Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ten Tips for How to Behave at a Writers Conference

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

I'm heading off to the American Christian Fiction Writers conference today, so I might not be able to reply to comments for a while since I'm likely in an airplane at the moment. Going to conferences always takes me back to the first conference I ever attended and just how terribly clueless I was. That inspired me to write a blog post to help those who might be thinking of attending a writers conference someday and want to avoid walking around in utter bewilderment and embarrassing themselves.

Not that you can't ever recover from that. I seem to have managed to. But maybe that depends on who you ask!

So here they are. My ten tips for how to behave at a writers conference.

1. Don't put too much pressure on yourself for the event. I've done this, and it can nearly ruin the conference. I know you're excited to pitch, but if your book doesn't sell at this one conference, it's not the end of the world. Trust that you will find your place as a writer in time. Stressing and driving yourself insane with worry will not change that fact. So, do your best, but know that rejection makes you stronger and will bring you one step closer to acceptance.

2. Be friendly. Again, I know the idea of pitching to an editor or agent can be stressful, but they are just people, like you and me. They don't bite (as one agent once told me to try and calm me down). They are there to meet new writers. They want to hear your idea. So smile and do your best. But also look for other writers to be friendly to. They are just as stressed out as you and a friendly face might be exactly what they need to cheer them up.

3. Use common sense. Do not chase an editor or agent into the bathroom. If an agent rejects your book, don't argue with him. I've seen authors do both of these things, and I always cringe. I know. Authors are weird. But fight the urge to take that weirdness too far!

4. Come prepared with a one-sentence logline of your book. When people ask what your book is about, give your logline, then stop talking. Let that logline work for you!

5. Don't print out your book or book proposal and bring it along. You can print one chapter to show editors or agents who might ask to look at your writing, but they likely won't keep it. They don't want to haul all that stuff around the conference any more than you do!



6. If you meet your favorite author, say hello. I know it's scary. And even if you say something dumb (which I've done), know that authors realize how stressful writing conferences can be. Authors attend writing conferences because they want to give back. So they are not going to judge you for being excited. It's all good.

7. Learn all you can. Writer's conferences have staffs filled with experience and talent. Listen to the speakers. Glean wisdom. There is good stuff to be learned.

8. Bring business cards and trade them. Meet people. You never know, you might be meeting a future critique partner.

9. Take a deep breath and have fun. Just, really now... HAVE FUN!

10. Don't go home and change everything about your book. I know it's tempting. But take a few weeks to decompress. Think about the things you've learned. Then go back and carefully look at what changes you want to make.

Have you ever been to a writer's conference? Any advice you'd like to share? And if you've never been, why not? Get thee to a writers conference, posthaste!

31 comments:

  1. I've never been to a writer's conference before, but I would love to!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ooh, that sounds exciting! I've never really contemplated going, since I'm not quite the age for it... but maybe I should try sometime?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've never been to a writers conference- I think they are pretty much non-existent in New Zealand, but it would be amazing to go to one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should Google it, Wild Horse. I have friends who've been guest/keynote speakers at writer's conferences all over the work, like Australia and Kenya. You never know.

      Delete
    2. Hey there, Wild Horse. There are writers festivals/conferences annually throughout NZ in all the main centers. Nelson's Reader's and Writer's Fest is this October. ChCh just had their fest WORDCHCH, Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin all have them. Check Creative NZ website, you won't miss out :-)

      Delete
  4. I attended my first writing conference in June. At lunch on day one Jeff Gerke sat down opposite me at the table and asked what my book was about. My breath soared up into my throat. It took a moment to recover, but even then I could only stammer a flimsy excuse for a synopsis. Next time, I will bring a logline. Maybe I'll paste it to the back of my hand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! I think I would have the same reaction! Even if I had a logline and I'd practiced it, I would forget it as soon as someone like Jeff Gerke asked about it!

      Delete
    2. I would totally have done the exact same thing. Gaaah. That's exciting, though!

      Delete
    3. Jeff might look scary, but he is really nice. He helped me get past my sudden stutter, and asked me prompt questions like, who is your hero? Or, who is your villain? I didn't have one! That conversation helped me find out who the villain was.

      Delete
    4. Oh my gosh... I would have freaked out. Maybe as bad as I did when Amanda Leudeke asked what my book was about, LOL.

      Delete
  5. I would love to go to a writer's conference, but so far I haven't been able to afford it. :( I'm hoping to go to the ACFW conference next year.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Have fun at ACFW, Jill!!!! Slip someone a manuscript under the bathroom stall door! Do it! Call it research!

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is really good advice! I'm going to my first writers conference in a month and I'm so excited. One thing in this post I'd never thought of before is business cards - that's a great idea. I'm a perfectionist, so I like to have everything planned out completely before I jump in. Thanks for the help in preparing for the conference. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know how your feeling. I'm going to my first writers conference in a month too! I can hardly wait.

      Delete
    2. That's wonderful! I can hardly wait as well. :)

      Delete
    3. Yes, do get some cards. There are sites where you can get free ones!

      Delete
  8. I would love to go to a writers conference! Hopefully I will be able to next year.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I loved reading this post, thank you Jill. Unfortunately, my country doesn't know the awesome writer conferences America knows, but I have been to a small one in my town. I felt very nervous to meet the author who had critiqued the first 500 words, to hear the words of professionals and attend the small workshop that was included. Mostly the lesson learned: try to calm down, don't be nervous, and indeed afterwards let it all settle in and think about how it can help you in the long run!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks for this post, Jill! I'm actually going to be en route for the ACFW conference today too, so hopefully I'll be able to find you and say hi when I get there. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Did you find me, Grace? I met several teen writers... but I don't recall the name Grace, which I love, btw.

      Delete
  11. Thank you so much for the post, Jill! I've never been to a writers conference, but I have been to several writing meetings. They were terrifying because I showed up and I was by far the youngest one there! But, they were all worth it.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I've never been to a writer's conference but I'd love to! Thanks for the awesome post, Jill!

    Kat
    thewordsatplay.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'd love to go to a writers conference one day. Have fun! Thanks for the advice!

    ReplyDelete
  14. It would be fun to go to one, but I'd rather finish my novel first, plus my family doesn't have a ton of money.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I would so love to go to one, someday. Hope ACFW goes well! A friend of my parents is going to that conference :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Does anyone know any good writer's conferences that teens could go to in west US?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You'd have to do the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum first (oneyearnovel.com), but I highly recommend the OYAN Summer Workshop. I was there this June, and it's an awesome experience.

      Delete
    2. Oh, yes. OYAN is fabulous! There is also the Teen Author Boot Camp in April, which I'll be attending. It's only one day, so not too stressful. It's in Utah. And there is SCBWI in Los Angeles. There is a big one in Portland, Oregon. If you tell me your state, I can help a little better, Liz.

      Delete
  17. Love this post. I have not been to a writer's conference yet, but I will some day. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete

Home