Posts Tagged writing conferences
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?
…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!
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.”
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….
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…
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…?
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.
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.”
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.
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*
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.
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…
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.
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.
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 novel, or 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!
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.
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.
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…