Attending a writing conference can be so exciting and empowering! It’s also a wonderful way to signal to yourself and to those around you that you are committed to writing dangerously and taking your work to the next level. That’s why I was so excited when my wonderful friend and gifted writer Wendy told me she was attending a major conference. Valuable resources, exciting new connections, inspiration, fresh creative and marketing ideas — all this and more can be the fruit of the hours spent among industry pros and fellow writers, both aspiring and established. At one conference, I met a fellow writer who later sent me the entire list of agents she’d compiled for her own children’s novel — what a generous gift!
Just in case you might be planning to attend a conference yourself in the near future, here are some helpful tips from a Writer’s Digest online story, “How to Get the Most Out of a Writing Conference,” by Zachary Petit. Since his tips are concise and timely, I’m quoting them directly:
1. Arrive early to scope out everything, get settled and make friends. It’s incredibly bracing to have someone you can eat with or wave to as you enter a room.
2. Be on the lookout for faculty hanging around during downtime. Strike up a conversation, not about yourself and your work, but about them, because you’re here to learn. Try questions like, “If you were just starting out today, what would you be writing?” or, “What’s the best attribute an author can have?”
3. Carry a full-sized notebook for the full-sized ideas you’re going to write—not a tiny one for tiny ideas.
4. Focus sharply on what you want. Make a mission statement: “At this conference I intend to learn how to write better suspense / organize my nonfiction project / figure out an ending to my novel.”
5. If you’ve submitted work for critique, be open and receptive. Never argue or try to justify anything. Ask for more explanation, but don’t take notes—it’ll only distract you. As soon as it’s over, write full notes.
6. Make up your mind you won’t be judgmental, easily offended or needy. Remember, it’s not about you—it’s about your writing.
I especially like the idea of #4 — setting an intention for what you want to come away from an event with. This is a great way to keep yourself focused and to determine which workshops to attend. I also think #2 is also very insightful — instead of feeling compelled to “pitch” your work, focus on learning more about what industry pros have to share.