Posts Tagged writing conferences

Crested Butte, The ASSASSIN-WICH and I Made It Out ALIVE!

View from my room...

View from my room…

Last weekend I taught at the Crested Butte Writing Conference in Colorado. Amazing conference with fantastic presenters (highly recommend) and though it was memorable and magical…I thought it would KILL me.

It Didn’t Begin Well…

I am NOT a fan of early morning flights. Even though I had everything packed and ready to go, I wake up WHEN?

3:00 a.m.

…and CANNOT get back to sleep.

So I get up, do some work and have plenty of time to get to the airport. I figure, “Eh *waves hand* I’m not presenting today, so I will just go to bed early.”

I finally get to Gunnison, Colorado, my ride picks me and the other presenters up. She’s already scouted out a restaurant that had gluten-free and dairy-free food. YAY, ME!

The Assassin-wich

Whenever I go to different regions, I make it a point to try what’s local. I ordered the Trout BLT with the GF bun. I made it a point to dramatically tell my waiter how horrifically allergic I am to dairy and gluten.

“Oh, yes, yes, I checked. The coleslaw is fine for you to eat.”

It wasn’t.

The Assassin-wich

The Assassin-wich

Soon after lunch I felt like hell, but assumed it had more to do with being up since three that morning and traveling all day than anything else. Maybe it was because I was such a high altitude and it was altitude sickness.

Helping is Hurting

Soon after lunch, we go to the Ladies’ Room and the editor from Harper Collins picks the stall with no toilet paper. After I made her listen to my pitch….

KIDDING!

No, I grab some paper and bend down to hand it to her and WHAM! There was a stupid, weird, makes-no-sense extension of the counter and I whacked my forehead HARD.

Yes, I am klutzy, but give me a break, I was sleep-deprived, at high altitude, and had just been poisoned (though at this point I didn’t know it). Wasn’t on my game.

So, by dinner time I am feeling pretty bad, but I washed my face, redid my makeup and went down. The only thing gluten and dairy-free is the steamed zucchini. Yay. Well, beggars can’t be choosers. I talked and had people laughing and once it was over?

I crawled back to my condo and held to my promise and go to be early. 10:30 (that’s early for a conference)…

….only to awaken at midnight violently ill.

Zucchini of DOOM

I was sick all…night…long. I knew it! That zucchini had butter. Never trust a squishy veggie!

It’s Never Been So Hard to Put On Makeup

I was shaking so badly from being sick for (by that time) 7 hours and sleep deprived that I’m a little surprised my makeup didn’t turn out more like this…

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Blah Blah Photos Blah

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Blah Blah Photos Blah

So 8:00 a.m., I walk down the mountain (in dress shoes), carrying my computer bag. At breakfast, I wolf down some bacon because it was the only thing I could trust. I start chugging water, because I am dehydrated and…?

STILL sick.

I keep having to chat and smile and then sweetly and politely excuse myself so I can run to the closest bathroom…and thank GOD I carried makeup and a toothbrush. I attend every session I can because 1) I want to support other speakers, 2) I am eager to learn and 3) there was NO WAY I was going to make it UP the mountain to my room without, um, dying.

I tell one of the Crested Butte writers that I’ve had terrible Zucchini Poisoning, but that I will be fine. Just triple-check the future meals, please. They feel terribly guilty, but I assure them that Hey, I have food allergies and it happens.

In the meantime, I go to the hotel store and buy two large bottles of Gatorade and a packet of electrolytes and vitamins that are supposed to help with altitude sickness), and it only cost me a mere $17. Hotels *rolls eyes*

I chug all of it because it is now 11 a.m. and….I am STILL getting sick. I present in 2 hours.

Bonding with teen writers, LOL....

Bonding with teen writers to take my mind off…wanting to DIE.

Safe Zone

I excuse myself early because I am sure the Zucchini of Doom is what poisoned me. So, I go back to that restaurant from the previous day, because “they were careful and knew how important it was to not contaminate food.”

I go to order the same thing, but the waitress stops me. “The coleslaw has dairy, and so does that dressing for your salad.”

O…M…G.

