Writer’s Conference Do’s and Don’ts or How to Avoid Abject Humiliation

A virginal experience can be frightening and take you out of your comfort zone, but it can also help you in ways you could never have imagined. This is exactly why I attended my first writer’s conference. I compiled a list of tips just for you!

Be on time.

The morning of the conference started with master’s classes and critiques which writers had signed up for weeks and months in advance. I registered the week before, but decided to sit in on a critique session. No biggie right?

When I finally made it through traffic, I was 30 minutes late. Volunteers chatted at a table set up in the entry of the hotel. I was told, “You’re late.”

“Yep. I know, but can I still audit a critique class?”

“I guess that’s alright.”

“Where do I go?” I looked around the vast atrium.

She pointed behind her. “Up the stairs.”

Think before you speak.

“Is there a particular critique group I should look for? I write paranormal thriller and wouldn’t want to end up in a non-fiction group.”

“Ma’am, we are the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. There are NO non-fiction critique groups.

My cheeks scorched while I continued to show my vast intellect. “Oh yeah. Duh.”

Bring a sweater.

The conference rooms with familiar mountain town names like Breckenridge, Keystone, and Aspen resembled their high altitude locations. The temperature plummeted.

Be bold and brave.

I peeked into the quiet rooms where groups of eight sat at round tables. There were no empty seats. An hour away from home, I refused to admit defeat. I walked down the hall to another room and spotted a table with two empty chairs. SCORE!

I took a deep breath. I’ve defeated breast cancer. I can walk into a room of strangers. Let them stare.

Be yourself.

After asking if I could join them, someone asked, “Are you the agent?”

“No, but go ahead and hand me your cards.  Book deals for everyone!” I guess I broke the ice. The agent appeared a few minutes later. She hit the same traffic jam.

Don’t be afraid to sell yourself.

Each writer had submitted the first 10 pages of their novel. The group had read and marked them up. They took turns critiquing. They talked about new conventions like only using, he or she said, strengthening verbs and avoiding adverbs, unneeded adjectives and metaphors that didn’t work. Sometimes, they had a question about the character or setting. Other times, they suggested started the book at a different place. They all included something positive. After each author’s work was discussed, the agent gave her impression.

Dang! A real live agent. I had heard about them, but had never seen one in real life. I wished I could interject something about what I had written without being obnoxious.

Before our mid-morning break the agent said, “I Googled all of your names and only a few of you have Twitter accounts or blogs. She explained how a following is important in this market and how she wouldn’t even consider an author who didn’t have a writer’s platform.

Here was my chance! I raised my hand and said, “I have a writer’s platform. I just need a book!”

The group giggled and for the second time that day, my cheeks burned. Why did I say that? I have a book! I offered my help to anyone who needed to start a blog and handed out my cards.

Use your indoor voice.

Right after my stupid statement, I left the freezer and strode into the ladies’ room. I said out loud to no one in particular, “I AM AN IDIOT!” Blood rushed to my cheeks again. I checked under the stalls for feet. Thank God. I was alone. I let out a sigh.

Somehow, I had to straighten out this misstatement.

Research your genre before attending.

I reentered the room ready for round two. After the last of the critiques, I said, “I signed up late, but I’m so glad I joined this group. I wrote a fiction novel and will keep this advice in mind during my last revision.”

I approached the agent and told her I really enjoyed the class. She explained that she was an agent for Christian books.  “By the way,” she whispered, “No one says, ‘fiction novel,’ since they mean the same thing.”

“Oh.” My cheeks heated up once again. I thanked her for informing me. I relaxed knowing the few cuss words sprinkled through my novel wouldn’t fly with her anyway.

RMFW 2

Me and my new agent friend, Sarah Joy Freese

Make sure to bring a practiced pitch to hook an agent.

The night before the conference, my husband Danny and I had dinner with friends. I had no idea the host sold two and one half million copies of a book that became a New York Times Best Seller. He asked for my pitch and then pretty much told me it sucked. “For a paranormal thriller, it has no setting.”

During lunch, I heard rumblings about the free sign up to pitch an agent. I had to come up with something better.

Meet the Powerful Ones.

Agents are revered. When they enter the room, all eyes are on them. (At least mine were.) They have an aura about them since they have “the power.” The power introduce our work to the Big Five, (conference-speak for the last of the huge traditional publishing houses).  They are the gods and goddesses of the Writers Conference.

I attended an agent panel where four of them, including my new friend Sarah, gave their take on publishing and queries. Once again I heard about the importance of a writer’s platform. They also believed that traditional publishing still works in the age of e-books and would survive.

They reminded everyone to add something personal to the query letter, but to avoid being unprofessional or insulting. Insulting? Wow. Some people are really stupid.

I didn’t get the chance to ask my question at the end of the talk. Later, I saw two of them in the bar.

Gods and goddesses are real people.

I asked if it was necessary to hire a professional editor before submitting my book. At dinner, my best seller friend had mentioned agents liked a rough copy.

