Today I'm pleased to welcome the Lovely Lynne Schmidt who is talking about writers conferences, seriously good stuff in here. Glad to have her aboard! Take it away Lynne--
Do I really want to do this? I asked myself this question for days before approaching a college professor. "There's a writing conference my sister wanted me to go to. It's like $40, I'll have to miss some classes, and it's in Denver. Should I go?"
She looked at me and said, "you want to go."
I probably asked her why, or some other equally obvious question, but her answer didn't change. "You want to go."
Soon enough, I packed a suitcase full of what I considered dress clothes (khaki pants, collared shirts, one single hoodie), told my professors I'd miss a couple of days, and headed to Denver, where I met up with my sister, and her friend. From there, we toured the town, checked in, and I rifled through a large book that had the following days' events.
I don't remember which panels I went to (though I still have all the notes). I don't remember who said what. I do remember laughing, hard, during some of the panels. I remember getting influenced to be brave and write, and not care what other people think. I also remember, that it was cold, and hoodies were expensive, and my youthful vanity told me it was wrong to wear the same hoodie two days in a row. Because it was reversible, I turned it inside out, and met a poet during her signing time. I said, "I'm not sure you remember me, but we talked yesterday..." and to my horror, she responded with, "I do remember you! But your hoodie was the other way yesterday..." ::Cringe::
After this conference, I sat at home and went through my notes and the back of my notebook. It was COVERED in ideas, poems, short stories I wrote in between panels.
When I came back, my professor found me and asked, "Are you glad you went?"
I couldn't thank her enough for pushing me out of my hesitation.
That first conference was the start of everything writing. Years later, I found myself working three jobs to be able to afford conferences in Seattle, D.C., Chicago, or in Orlando. I constantly save money and schedule my life around conference season.
Because there are agents. There are editors. Sometimes you're allowed to pitch to them. If not, you can talk to them. But the best part? There are other authors, other writers. Some are published. Some are not. No matter what everyone is supportive and encouraging. I've found some of my best beta readers through conferences. I've met some phenomenal agents at conferences. Even better than that? You get free pens.
More than you can possibly imagine or go through in five years.
Since that crash course, I've found that attire needs to be comfortable in case you get lost for two hours on foot (which happened, in Seattle). Jeans are usually not acceptable (I've heard agents say if a person is not dressed for success, they'll reject on principle). Business cards are a MUST (you trade them). A good piece of advice? If you get a card from someone, write which panel you were in when you go it. Or some other tidbit, because when you come home with 50+ cards, it's hard to remember who that memoirist was...(which one was she? The blue or purple card?) And snacks...your bag needs to be full of two things. 1) Notebooks and pens and 2) SNACKS.
The time you spend there, even if you only ever make it to one, is invaluable. So to answer the question, Do I really want to do this? The answer for me is, Yes. Always. But remember to budget and plan ahead.
Lynne Schmidt is a writer and snowboarder. Phobic of plastic, commitments, and feet. Caffeine intolerant, curse like a sailor, owner of an awesome but water loathing dog.