Writing Conferences–Beware of Crossing Deer

Happy Good Friday! I hope everyone has a restful holiday. We are entering the conference season, and there are a lot of large conferences coming up soon. So, today I’d like to relay my disaster experience with my first conference and then offer the powerful lessons I learned.

Remember, I made all the dumb mistakes so you don’t have to.

I have to say that I have attended quite a few conferences, and the DFW Writer’s Workshop folk have been one of the best (It was also my first, so it will always hold a dear spot in my heart). This year the keynote speaker is New York Times Best-Selling Author James Rollins. The DFWWWW Conference has a history of selling out early, so seriously, buy your slot NOW.  You’ll thank me later. DFW offers an amazing variety of classes, taught by some of the best talent in the industry.

I mean, I am teaching there, right? :D

Ouch. I got a cramp patting myself on the back.

It is so interesting looking back now at my first conference. A lot has changed. I am a multi-published, best-selling NF author represented by one of the top agencies in the world, S.G.G. Literary, as opposed to a hopeful wanna-be fiction writer. I am a speaker, not an attendee.

It still feels very surreal, and I still keep thinking one day the gig will be up and they’ll realize I was on the list by accident. But, hey *shrugs* we’ll party until they figure it out, right? :D.

Anyway, looking back at my first conference is sort of like being out of college and looking back at that time of trial and testing and thinking…I am so much smarter now. Or, thank God I am not still THAT stupid. In my case, it’s a close tie which.

My first conference was back in February of 2008. I was an overachiever and got Swine Flu a year before it swept the world. For most of February, I had 103 fever and wanted to die…then burn my own ashes (again) because I was pretty sure I was so sick that even my cremated remains would have body ache. I nearly didn’t make it to the conference (which was DFW).

I was so sure that 2008 would the year I got an agent. All I needed was an agent and then my life would be on Easy Street. My biggest concern was what to do if the agents started fighting over me. How would I choose which one to go with? Would it make future cocktail parties in NY awkward?

Yes…I was a wee delusional, and sadly, I cannot blame it on my fever.

And, to make it worse, I should have known better, but I didn’t. I had been on the editing side and had many, many acknowledgements in published books from grateful authors who professed publicly that they would not have been published without my help. I’d run a well-established critique group for 3 years and had even been teaching some social media. I felt pretty confident that I knew my stuff.

I find it funny how I had been in “the publishing industry” for so long, yet was still pretty clueless. I think I was like the computer programmer who believed he could kick butt in software sales. I knew so much, but in my pride and relative isolation, was unable to see how much more I had yet to learn.

Conferences are vital for showing us how much we really don’t know (but then they give us the tools to remedy that, too).

So, anyway, that Friday night, the agent-author social went really well. I was charming and fun in my own mind, and managed to make it through the entire night without tucking my dress in my pantyhose. I think that was the last thing to go right for the next 24 hours.

First, for those who do not know, I have a zillion food allergies. I might even be allergic to myself. I would live in a giant bubble, but I can’t get cable. So keep this in mind.

Hey, can somebody order me gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, preservative free pizza? Please? Anyone?

The Friday social goes well, but that night I get no sleep. None. I was too excited. I was going to be an agented author by this time the next night. My future was so bright, I was fairly sure it had caused permanent retinal damage.

The next morning I peeled myself out of bed and drove to Grapevine, TX, which was about an hour away. I looked stunning in my new suit, but I was so fried that I forget to grab the food I’d packed the night before. I arrived at the conference half-starving already and it wasn’t even 8:00 a.m. That entire morning, I barely paid attention to any of the craft classes because 1) I was exhausted 2) I was starving and 3) I had my agent pitch right after lunch…which I could smell and it was making me half-mad.

I dodged out of a class early to talk to the caterer and asked if he had anything that was gluten and dairy free. He said “Yes.” The angels started singing. YES! I could get something to eat. I grabbed my meal and began wolfing it down prison-style, knife at the ready to stab any of the kitchen staff who might decide to take my plate before I had eaten the garnish and the Sweet & Low packets (fiber).

I finished eating before the other writers were even let out of class. I was feeling great. The writers filed in. I started socializing to take my mind of the pitch that I knew would catapult me to fame and fortune.

Candy Havens stepped up to do her keynote and…

My heart rate suddenly kicked up to 150 beats a minute, and felt like I was having a heart attack. I felt dizzy and my fingers and feet went totally numb, along with part of my face. I struggled to stay conscious as I watched Candy’s speech. I couldn’t get up and interrupt her, but I was terrified that I was going to pass out right there. My peripheral vision was soon gone. Black. And I could tell I was inches from blacking out. Clearly I got into something I was allergic to. I chugged every glass of water at the table trying to dilute whatever foul element I ingested.