They laughed and then said, “No. We prefer a polished story, but a critique group should be enough. Do you have one?”

“No,” I admitted.

“I’m sure you’ll find some people here to form a group. What kind of book are you writing?”

“A paranormal thriller,” I said and added words resembling abbada abbada.

“Good luck with your book,” they said.

I hadn’t signed up for my “free pitch session.” After perusing the booklet, I signed up with the agent I had just spoken with in the lobby. I had until 10:30 the next day to come up with an improved version.

Be open to new ideas.

I met Susan Spann at her book signing a few days before. She helped writers rewrite pitches at this conference, but was booked solid. She made room for me on her own time. “I’ll meet you tomorrow morning at 9:30.”

The next day, we reworked it using a formula of, character X must solve A, B, C, or the dreaded Z will happen. Wow! I was pumped until I checked the time. Whoa! I had 20 minutes to memorize it. I went upstairs and paced while rehearsing out loud. If I could remember the verbs, I could recite the 27 words without screwing up.

RMFW 1

Me, Piper Bayard, and Susan Spann

Being nervous during a pitch kills your chance. Relax!

My heart pounding, I remembered a de-stressing technique of breathing in and out at a regular count. It did the trick.

I walked in with a big smile and said, “Hello again!” I explained that I had a new pitch and wasn’t sure if I had it memorized, so I brought a cheat sheet just in case. I nailed it. Then she asked what my book was about and I babbled on for the next 9 minutes. Then she asked if it was YA (young adult) or adult fiction. I said, “Adult fiction.”

**Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!** It was the correct answer. She handed me a card and said, “Send me thirty pages.”

I floated out of the room.

Listen to your most trusted critique partner.

I don’t have a critique group, but my husband Danny is an excellent critique partner. After my first surgery, while high on the general anesthetic, (you can see where this is going. I am making excuses already), I got a brilliant idea. I didn’t like where my book started. Instead of doing the work to clean it up, I added a new chapter with a big action scene. It started with a smoke metaphor.

Danny hated it.

Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.

Still walking on clouds from the successful pitch session, I floated into the Agents Read the Slush Pile Workshop. This should be a requirement for everyone at a conference. My head barely squeezed through the doorway.

Writers filed in and gave the agents copies of their novel’s first two pages.

The agents warned everyone this was going to be brutal, but reminded us, “The writer we are now is not the writer we will be six months or a year from now.”

How bad can it be?

The moderator read the first paragraph and the agents followed along. They hoped to be pulled into the story and looked for a great introduction of the main character and the setting. We held our collective breath until one agent would say, “I’m out.” The other would either agree or would want to hear a little more. They hated prologues and said they wouldn’t consider books with them. They said any backstory should be woven through the book instead. They also said to avoid description such as, blue plaid shirt and twinkling green eyes. “Let the reader use their imagination.” If it is unnecessary, cut it. They liked a “tight” manuscript.

Sometimes the words didn’t flow. One time, red painted fingernails threw them both out of the story. I made a note to delete the red painted fingernails from my book.

I sat in the front row and regretted not preparing for this class. They would LOVE my smoke metaphor. The first two pages of my novel were tucked into a folder in my purse. I hadn’t proofed them since I added the chapter weeks before. When I skimmed the first few paragraphs, they seemed wonky, but my puffed up ego had remained at an enormous size. I ran out to copy them during a break. I walked up to the elevated table and said to them, “Bring it on.”

Don’t antagonize those in charge.

They heard me loud and clear. Instead of the moderator picking one from the middle of the stack, they picked mine.

They read the first paragraph and looked at each other and laughed. They didn’t stop laughing until they read a few more sentences. They had misinterpreted my metaphorical smoke for a paranormal spirit. I wasn’t embarrassed. No one knew it was mine except for the agents and the guy next to me who asked, “Do you need a drink?”

I said, “No. I needed to be told and besides, I was on drugs when I wrote it.” Danny was right.

After class, I solved my book’s problem by talking it out with a new friend. The action scene will take place later. I threw the smoke metaphor into the circular file.

RMFW 3

Chilling out after class and buzzing about books.

No pain. No gain.

The agent, who had tossed all but one author’s pages during the two hour class, conversed with writers in the bar. I thanked her and told her I loved the class. She couldn’t believe it. “Usually people run out of the room crying.”

“I have a lot to learn, that’s why I’m here.”

I am no longer a writer’s conference virgin.

Have you been to a conference?

 

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123 Comments

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123 responses to “Writer’s Conference Do’s and Don’ts or How to Avoid Abject Humiliation

  1. Pingback: The One with the Orangutan | Jackie Cangro

  2. Your experience brought back a lot of memories from my first writers’ conference. It was very scary to just walk up to strangers and pitch my novel which was a labor of love for years, especially for an introvert like me. You did much better than I did, I’ll tell you that much!
    It took many years of rewrites (and a dedicated writing group) to get an agent.