I get sick if something with dairy brushes like zephyr near my food. I ate a half a cup of coleslaw and a half a dairy-infested salad.

How was I still ALIVE?

Sarah makes sure I get a meal I can eat without dying and I tip her 40%. Then I ask to speak to the manager and politely explain that dead patrons make lousy return customers. Then I excuse myself…

Because, yes, I am STILL SICK. By this point? 12 hours.

Um, We Thought You Weren’t Coming

So I put on my game face and head to the main lunch. I’m not eating but I can still be there to do my job. I have a table with my name and people who want to talk to me…and it’s full.

We thought you weren’t coming. They said you were sick.

I found it funny that it was my designated table and I was the only one without a seat. But they scooch me in and soon I have everyone talking and laughing. Outside Kristen is funny and helpful. Inside Kristen wants to use the 10% off the ski-lift coupon so she can throw herself off the top of Crested Butte.

The Crested Butte writers felt better because I told them it was the restaurant and not the Zucchini of Doom that poisoned me. That seemed to make them relax. I can see how trying to kill your speakers could look bad.

Game, ON!

I was blessed that an hour before I presented I stopped getting sick. With GF, dairy-free food in my stomach and enough Gatorade to supply a lacrosse team, I was good to go and gave it my best. I presented for a little over an hour and no one would have known I was sick.

SCORE! *fist pump*

The Reward

I struggle back up the mountain to my condo. I needed time to rest and regroup. That evening, I was rewarded for my diligence. I had THE BEST GF, Diary-Free Pizza ON THE PLANET at a place called, The Secret Stash. It was so good, I bought another one to bring back to the condo with me. $60 worth of pizza, I didn’t care. I needed safe food.

Angels sing!

Angels sing!

The French Tried to Kill Me, but FAILED

Of course, the next night we go to a French food restaurant. I go through all the Please, please please NO gluten or dairy and I get THIS…

pork

Ah, but I am smarter now. I spot the deadly mashed potatoes lurking beneath my pork loin.

SHE SCORES AGAIN!

The rest of the conference went great, even though I was seriously puny and had knot on my head (this explains so much, right?). I am a bit sad I got so sick because I was too weak to do any of the hiking or fun stuff we had coupons for. But, I did get to help and serve a lot of writers and that’s what I love most anyway.

The Lesson

Why do I tell this story? First of all because it’s kind of tragic-funny. I am a person who honors my commitments to the point of lunacy, but…

Mostly I want you guys to know I pale in comparison to what other writers are willing to do for their craft. I’ve known writers who kept writing even though they were facing a double-mastectomy or going through chemo. One writer kept writing even as she cared for her husband who was undergoing chemo for brain cancer.

I’m friends with a big name author who kept writing even after three deaths in one year (two were this writers’ parents). Life will still be here. We get sick, we face hardship but we need to press on and, more importantly? LAUGH. Keep a sense of humor. Everything passes, but the writing will remain and often the thing we love (writing) can help us get through tough times. If I didn’t LOVE serving writers so much, I NEVER could have maintained my game face.

EVER.

So what about you guys? Do you have food allergies and faced down the Assassin-wich? Did you learn to press on even when life threw you a hardball…in the FACE?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of June, 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 once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of June I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

, , , , , , , , ,

98 Comments

Writing Conferences–Beware of Crossing Deer

(Photo courtesy of johnlund.com)

This weekend I am teaching social media at the DFW Writer’s Workshop Conference at the American Airlines Center. I have to say that I have attended quite a few conferences, and the DFW folk have been the best, hands down. If you aren’t going to this year’s, sign up early for next year. You won’t regret it. They offer an amazing variety of classes, taught by some of the best talent in the industry.

I mean, I am teaching there, right?

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 published and best-selling NF author as opposed to a hopeful wanna-be fiction writer. I am a speaker, not an attendee. Life never turns out the way we plan, does it?

It’s 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. It’s a close tie which).

Like social media, I did most things wrong in the beginning. Yes, even when it came to conferences. I have no idea why you guys listen to me, sometimes. Maybe you just follow out of morbid fascination of what dumb thing I might do next. Hey, whatever works. I’m not picky :D.

