The Writer’s Proving Ground: The Conference

Saturday, March 15, 2008
By Valerie Fentress

This week I have had the privilege of attending a writer’s conference in California. Any conference is an amazing experience to open a writer’s eyes to new ways of thinking and new ideas coming to the publishing market. What makes conference such a priceless experience is that you truly find out what you are made of.

At most conferences you are surrounded by a large group of people in different stages of their writing career. There are editors, agents, multi-published, and the unpublished. Most people in this environment become the ever expanding sponge, but what is not known is how much you are going to learn about yourself.

Many times we can ‘talk the talk’ of writers, and have all the confidence in the world in our own homes. When it comes time to talk face to face with the people that can truly influence your career all that confidence can escape you with your next breath. There are some writer’s that could have a conversation with a wall if they choose, and then there are those that prefer to sit back and listen rather than get involved.

I would fall in that last category. I’m better in small groups rather than 400+ people all trying to pitch the next great thing. After my first day of introvertness, I had to dig deep to find that inner sales person, that inner socialite that can chime into any conversation. Where she came from I don’t know, but she had the passion for my work that I feel towards my writing but don’t always say to strangers.

If a contract comes out of this conference I will be ecstatic, but there is something more to say about discovering you CAN DO THIS. You can have a normal conversation with people in the biz, and glean information without selling your soul.

There is such a thrill that comes with sharing your passion for writing, to talking the talk with people that have made it. And there is nothing more exciting than learning more about something you’re passionate about, well maybe expect that contract.

But given all the things that you learn from a conference I would trade it all for the confidence and joy of stepping out of my comfort zone to really make steps toward my goal.

What makes stepping out of your comfort zone so hard is that fear of rejection. Now we could probably line up all of our rejection letters and cover the Great Wall of China, but no matter how tough your writer’s skin is there is something about being rejected face to face that can melt us to Jello. But just like those rejection letters it’s a badge of courage and another step toward your writing career. Cause conferences give you the chance to get critiques to find out why you received rejection, rather than just a form letter. Sometimes even gives you the chance to sit down and pick the brain of the person you got the rejection from. These opportunities are why it’s so important to go to conferences, and to choose your conferences wisely.

Take the time to review the options that are available. See if there is a focus toward fiction or nonfiction. Are there critiques available? Are there opportunities to sit down with editors and agents? Contact the organizers to get all the information you need, or even see if they have CD’s of the previous year’s workshops. But the most important thing is to GO. Go to learn. Go to network. But just go. Conferences are valuable resources and if you haven’t been to one yet. Check them out. If 400+ people freak you out then start small and work your way up. You writing can only improve.

Happy Writing


Angela Mackintosh said...

Excellent post Valerie!

I love your message and can feel your enthusiasm. I know it's hard for most writers to step out of their comfort zone and become a salesperson or promoter. It's so timely that you wrote about this because my Premium-Green "Tips & Tricks" column focuses on this point exactly. (Be sure to check it out and see if you agree! =o) Comes out tomorrow)

I'm a big advocate of getting out there and doing it. Let's face it, most of us writers are shy, that's why we sit in seclusion and write. Being a front man, or front-woman, doesn't come easy, and if you can learn how to do it, you can go just about anywhere.

Congratulations grrrrl! I guarantee, just by breaking that mold, you're well on your way.



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