I hung on Candy’s every word…waiting for the last one. The second people start clapping I dove out of the banquet hall and stumbled to the bathroom. I was in bad shape. A couple of the speakers happened to be in there and apparently it was clear to them that something was definitely wrong with me. They wanted to take me to a hospital.

NO! I had come too far. I could do this.

I still had an hour until my pitch session…the 15 minutes that would change my life forever…although I did grant permission to call an ambulance if I passed out.

During that hour, I drank another gallon of water and the symptoms, blessedly, started to subside. About a half hour after I staggered into the restroom, another woman stumbled into the bathroom with a screaming migraine. Apparently the caterer forgot to mention the liberal amounts of MSG (monosodium glutamate) in the broth used to cook the rice. We were both in pretty bad shape.

Thus, I missed another craft class trying to be at least coherent for the agent pitch. I got into the room and my beautiful suit is all rumpled and my hair is flat on one side (from leaning on a chair trying not to die).  I am also pretty certain I only had makeup on one eye.

I sit down and begin to talk, but have no idea what point I am trying to make…and now I have to pee. Like BAD. Like 12 seconds after I sit down I am now aware of the 6 gallons of water I drank. So now I am wiggling and trying to think, but all I can picture are waterfalls and sprinkler systems and babbling brooks and speaking of babbling, what the hell was my book about anyway?

It was a disaster.

But, an hour after the pitch session, I felt better and I finally got to do what conferences are all about. I made loads of friends and connections, and took some great classes to improve my skills. I learned so much at that conference and met some of the most AMAZING people who are my friends even to this day. Candy Havens is still one of my all-time favorite people, and it is really cool to now be one of her peers instead of this strange neophyte-stalker.

Okay, I am still strange and slightly a stalker but she now doesn’t jump when she spots me in her shrubs.

Anyway, I look back and wonder if I would have just lightened up and gone for the conference for the right reasons, would I have had my near-death experience? I was so keyed up that I made one dumb decision after another, which was probably fueled by stress and sleep deprivation.

I gave myself Deer in the Headlight Syndrome. You know what happens the deer caught in the headlights? They get creamed, flattened, squished.

Hopefully, I made my point. RELAX! ENJOY your conference experience. Making the decision to attend a conference separates the wanna-bes from the professionals. Conferences are the best, and they are the greatest investment you will ever make in your writing career, but NOT because of that 15 minute pitch session.

The pitch session is not a career make-or-break situation. Seriously, agents (I have heard whispers of rumors coming from the caves) are HUMAN. More importantly they are humans with the sole job of finding writers to represent. They are not the enemy. Also, the only person with the power to make or break our career is….US. Agents do not hold that power. If we write excellent stuff, agents will want to represent it. Period.

Also, we can talk to agents outside the pitch session. I don’t recommend sliding your query letter under the bathroom stall, and try not to ambush them outside the Ladies Room door, but here is a little understood secret. Agents go to conferences to network and to…. Are you ready for this? FIND CLIENTS.

We can talk to them. In fact, agents expect writers will talk to them. To think otherwise is like thinking it would be rude to offer a designer a fabric swatch at a trade show. Agents go to writing confernces to meet writers and, hopefully, out of aaaallllll the hopefuls, find someone with content that they believe they can sell.

We are in control of our careers, which means that yes, agents are important, but connections and classes trump agents any day of the week. The more connections we have, the more doors of opportunity will come our way. The more we listen to others and learn from them, the faster we grow and mature into the type of writer an agent is dying to represent.

In the end, after all of my suffering, did I get an agent? No. I got a form letter with the wrong name on it. But, it was probably one of the most valuable experiences of my career, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Top 5 Tips to Maximize Your Writing Conference

1. Go to all the craft classes you can.

Trust me, no matter how good we think we are, we aren’t even close to how great we COULD be. Go to more than just agent panels and “How to Land an Agent” classes. Take this opportunity to grow into a better you. Grab hold of that opportunity to learn from those doing what you want to do. Ask questions. Take lots of notes. Team up with friends and take all the classes and then share notes. Often there are tricks and techniques shared that we can’t get out of a book.