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 by the way).

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, 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 would not have been published without my help. I felt pretty confident. 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 ass 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.

So that Friday night, the agent-author social went really well. I was charming and fun 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 a 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 sure it had caused permanent retinal damage.

The next morning I peeled myself out of bed and drove to Grapevine. I looked stunning in my new suit, but I was so fried that I forget to grab the food I had pre-packed. 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 change my life.

Candy Havens stepped up to do her keynote and…

My heart rate suddenly kicked up to 160 beats 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 monosodium glutamate in the broth used to cook the rice. We were both in pretty bad shape.

So 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 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.

 Actual photo of Kristen Lamb at first agent pitch session.

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.

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.

Okay, I made my point. RELAX! ENJOY your conference experience. It 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. 

 Line of writers waiting outside agent pitch-sessions.

Also, we can talk to agents outside the pitch session. I don’t recommend sliding your query letter under the 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

1. Go to all the craft classes you can. Trust me, no matter how good you think you are, you aren’t even close to how great you 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.

2. 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.

3. Pitch to more that one agent. 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.”

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.

And, to prove it and show my love, for the month of February, 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 WANA in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel.

Happy writing!

Until next time…

In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.

Also, I highly recommend the Write It Forward Workshops. Learn all about plotting, how to write great characters, and even how to self-publish successfully…all from the best in the industry. I will be teaching on social media and building a brand in March. For $20 a workshop, you can change your destiny….all from the comfort of home.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

37 Comments

Getting the Most Out of Writing Conferences

Writing confereces offer tremendous opportunity. Get published. Meet agents. Socialize with other members of your profession. But are you getting your money’s worth? Here are some tips to help you get the most of your writing conference investment.

This week is an amazing time for me. I am on the downhill run, careening toward this year’s DFW Writers Workshop Conference in Grapevine, TX. Now, first of all, I gotta say that there is no better conference to go to. And I might be a teensy-weensy bit partial because I am teaching there, but it is true.  The DFW Writers Workshop is made up of some of the most passionate, professional creative people I have ever known, and I am deeply humbled to keep such company.

Some of you reading this may be going to this weekend’s conference. It sold out months ago. So, if you didn’t get in for this year’s conference, I strongly encourage you to go to the DFWWW website right away. We have an unbelievable keynote next year. I don’t know if I am allowed to say who it is yet, but I will give a little hint—58 NY Times best-sellers. So go sign up…NOW! Before it sells out just like 2010 conference did…only faster.

http://dfwwritersworkshop.org/2010/02/13/registration-opens-for-2011-dfw-writers-conference-save-your-spot-now/

But aside from offering amazing keynotes like Candace Havens, Bob Mayer, and this year’s Jodi Thomas, the DFWWW Conference offers a tremendous variety of breakout sessions designed to make us—writers—the best we can be.

Today, I am going to give tips for maximizing your time at a conference, whether you are attending this weekend’s DFWWW Conference or another. Face it, most conferences cost a pretty penny and many of us have to scrape and scrounge and sacrifice to pay our way. If we happen to be traveling to a conference then add even more costs for car rental, gas, plane fare, hotels, food, and on and on and on. This investment can easily run into the hundreds of dollars, and, if you are plan on attending the big RWA or ITW conferences, that price tag can easily soar into the thousands of dollars. Ack!

Hey, no worries. It is an investment. Often a BIG investment. Time to get the most out of it.

Three Tips to Maximize your Conference Time

1)      Agents and Editors Need You Too

Agents and editors are allies, not gods.

Yeah, sorry if I offended any agents or editors out there. We love you and need you and are so grateful you are on our side.

Most writing conferences, DFWWW included, go out of their way to provide a good selection of agents and editors to help attendees realize their dreams of publication success. Yet, time and again I see writers, especially new writers, walk around in a dazed panic, eyes dilated and skin pasty, totally scope-locked on the pitch session.

Maximize the time you have. Yes, pitch sessions are great, but they are only part of the conference experience. I recommend that you keep a healthy dose of perspective. Agents and editors need you just as much as you need them, probably more. Writers can get published without an agent, but agents (and editors) HAVE to have an author’s work to sell or they are on the breadline.

