like to call them, divine appointments. Be open to whatever God might have in store for you.
DON’T overdo it –
Conferences can be exhausting. Especially if you and your roommate that you only get to see once a year like to stay up late chatting. Even if you’re an in-bed-by-ten kind of person you may still find yourself feeling a little worn out. Between all of the excitement, events, learning and interacting with others, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. If you start feeling as though your head might explode, know that it’s okay to retreat. Go back to your room, put your feet up and recharge. You don’t have to attend every workshop on your list. Ask someone to share their notes with you or purchase the recordings. Know your limits.
A writers’ conference can propel your writing and create lasting friendships if you have the right mindset. And behaving in a professional manner and keeping a positive attitude is the right approach for the best possible outcome.
Now it’s your turn. Are you headed off to a conference this year? Will this be your first or have you been before? If you’re a seasoned conference attendee, what’s your best advice for newbies? And if you’re a newbie, do you have any questions for us seasoned folks?
Three-time Carol Award nominee, Mindy Obenhaus, writes contemporary romance for Love Inspired Books. She’s passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren at her Texas ranch. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com