2. Network

Also, at conferences, we get to network with authors who are where we want to one day be. We can make hostages mentors out of them. I stalked Candy Havens…okay, I still stalk her. But she is an AMAZING human being and five minutes listening to her will make you feel like you can take over the world. She is the only person I know who can simultaneously kick my @$$ and make me grateful for it. I have a conference to thank for knowing her. Candy challenged me to come up to a higher level and she STILL does. This is worth more than what you will pay for the conference. TRUST ME.

3. Talk to all the agents.

Not necessarily to pitch your book, but just to be nice. You might see them at another conference and they will recognize you. Now you are forming a relationship. This also helps you see they are really blood-sucking werewolves human.

You can talk to agents other than the one assigned in your pitch. The pitch session just guarantees us a particular agent’s undivided attention. It doesn’t mean that the other agents will take out a restraining order on you if you say “hi” and ask to give your elevator pitch.

4. Have FUN!

Conferences aren’t cheap. Squeeze every bit if fun out of every little moment. Get your money’s worth.

5. Go out of your way to form memories.

This is like high school or college. We can either have a blast in our “learning years” and take lots of pictures and have lots of fun…or we can rush through it and fail to enjoy our “writing youth” because we are to busy wanting to be “writing grown-ups.” We only get to be Baby Writers once. Enjoy the moments of magic before this becomes a job. Enjoy the youth because you will soon have to let it go.

So what are some of your conference experiences? Good or bad? Some of my closest friends are people I met at conferences. Do you have any advice? Tips? Pointers? Want to recommend a conference? Want me to come speak at a conference in your area? Put it in the comments. I love hearing from you.

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of April I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Due to the tornadoes, I am behind. Will announce last week and this week’s winners on Monday. Thank you for your patience.

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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  1. #1 by cnicolewhite on April 6, 2012 - 9:01 am

    I just signed up for the She Speaks conference (I am more interested in speaking than writing, tho I love to blog) and this post was exactly what I needed to read! Thanks for the encouragement, and the laughter at your expense. Glad I don’t have any food allergies, but I am sure something else can pop up to mortify me!

  2. #2 by EllieAnn on April 6, 2012 - 9:02 am

    this was great, ha! made me giggle. I love your sense of humor.

  3. #3 by adamgaylord on April 6, 2012 - 9:06 am

    Posts like this are the reason I follow this blog. Great stuff!

    • #4 by Author Kristen Lamb on April 6, 2012 - 9:08 am

      Awwww *hugs* THANK YOU.

  4. #5 by E.K. Carmel on April 6, 2012 - 9:11 am

    I’m attending my first writing conference in June and this post is helpful not only for what I *should* do, but for what I *shouldn’t* do. Thanks, Kristen, you’re awesome at takin’ one for the team!

  5. #6 by Judy on April 6, 2012 - 9:13 am

    This is allll so true. Sorry about the allergic reactions tho. My first conferences went something like yours too. I look back and cringe. I used to go for the craft thingeee but now it seems that if I don’t go I won’t get to see Leeann, Hannah, and the list goes on. That is not a happy thought. Friendships are made and they are wonderful especially the real hug you get when you see each other. That, you don’t get on FB. Just kidding about the craft sessions tho. Invaluable and those who so graciously share their knowledge should be blessed abundantly. As are those who help make conferences happen. Thanks for your sage advice.

  6. #7 by Adriana Ryan on April 6, 2012 - 9:25 am

    “In the end, after all of my suffering, did I get an agent? No. I got a form letter with the wrong name on it.”

    Oh my gosh. I almost DIED laughing. Died. :D Kristen, I’m really sorry you had such a horrible first-time experience, but you really are something else! Seriously, I don’t know anyone else who, after being almost poisoned, would get up, brush it off, and turn it into a joke to teach others. :D Thank you.

    I’m planning on going to the RWA conference in 2013, and I’m preparing myself. Yes, I know I’m a whole freaking year early. But that’s how absolutely terrified I am (INFJ here, can you tell?). This post really helped ease my mind!

    • #8 by Author Kristen Lamb on April 6, 2012 - 9:32 am

      LOL. Thanks. Hey, we have two choices. We can be sour and serious or we can laugh, and laughing is sooooo much more fun :D.

  7. #9 by donnagalanti on April 6, 2012 - 9:25 am

    I can so relate to all of this, Kristen! OMG, I laughed and cringed throughout your post!