Agents and editors are human. GASP! Yep, their secret is out. They want and need good writing. Plain and simple. That is how they get PAID. Agents go to conferences because it is in their interests (just like you) to do so. Pitch sessions aren’t sudden death overtime. Agents know you are nervous and just as likely to throw up on your shoes as you are to be witty and charming…so relax. They will either see something in your idea, or they won’t. Ultimately, all depends on whether or not they like and believe they can sell your writing. Breathe, smile, enjoy and move on.

2)      Take Advantage of the Break-Out Sessions

Any professionally run conference will also offer a selection of classes to hone our skills as writers. Pitching to agents is great, but also make sure you take time to learn about plot, characterization, marketing, pitching, busting past writer’s block, etc. I have to say that DFWWW really shines when it comes to author training. One can count on published professionals like Candace Havens, Rosemary Clements-Moore, A. Lee Martinez and more to give top-notch presentations designed to make you the best you can be.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but I see far too many writers only taking advantage of a fraction of what they paid for.

Case in point…

Two years ago I attended a conference in Oklahoma. I was deeply disappointed at the behavior of some my fellow writers. Unless there was a session with an agent or editor, these individuals holed up in their hotel rooms (I might also mention that these were the same people who all could have used insight into fundamentals of the craft, such as plot, characterization, etc. Cuz, well, all of us can always learn more).

And when they walked away without so much as one request for a query, they believed they’d spend $400 for nothing. Well, in a way, they had.

Writers packed in rooms like sardines to listen to agents who looked all of 22 and still had that “shiny new agent smell,” but failed to attend the craft classes taught by a NY Times best-selling author.

Not that the agents didn’t have some great nuggets of information, but what might have been a better use of time? An hour with a girl who’d just fallen out of college and who’d been a NY agent all of a minute? Or a seasoned author with over 25 years in the publishing business and an impressive resume of best-selling novels?

3)      Network, Network, Network…then Network Some More

Writing can be a lonely business, and a profession that is often not taken seriously. I have worked as a professional writer for going on a decade and still have people say things like, “Oh, you’re a writer. How nice. Now what is your real job?” As Rodney Dangerfield used to say, “I get no respect.”

Most of us gut through day jobs and beg and barter with family to leave us alone so we can write. We know rejection, deeply and profoundly.  We are artists who suffer for our craft.

But, hey, no one said we had to suffer alone. Meet other writers. Make friends who know your plight and can share your burden. Network with published authors, editors, agents (even the ones who don’t have you scheduled for an official pitch session).

Agents change agencies. Editors change publishing houses. One day they may not give a whit about vampires or starships or women’s fiction, but who knows? What will they want in three years or five? These individuals will be far easier to approach if you’ve already established a modicum of rapport.

Friendships and acquaintances can open all sorts of doors. We as humans tend to defer to those we know, before we defer to a stranger. Just because we are writers doesn’t mean we do ALL kinds of writing. I got my start as a technical writer, but have gotten to the point that I prefer to take on other more creative assignments. So if a company calls me for a job and I can’t take it, guess who I call? Other writers I know who do that sort of writing. Whether it is opportunities to speak, present, teach, write, review, whatever, networking is key.

Also, odds are, you are not the greatest writer the world has ever known with zero room for any improvement (even if your mother thinks you are). Surround yourself by those who are better than you and you will be surprised how much you grow.

So remember.

1) Agents are on your side. They need you, so calm down.

2) Take advantage of classes to hone your skills in the craft and the business of writing. You paid for them!

3) Be social. Network, network, network. Writing conferences are like summer camp. You might be surprised the friendships you will make…friendships that will not be delivered to your hotel room with the triple-decker sundae you ordered because you passed out at your pitch session.

Relax and enjoy! Squeeze every cent of joy and growth out of the conference. And if you are going to be at DFWWW’s conference this weekend, say hello and come to my classes.

Happy writing. Until next time…

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 Comments

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 39,073 other followers

%d bloggers like this: