We’ve talked about all the people you’ll meet at a writers’ conference, including agents, editors, presenters, and manuscript critique specialists. Here are other folks you won’t want to miss the next time you attend a conference:
At the conference to share their expertise and to promote their work, authors can typically be found either signing books, teaching/presenting, or critiquing. Look for the ones who are in between activities, make an introduction, and then ask them about their journey to success. Listen to their feedback and count yourself lucky that you get this personal workshop that wasn’t listed in the brochure.
This is you. Find others whose company you enjoy and stick with them at the conference. You might already be part of a critique/networking group. If so, encourage your peers to attend the conference with you. You’ll feel more confident walking into a pitch if the last person you see is your writing bud giving you the “thumbs up” sign. If you go alone to the conference, make friends by approaching the people who asked good questions in your workshops. They just might become your future “thumbs up” writing buds.
These are the people who labor away all year to make the conference a reality. Look for an opportunity to help them. Do you have a skill set they can use on next year’s committee? Is it your secret desire to make copies of handouts at 3:00 a.m.? The committee can use you. Find a way to meet them and offer your services. Not because you want to sell conferences for a living, but because it will help give you an insider’s perspective to the writing conference realm.
Action Steps this Month
1. Target a writing conference you’d like to attend. Contact the conference committee and ask if any volunteer positions are available before, during or after the conference.
2. Encourage your writerly friends to register with you.
3. Scan the brochure and find authors you’d like to know. E-mail one of them and ask if you can buy them a cup of coffee and “pick their brain” at the conference.
Attitude Is Everything
Don’t go into the conference with an attitude of “What’s in it for me?” Instead, think of every interaction with every person as an opportunity to be of service. Your successful writing career will be the result of many people working together to bring your words into the world. Someone’s counting on you to help them do the same.
Mary Andonian is the agents and editors coordinator for the Willamette Writers conference—one of the largest writers’ conferences in the United States. In past years, she was Co-chair and Program Coordinator. Her book, Bitsy’s Labyrinth, was picked up by a prominent agent at last year’s conference. You can reach her at (www.maryandonian.com).