Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What I Learned at My First Conference

Obviously, we go to writing conferences to learn about the industry. But what are some others things we can learn while we’re there?

If you’re planning on attending your first writing conference sometime soon, read this list. It’s everything that I learned last week besides honing my writing skills.

  • Know which editors and agents will be at the conference before you go. Memorize their names, what they look like, who they’ve worked with, what genre they’re interested in, the classes they are teaching, etc.
  • Check and see if the conference is holding contests. If so, enter them. I signed up late, so I wasn’t able to do this.
  • Go there to learn and to network. If this is your main goal at the conference, and if you trust that God is directing you, then I am sure he will surprise you. Seek Him first and all these things will be added unto you (Luke 12:31).
  • Sign up for as many appointments as you can. Make sure that you have written down the right times for these appointments. I missed one of my appointments because I had written the time down wrong. These appointments are very important, so double check just to make sure that you’ve gotten the times right.
  • If your conference allows you to sit with a faculty member during mealtime, make use of this time. Talk with them. At first, I felt like I should be respectful and leave them alone while they eat. However, I learned that it’s important to make the most out of these mealtimes. Ask them questions, give them your pitch and get to know them. You paid money for the conference, and the reason they are there is to talk with people like you. So talk.
  • Be aggressive, but respectful. What I’m saying is, talk with as many authors, agents, and editors as you can, but don’t follow them into the bathroom just to give them your proposal. Respect their time, but use yours wisely.
  • Network, network, network. I found many people that live near my small town who invited me to be part of their writing critique group. I had no idea there were critique groups near my area. Also, make sure to have business cards and give them out to as many people as you can.
  • Don’t allow exhaustion to cause you not to attend a meeting or meal. The one thing you miss may have led to the opportunity you have been waiting for. Take advantage of every opportunity you can.
  • Don’t let others intimidate you, and don’t be nervous. I was surprised to see how much more comfortable it was to be around agents and editors than I thought it would be. They aren’t there to trash your ideas; they’re there to find authors and good story-lines. They’re human too, so don’t let them make you nervous. I forced myself to not feel intimidated, no matter how many times someone would come up to my mom and say, “Aw, you brought your daughter?” Don’t let others hold you back. Just go for it and trust God.
  • Ask questions, then listen. This is the same for everyone you meet, not just the faculty. I learned so much from other seasoned writers by doing this.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and take a sweater, no matter how hot you think it might be. The conference rooms were freezing at times. Much walking is involved, so make sure the shoes you bring are comfortable. You’ll be going up and down plenty of stairs.
  • Tour the campus before classes. You may find shortcuts that you wouldn’t have realized if you didn’t tour.
  • Take plenty of pictures. It helps to remember the people you meet if you take their picture while names are still fresh in your head. Don’t wait until the last couple of days to get the camera out like I did… :)
  • Last but not least, pray. Seek God first. Ask that he will show you who to speak with, and that you will be at the right place at the right time. Divine connections.
We were given a verse at the beginning of the conference. Memorize this and repeat it during appointments, mealtimes, etc:

Joshua 1:9—
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

What did you learn at your first conference experience?


  1. Great list. I will remember this when I go to my first conference. :O)

  2. Great tips, especially about bringing a sweater. The sessions at the last conference I attended were freezing.

  3. I'll be attending my first conference in August. Now I have a guideline to help me get the most out of it. Thanks so very much. God bless.

  4. Great list! Thanks for sharing. (And thanks for finding my blog too.)

    What I learned my first one: try not to stand out so much that you step on other participant's toes.

    You can learn a lot from wannabe writers, even if you think you have a better product. We're all friends and joined by a commonality in this crazy dream of becoming published.

  5. Great list! I'm preparing for a conference next week. It's my first one in quite a while, so I'm trying to get organized. Preparation is vital!

  6. Every time you blog, I find myself wondering how you can be sixteen.

    I've got a conference in August- but it's more a writer's retreat type. I'm not ready for pitching and the like. But I will have the opportunity to meet lots of published and award winning writers. Can't wait!

  7. Inside the Shrink: Your welcome! Before I went to my conference I used this check-list from Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner's blog: http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2008/09/acfw-conference-checklist.html. Hope you have a great time :)

    Jackee: That's also a great thing to keep in mind when going to conferences, whether it's your first one or not. The writing industry isn't interested in people who try to gain attention from everyone. Thanks for the tip!

    Protia: It is, especially for something as important as a writer's conference. Preparing is somewhat hard for me, though, since I'm not exactly the most person in the world... =)

    Claire Dawn: Thanks for your comment! I hope you have a great time at your first conference, let me know how it goes. :)

  8. Great advice! I have been to only 1 conference years ago. I am hoping to attend another one this year. These tips will come in handy!

  9. I enjoyed reading your post, because I was there. I can relate to what you said! I did bring a sweater this year, but comfortable shoes were the must for me. Walking up the billy goat trail! I enjoyed hanging out with you, and can't wait to see what God does through your books and all of your pursuits! Thank you for the inspiration. Keep writing, Tessa!

  10. This is terrific advice! I hope to attend that very conference next year with my daughter. Thanks for sharing.

  11. I can't wait to attend my first conference this August. Thanks for the tips! I will be keeping this list!


Thanks for stopping by my blog!