    I attended my 1st conf last March and was sick to my stomach and got no sleep for days and then partied with new friends. Hence the terrible hangover with my editor appt. the next day. Thought I’d throw up all over her. I think I sweated the entire conf. with a racing pulse (and I didnt have food allergies). I knew no other writers, the thought of talking to an agent made me want to faint, and I just knew I didnt belong there! I went back last month to the same conf. and how wonderful an experience it was to meet up with old friends, feel like I do belong, and learn so much. It was also the month my book released – through the publisher I met there a year ago.

    So bravo to you for facing your fears – its the only way we can get there! And I sincerely hope you never eat conf. food again and get sick!

  8. #10 by Lanette on April 6, 2012 - 9:26 am

    I went to my first conference last year (DFW), and the best part of the conference was Weronika Janczuk’s class on craft. She had a lot of information to give, and the speed at which she spoke reminded me of CX debaters. I couldn’t take notes on half of what she said, but the parts I was able to gleen from her rapid-fire speech made me look at every scene I write in a new way, and that one class was worth the money I paid.

  9. #11 by Turndog Millionaire on April 6, 2012 - 9:28 am

    wow, great tips for the conference world, and an even better story :)

    i’m glad you didn’t pass out, but it certainly made fora good read.

    I’ve never been to a writers conference before, but it’s on my list to do in the coming months. I certainly want to get to at least one before 2012 is over with. When i do, i shall revisit this post and take many notes

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  10. #12 by Monique on April 6, 2012 - 9:36 am

    Thank you for this Kristen. This comes at the perfect time for me. I’m attending my first conference next week and, to be honest, I’m scared to death- I dont know anyone, what if I say something stupid, what if I walk into the wrong class, what if what if what if. Your list of “do’s and dont’s” will be put to good use over here. Thanks again!

  11. #13 by broadsideblog on April 6, 2012 - 9:45 am

    I’ll be at the American Society of Journalists and Authors conference in NYC April 26 and 27 and I’d urge any of your readers who work in non-fiction to check it out (I’m on the board, so I am biased!) Lots of agents attending and speaking.

    I’ve been going to it for years and remember my initial sweaty-palmed envy of the Big Names on panels. I’ve since been on those panels, published two NF books, made terrific friends around the country, served six years on the board — and just got a referral for a writing gig that would cover my monthly expenses from a board pal.

    There is no downside to a conference, even if (which happens) some of the panels are awful. I just spent a fantastic day in SF with a friend 14 years my junior who I met when we shared a room (having never met) at the Neiman conference in Boston maybe a decade ago. Even just chatting over lunch or in the line-up for the ladies’ (or mens’) room can lead to a new friendship or helpful contact.

    Friends, wisdom, insights, contacts. It’s all good.

  12. #14 by kristin nador on April 6, 2012 - 9:54 am

    Great post, Kristen! I appreciate your willingness to share ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ to help the rest of us. That takes guts! :) I am attending my first writing conference (OWFI) in OKC in May and I’m excited to learn new craft stuff but terrified about the networking/social aspect of it. But I’m shaking off my high school loser-nerd mentality and I’m going to be the beautiful butterfly in the room – just like you! :) (That’s what I’ll be telling myself, anyway.) Thanks for the great tips. You rock, as always.

    • #15 by Author Kristen Lamb on April 6, 2012 - 11:13 am

      You will LOVE OWFI. That is where I met NYTBSA Bob Mayer. I actually believe that I would never have had enjoyed such wonderful success without that pivotal connection. Conferences will connect us to those wonderful authors like Bob and Candy who are so generous to give their time and attention.

  13. #16 by Fabio Bueno on April 6, 2012 - 10:12 am

    LOL, Kristen! I was reading, laughing, and nodding. I’ve had some of the same experiences at my first conference. Even as a veteran, I still did rookie thinks: last year, I drew a blank and became speechless when Scott Westerfeld talked to me.
    In two weeks, my “conference season” begins (at least 3 this year) so this post was a great reminder of the priorities when going to one. Thanks!

  14. #17 by Cindy Sample on April 6, 2012 - 10:16 am

    This is such a timely post, Kristen. I co-chaired the Left Coast Crime Convention in Sacramento last week and the one thing we stressed was for everyone to network, make new friends and just have a great time. And if there is a hospitality suite check it out. Nothing like bonding over brownies or lemon squares! We’re all on this journey together, no matter what stage we’re at. Thanks for the morning giggles, Kristen.

