Well, the Greater Lehigh Valley Writing Group Convention an experience, no doubt…and no sarcasm! It was definitely worth the money. People came from as far away as New Orleans, Buffalo, and Illinois to be there. Some experiences and lessons. (I have to write down the lessons so I don’t forget them)
0) Preparation: Before the conference had begun, I received two rejections: one from 3-Day Novel, and one from the pro-mag market I have been beating my head on the wall about for several months. Prior to this, I had an unblemished record: 6 submissions, 6 made it to the final round. This one? Didn’t make it past the first read. It could have been crushing. I chose not to let it crush me, and instead pushed it in the back of my mind for the duration of the conference. Lesson: Ignore what else is happening in your writing life–you’re at a conference! Enjoy the moment.
1) Etiquette: I watched an author approach one of the agents. She had supported his first page at a critique group two years previously when two other panel members has panned it. He presented her with his newly published book from Baen Books, personally signed, to her. What a nice start to the conference! Lesson: Go with your instincts. Not everyone’s word is gospel.
2) The Welcome Reception is a great place to meet and greet people, especially when the cash bar is not quite set up yet. The guy I was chatting with turned out to be a publisher, and he said “Sure! Send me your pitch. Just make sure you mention the conference.” Lesson: Mingle. Network. Don’t be afraid to lean forward in the foxhole and ask the question–just don’t approach agents/publishers in the bathroom or other weird spot like that.
3) Serendipity: I was approached by an author who looked familiar. Oh, yeah, I had met her the year before! She pulled out a book from her bag. “I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated your encouragement from last year’s conference. You talked about The Thin Edge, and I took it to heart. I signed up with a small press, and they helped me get my book published. Here it is!” I was, frankly, startled. I never expect anyone to actually listen to me! Lesson: Encourage your fellow writers. It’s a tough world out there, and they need all we can give them.
4) “Show, not tell”. Perhaps the best class I ever went to in this area. I’ve got it down cold now. Lesson: You might think you know something basic like this, and go to some other presentation that sounds sexier–but some basic craft skills can’t be learned enough.
5) Agents and Pitching – I. The agent I was so excited about? The one in exactly the genre I wanted, and from whom I was certain to get a ‘full mss request’? She passed completely on everything. The equivalent of a three foot pop-fly to the catcher on the first swing. Lesson: Nothing is certain. Be prepared for disappointment.
6) Agents and Pitching – II: There were some extra agent appointments, so I signed up for a second. My second choice for an agent wasn’t available, so I opted for the one who was kinda-sorta-maybe_on_a_dark_night_fit what I was pitching. I said to him: “I want to say, first, that I don’t even know if we’re a fit, (kinda-sorta, etc). But I have two projects here. [takes out pitches] This one is done-it’s commercial urban fantasy. This one I am working on now, it’s YA paranormal. Which one do you want me to pitch?” I ended up pitching both. He said, “These aren’t for me, but send them to agent XX at my agency–he’s really into the first one, I know he’ll love it.” Lesson: Nothing is certain. Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised.
7) Agents and Pitching – III: I had two projects to pitch, which helped out enormously in the self-confidence area. I wasn’t betting everything on the filly with the pretty white feet. Lesson: If you have one finished, then work on the pitch for your WIP and be prepared to pitch either one or both!
8) AfterParty: When the conference ended, the place emptied out faster than a raided underage beer blast. Speaking of…several of us hung around and had a beer or two. How many were attendees and how many were presenters? Three and fifteen. The acceptance they extended to the three of us was amazing. Think of it…here is a tableful of master storytellers. How could it NOT be fun? Lesson: You are NOT intruding by having a drink with other authors, and you are missing out on a great networking opportunity with them.
If you didn’t go to a conference this year, that’s OK. There’s always another one, somewhere. This one cost me $130 for the con, 30 for drinks, and 20 for books and sundries. Total, under 200 bux. (I’m light on the books. You could spend a LOT on them alone) You should seriously think about going to a writing conference, and soon!