This weekend, I am going to a one-day SCBWI-IL workshop in Chicago called Prairie Writers' Day. Is it a good idea to travel to a writing conference on Friday the 13th? Let's hope so! But even it if was a different date with no superstitions, I would still have "writers' conference anxiety!"
I shouldn't have this problem--I've planned and taken part in writers' conferences before. I even wrote an article for WOW! about how to be prepared for a writing conference and get the most bang out of your buck. But I still seem to suffer from anxiety before every writers' conference.
Here's why I think this happens to me: 1. I'm too busy to properly prepare myself for the conference. So, I don't know the speakers, schedule, or venue as well as I should. 2. And this is the biggie. . .I worry about what I will do if I meet an editor/agent in the bathroom or at lunch or in the hallway. It's almost like meeting a celebrity, especially since this person, if she likes your work, has the potential to change your life.
So, while I am sitting in the workshops and lectures, dutifully taking notes, I am trying to come up with some sort of brilliant thing to say to this person, so that I do not sound desperate or pushy or weird. But I want to be confident and funny and leave an impression. Believe me, all the worry, anxiety, and half-eaten lunches have still not created a witty opening line. Usually, I say something like: "I really enjoyed your talk."
And she says, "Thanks."
That's it--that's it. Then another person at the lunch table will say something about one of their clients or the latest award-winning book or even the editor's favorite TV show, and the editor will eventually ask the writer, "So, what do you write?" If that could only be me. . .
When I follow with my query letter after the conference, I will write something personal about the talk or the lunch table (even though I'm sure I made no impression). Hopefully, my work can stand alone as it should!
So, I am telling myself this time, I am going to this conference, leaving on Friday the 13th of all days, with a new attitude. I am going to have fun with my writing critique group members, celebrate and talk about writing, and soak up as much information and inspiration as I can. If I meet a speaker in the hallway or in the bathroom, I am not going to worry about being witty or wise or standing out in the crowd. (I am also NOT going to picture the person in his or her underwear as is the common advice for people who suffer from anxiety when giving speeches.) I am just going to say the first thing that comes out of my mouth--just like I would say to anyone I meet while waiting in one of the longest bathroom lines ever when you are at a children's writers' conference. (For those of you who don't know--at least 95% women, at least.)
I really, really am.
(I'll let you know how it goes.)
"Read These Books and Use Them"
photo by rhcrayon www.flickr.com