  15. #18 by Cristin Harber on April 6, 2012 - 10:19 am

    This post made me laugh out loud. I went to my first conference in January. While I didn’t have an allergic reaction or sleep deprivation, I left my newborn at home for the first time (maybe I was sleep deprived, actually). So when I wasn’t texting my husband, “are you sure you’re okay? Seriously, you can tell me if anything is wrong…”, I was in a bathroom/ abandoned hallway/ facing a corner, trying to pump. I never realized how loud those things were. It was like a homing beacon for uncomfortable conversations.

    But I survived all of that, learned a lot and cannot wait until the next one I can go to. And I’d love to hear you speak.

    The best tip I received was if I memorize my pitch, say it as though I was in a conversation with the agent. I think that helped!

  16. #19 by Catherine Johnson on April 6, 2012 - 10:19 am

    That was so funny, I wish I’d have been there. I love what you said about being a writer baby. Now I’ve got to decide quickly if I’m going to Niagra conference. Thanks for your pearls of Wisdom, Kristen!

  17. #20 by Sel Hudson on April 6, 2012 - 10:35 am

    Such a funny and informative post! I love your blog Kristen, I always leave with something when I read your blog. I tense myself up badly with high expectations when it comes to writing conferences, so I’m grateful for your reminder to enjoy the experience, have fun, take in craft classes, and network network network. Thank you!

  18. #21 by Jane Sadek on April 6, 2012 - 10:45 am

    Thanks for being honest about how awful all of this can seem. It’s nice to know it’s not just me!

  19. #22 by SJ Driscoll on April 6, 2012 - 11:00 am

    Glad I’m not the only one! My first writers’ conference was Desert Dreams, where on the first night I crashed the agent/publisher cocktail hour and ate the buffet at the music teachers’ conference—absolute deer-in-headlights! (And hungry.) While I was hiding out in the lobby, emotionally exhausted, Diana Gabaldon made a grand entrance, headed straight for me and had me guide her to the auditorium where she was going to speak. Do we ever forget our first time?

  20. #23 by Mare Chapman on April 6, 2012 - 11:23 am

    Thanks for the morning laughs…I snickered and giggled all the way through. And as usual, your blog is full of great tips and suggestions. On of these days, I will make it to a conference.

  21. #24 by authorleannedyck on April 6, 2012 - 11:25 am

    Last year I attend my first conference—as a published author. I went with a trusted, supportive writing friend and we had so much fun. Beyond that, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I connected with other writers, sat on a panel and meet with an agent. In fact, I even took an elevator ride with her. And, you know, the rumours are right—agents are human.
    Thank you for your unique brand of humour and helpful advice.

  22. #25 by tomburkhalter on April 6, 2012 - 12:02 pm

    Kristen, along with the good advice, the laughter was PRICELESS. Are you sure you don’t have a second/third career waiting somewhere as a standup comic? And did I mention that I REALLY needed the laughs! I particularly enjoyed the picture of you at your first conference. I do believe I have a similar picture of myself around somewhere — no, probably a couple dozen!

    Thanks again!

  23. #26 by deb reilly on April 6, 2012 - 12:10 pm

    After reading about your MSG experience, I’m going to stop thinking I have it so bad. (Why don’t chefs know that co-mingling gluten-free pasta with wheat pasta is a big fat NO!)

    I loved the “actual photo” and the conference tips.

  24. #27 by Aspergers Girls on April 6, 2012 - 12:28 pm

    Very informative and interesting. Thank you. Loved the deer pictures. I write a blog about living with Aspergers. I love it. Writing everyday. I’ve been writing for years. For me, spending years writing daily and studying other authors’ styles helped me to find my voice. I have dyslexia, so writing well has been a huge accomplishment.

    I love my readers and hearing their stories. I love reaching out and helping others. I used to be a school teacher; now I am a teacher through my blog. Thanks for your words. I haven’t ventured to a conference, yet. Don’t know if I will. As a woman with Aspergers, large crowds aren’t my idea of fun. Although, I did enjoy teaching conferences, years ago.

    Thanks ~ Sam :) Everyday Aspergers

    (Have yet to figure out spell check for my new laptop; so hopefully I caught all my errors. lol.)

  25. #28 by Marcy Kennedy on April 6, 2012 - 1:05 pm

    I couldn’t agree more about craft classes. I find there’s always a new way of looking at things that helps me see even an old topic (or even something I’m good at) in a fresh way and it makes me better.

    Lisa Hall-Wilson and I always go to conferences together and we use a divide-and-conquer strategy with the classes. We try not to go to the same ones, and we both takes notes and then switch afterward.

  26. #29 by Lana Thompson on April 6, 2012 - 1:36 pm

    What a great post. So informative and funny! I was choking with laughter in my cubicle at work trying not to let my co-workers notice I was reading something non-work related!

    I loved the baby writer concept. Even though, I am probably in pre-natal stages of writing, I immediately followed your advice and signed up for Muse 2012 in Boston. I am completely clueless about writing, but networking has always been a huge part of my business life. Why should not it be the same in writing?

  27. #30 by Gina Fava on April 6, 2012 - 3:39 pm

    Kristen, I love your posts, but this is the best so far. I’m headed to a conference that I hit two years, ago, but this time with two novels instead of one, and both professionally edited. Crossing my fingers until they turn blue. You’re so right about the craft sessions and all that one can learn, as well the friends that one can make. Conferences are nerve-wracking, but also a blast. Thanks for the great post.

  28. #31 by Susan J on April 6, 2012 - 3:57 pm

    I discovered your blog after wandering in to WordPress, while trying to comment on a blogpost from a FB friend. Finding myself face to face with an offer to blog for myself, I took the plunge, and once I began exploring my new digs, your blog soon became a favorite to follow. I’m a neo- (ok, pre-) natal writer with lots of ideas and some notes, yielding a few pages of what could conceivably become a “real” book at completion. Your insights, instuctions and cautions have been like milk for my budding interest. I’d love to hear your (or other readers’) advice on this question re: writers’ conferences. For fiction writing that will reflect the spiritual experiences of characters, does the offering of a general writers’ conference fit, or would I gain more from a “Christian” writers’ conference. My goal is a high quality book that will appeal to a wide audience, not necessarily the just average Christian fiction reader. Remember I haven’t been reading the blog (or writing) long, so if this is a really dumb question, please be gentle!

    • #32 by Author Kristen Lamb on April 7, 2012 - 9:12 am

      We all start somewhere, and you are new, not dumb ;). I would recommend a local conference first. Get that grassroots support in your community. Conferences are lovely for networking and if you can meet people in your area, that will be invaluable. Where do you live? That might help me answer better. No need to give street addresses, LOL, but if I have an idea of city I might have better recommendations. Also the people who comment on this blog are super smart and super helpful, so I rely on them a lot. It is wonderful not having to know everything, yet still get to know everything.

      • #33 by Susan J on April 7, 2012 - 9:42 am

        I like the idea of a local conference. I live in central MS, about a hour east of Jackson (small town of Bay Springs). I have gotten on the email list for the Southern Christian Writers Conference, which sponsors Breeze Hill Writing Retreat in Northport, AL. I’d love information on any other groups (“Christian” or otherwise) in the area. DFW would be do-able “one of these days”, as well. Your response is certainly appreciated, and the tone of your blog is appreciated.

        • #34 by Susan J on April 7, 2012 - 9:49 am

          Ok, hit “Post” before I was finished and had “proofed” that (like I double-posted my original comment – like I was trying to get my name in the hat twice!). Anyway, thanks again.

  29. #35 by Pauline Baird Jones on April 6, 2012 - 4:00 pm

    My first pitch was with an editor. I’d looked over the list and found the ONLY editor who listed romantic suspense as an interest. Waaaay nervous as I sit down and get ready to do my pitch and editor asks me, “Tell me about your historical.” Yeah, deer in headlights. She didn’t believe me that her blurb listed romantic suspense. So had to dig sheet out and prove it. Then she agrees to listen, but by then, totally freaked out.

    Agent confession moment: I picked my first agent because she was wearing this darling, denim dress. True. She was good agent, but her boss wasn’t. Did better with second agent. LOL!

    Great post!

  30. #36 by Susan J on April 6, 2012 - 4:22 pm

    I so enjoy your blog; it answers lots questions I didn’t know I had. One I do have is this, re choosing the type of conference one would attend: general like the one you’ve described or ones termed “Christian” writers’ conferences. I’m a neo- (OK, pre-) natal writer, intending to include the spiritual experiences of the characters in fictional works, but not aiming to limit the focus on the traditional Christian fiction audience. (If this is the wrong place to ask the question, please advise.)

  31. #37 by Carol Wuenschell on April 6, 2012 - 6:57 pm

    I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said, but reading this kind of thing always makes me feel broken. If only it were as simple as to avoid the mistakes you made. The problem is that the solutions don’t ring true – for me. I am not good at conferences. I know this from experience in my previous existence as a research scientist. I can go with the best intentions, but I have to keep my expectations at rock bottom, because I really am just not good at conferences. It’s not a matter of lack of experience, or lack of effort, or a “negative attitude” (which may be what you’re thinking right now.) It’s congenital. We are not all put together the same, and one size of solution never fits all.

  32. #38 by epbush on April 6, 2012 - 7:01 pm

    Reblogged this on Emilie’s Blogservations.

  33. #39 by Charles at the Helm on April 6, 2012 - 9:37 pm

    Kristen,

    Loved your comments and deer pictures. I’ll be coming by your website every so often now.

    I’ve sold one copy of my ebook. Does that make me a published author? Not quite, huh. Oh well. Dreamers can dream and writers can write, whether published or not.

  34. #40 by tracikenworth on April 7, 2012 - 6:53 am

    Lol, you are so funny, Kristen!! And I’m sure, just as talented. I enjoyed reading about your conference experience. At this point in my life, I can only dream of going one–the funds just aren’t there yet, but they will be. One day.

  35. #41 by Kelly Mac Donald on April 7, 2012 - 9:13 am

    Wow! You are an amzingly engaging writer. I am so impressed at how you can be vulnerable and professional at the same time. Well done!

    • #42 by Author Kristen Lamb on April 7, 2012 - 4:16 pm

      Thanks! What a great compliment. I try. I know when I was a total newb, I really appreciated the professional writers who told stories of when they were new. It made me feel like there was hope for me, LOL. Now just paying the love forward.

  36. #43 by jadwriter on April 7, 2012 - 1:17 pm

    I have had good and bad experiences. My first conference in 2003 I met some authors that I read and was gobsmacked at meeting them. I was like, omg, that is…. Other conferences I have been so tired one day, that I was on the point of passing out, and had to leave the room to go and recover. I never sleep well the first night I am there, as I can’t sleep that good in a strange room.

  37. #44 by Leanne Shirtliffe on April 7, 2012 - 1:40 pm

    Your conference tips are right on. I was signed by a fab agent at a writers’ conference last October. It was my third time there. It was pretty magical. Because I had been through awkward agent meetings for the previous two years, I was actually pretty relaxed. Plus I was confident I had a good product and was sellable (something I hadn’t been two years prior). The best thing? I can laugh with my agent.

    One more conference tip: hang out in the hotel lounge after the official conference ends (even if you’re drinking soda). It’s where the real networking happens.

  38. #45 by Julie Glover on April 7, 2012 - 2:44 pm

    I couldn’t agree more on your assessment. Last year was my first conference (DFW Con), and I took more business, how-to-make-it classes. This year, I’m planning to take more craft classes. Also, introverts can struggle at these events, but I found that people were very nice and striking up a conversation was not as hard as I thought. I made some nice contacts and look forward to seeing people again this year. I’m also super-thrilled to meet in person several friends I’ve gotten to know online this past year. Glad I’ll see you there again, Kristen!

  39. #46 by Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson on April 7, 2012 - 3:48 pm

    I wish I could attend DFW this year.
    1) Because all the coolest people will be there
    2) Because I really need to thank you in person for all your help (I’m a hugger);
    3) Because you said we could go shooting afterwards;
    4) Because it would be my first writers conference, and that’s on my list of stuff to do before the end of 2012.
    5) because you are presenting and it would not even be creepy if I stared at you for a long time.

    I could have been the migrant girl with you. MSG knocks me for a loop. And nitrates. And nitrites.

    Have a fabulous conference, and thanks for the great tips.

  40. #47 by Writerlious on April 7, 2012 - 8:03 pm

    I’m a “baby writer” and I’m going to my first conference next month. Aaaah! I have been so nervous and it’s still six weeks away. Reading this makes me feel so much better. My new mantra: “I will not be a deer in headlights.”

    In a weird kind of way, I have to think that nothing can be worse than spending an entire morning in a bathroom about to pass out from food allergies. Am now strangely optimistic… :)

  41. #48 by Jen Talty on April 7, 2012 - 8:37 pm

    Bob and I wrote a book: The Writer’s Conference Guide: Getting the most of Your Time and Money. The two biggest mistakes I made as a new writer was not to plan before the conference, and then evaluate after. Another mistake was not picking the right conferences for my career goals.

  42. #49 by Tracey Livesay on April 8, 2012 - 3:04 pm

    Great post and so timely. You know how to tell a story. Your “actual” picture made me choke on my coffee!

    I’m attending my first conferences this year: Virginia Romance Writers and Romance Writers of America National Conference. I’m really excited and planning to approach it like Comic-Con. The most important thing is to be healthy, because you’ll probably come home with something. LOL

    I have a question. I know writers used to get business cards that would have all their info on them to pass out. Is that what people are still doing? We have made such advances in the past years that I can’t believe we haven’t figure out a tech way to do this. Just want to know what I’ll need.

    Thanks again for “-work[ing] hard so we don’t have to.”

  43. #50 by Tracey Livesay on April 8, 2012 - 3:12 pm

    Great post, Kristen. You really know how to tell a story. Your actual picture almost made me spit out my coffee!

    This is the first year I’m attending conferences and I’ve signed up for two: Virginia Romance Writers and Romance Writers of America National Conference. I’ve been told lots of tips from my fellow writers, but I think I’ll also take the tips I’ve learned from Comic Con: try to go healthy and take your vitamins. You’ll probably come back with ebola.

    I have a quick question: are authors still using business cards that have all their information for networking? We’ve come so far in such a short amount of time, that I can’t believe we haven’t found a tech way to do this. LOL

    Thanks again for “work[ing] hard so we don’t have to.”

  44. #51 by Beth Stilborn on April 8, 2012 - 9:19 pm

    Thank you for this post — you made me realize that my food allergies are not nearly as bad as I thought they were, but also confirmed that I need to take care of myself when I’m at a conference. There’s enough going on without having an allergic reaction throw you for a loop.

    I attended my first ever writer’s conference last year, as a pre-published writer — SCBWI ‘LA. Nothing like starting big! It was wonderful, and because I’d learned a great deal ahead of time through the Children’s Book Hub, I soon felt in my element. Preparation is key. I am glad I didn’t attempt an agent pitch in my first year. I believe in taking things in incremental steps. After reading your story, I’m so glad I took baby steps the first time!

  45. #52 by lettersfromawhoremongerswife on April 9, 2012 - 7:07 pm

    Thanks Kristen, Your post is confirmation that a conference is what I need to do!

  46. #53 by Michele George Buchholz on April 9, 2012 - 7:23 pm

    I am attending my first conference in July. Headed to RWA!!! Can’t wait! Though I did already have my first agent pitch appointment. I read my four beautiful sentences straight off the page, chatted animatedly about something completely unrelated to my novel and when time was up I headed out the door. My gracious published author friend was waiting right outside. The first thing I said wasn’t that the agent requested my first three chapters, nope. It was, “I didn’t throw up on her!” Everyone in line got quite a laugh at my relief!

  47. #54 by Marvin Mayer on April 10, 2012 - 7:04 am

    Kristen, you really “nailed” this one! (But that’s no surprose! All of your blogs are excellent.) I have been writing for nearly 5 years, and I attended my first conference very shortly after completing my first writing course at The Institute for Children’s Literature. It was a small, localized conference, but it attracted some big name speakers. I was really impressed. It whet my appetite for conferences to the point that I have since attended quite a few, including the week long workshop in Chautauqua, NY, sponsored by the Highlights (for Children) Foundation. I agree with everything you said about conferences, and don’t think their importance can be overstated. The one thing against which to guard is overdoing it. You easily could go broke attending conferences! So, my advice, if I may be so bold as to attempt to add anything to what you have written, is to study several conference agendas and choose the one, two, three or more that most closely fit your [speaker/topic] needs, then let your time and pocket book cull the list to the best one(s) for you. Once you’ve made your selections, register, go, learn, make contacts, and enjoy! Keep on preachin’, Kristen. We love what you write.

  48. #55 by granbee on April 10, 2012 - 3:59 pm

    In the past, years ago when I went to some of these conferences, I made the mistake of being too earnest! I need to learn to have a little more fun with my “pitches” before I am ready to attend another such conference. Fortunately, many of my blogging friends are getting me to lighten up on myself quite well. Kristen, I really think this is the most helpful post of yours I have read so far. Thank you SO MUCH!

  49. #56 by lauramctx on April 15, 2012 - 7:43 pm

    I’m a little behind, but had to let you know how much I enjoyed reading this post. I’ve just registered for my first conference (this year’s ACFW in Dallas) and am really looking forward to it. Will definitely make note of your tips from this post!!

  50. #57 by velislava777 on April 27, 2012 - 2:06 pm

    I recently discovered your blog.
    Very useful advice.
    Clear and smooth language.
    Subtle, fresh humour.
    I love it!
    Just a question: how many people of those you advise and inspire have become published writers?
    Thank you!

    • #58 by Author Kristen Lamb on April 28, 2012 - 10:21 am

      I wouldn’t know how to start counting that. I hope quite a few!

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