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    • I don’t think I took advantage of every opportunity and will be more organized next time!
      Well good for you getting an agent! Did you get your baby published?

      Thanks so much!

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      • Not yet *cough* :)
        But after another round of edits this summer, we should be going on submission in the next few weeks. I can’t tell you how nervous / exciting that is!

        Good luck with your ms. Is it ready for an agent, or are you still writing?

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        • Good luck to you!
          I think I’ll send in my 30 pages Friday and pray all weekend. I am polishing the last part of the ms, so out it goes! I need to write a query and summary for other agents.. Work, work, work… :) It’s tough when I have to keep up with my blog too.

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  3. Hi Susie,
    I was at RMFW Gold too. Just sorry I didn’t get the chance to meet you. Hopefully next year. Wishing you all the best. PS – If you’re looking for a critique group Littleton Writers (part of RMFW) is always open for fresh voices like yours.

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  4. Very insightful! I’ll be sure to head into any one of these events with a powerful arsenal.

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    • Including business cards. I couldn’t believe how many people didn’t have them. It is a really cool experience to be with other writers. We are a different breed altogether!
      Thanks Barry!

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  5. Thanks so much for posting the link for writers conferences….this post has me thinking about putting my toes in the water and attending one. I’d be a very timid chicken compared to you! Congrats on your continued bravery and thanks for helping all of us and being so generous with what you learned.

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  6. Hi Susie :) Really impressed, glad I’m following! That first agent Sarah Joy reminds me of my cousin, Ha. I bet she can actually ‘speed read’. Thriller in 60 seconds. Love your Wild Blog!

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  7. Sheila Luecht

    Excellent!

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  8. Ouch. I’m so not ready for that. But, as always, Susie – you show us how it’s done! Thanks for letting us come along with you from the safety of our living rooms :)

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  9. I would say you did pretty darn good as a rookie! I can’t imagine being that BRAVE. And you did! Wow, I can see your nerves in those photos so I am impressed. Good luck on the BOOK! You can doit!

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    • Thank you Angelia!
      I figured I paid over $300 for the weekend, I better take advantage of all it had to offer. Besides, no pain :no gain no guts no glory and there’s nothing like a little humiliation to build character. I’m what you call a character!!!

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  10. Yikes! That sounded scary! I’m glad you made it out alive! Would you go again?

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  11. Good for you, Susie! I’m sure you livened things up :-)
    I went to my first writer’s conference last year. I learned so much my head almost burst. Looking forward to going again next year.

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    • Leave it to me.. I was a respectful observer, but I asked a couple questions. It was a great experience and I would go again in a minute!
      It takes a while for all the advice to sink in! Bursting is right!
      Thanks Denise!

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  12. SO proud of you, Susie! I love writers’ conferences and getting to learn and meet all my peeps, but I HATE to pitch. I always do way better in the bar where it’s just talking. I can do that part just fine. :-)

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    • I really believe that breathing in and out with on a four count, three times, works. I wish I had known about it long ago! It must do something to stop the adrenaline and subsequent blank out.
      Thanks Jenny and for the blog shout out on FB!

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  13. Bold and brave is you in a nutshell, Susie.
    Congratulations on moving your writing career in a positive direction, old friend. As for me, I’m stuck in neutral and sinking fast in a swamp.
    But your success warms my heart.
    You go, Susie!

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  14. Thanks Susie. You’ve given some great advice. Sounds like you got a lot out of this conference and managed to enjoy yourself at the same time. Have a great weekend.

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    • Thanks Emma! I did get a lot out of it. It took a day or two to sink in and get some perspective. Looking back, I wish there had been two of me since there were several classes that coincided.
      I hope your weekend rocks too!

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  15. Susie, you should write a book about this experience! LOL I love your sense of voice for this post because I could just see you and feel your anxiety and cluelessness. Been there! The pressure to make a good impression is ON! It gets easier and better and more like going to your favorite college class, I think. But I took the advice of my conference roommate, Julie Glover…she reminded me that I’m paying to be there, so make the most of it! I’m a courteous and avid listener, I participate only when I think my question will help others too. If the question is specific to me or my work, then I hang late from class and try to connect with the speaker. And I also share thoughtful comments. Some of my best and most favorite connections from conferences were from going up to the speakers and telling them how helpful the material was and what I personally found so interesting. I’ve been able to keep that relationship going by social media then.

    Overall, I love conferences because no matter how it goes, you come back energized. I don’t know how you couldn’t. You get so much information and it always charges me up to write more!

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    • Hey Jess! I was heading out of town when I saw it was your birthday. Happy belated!!!!
      I agree about making connections. We all have something very personal in common. Writers are so misunderstood. At the conference, we are surrounded by people who get us! How cool that you met Julie Glover. I would love to meet both of you!!!!
      The point about paying is exactly why I charged in and participated. I was there for me! It was a great experience and a confidence booster.
      Thanks for stopping by!

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  16. So awesome – you’re way brave! I am a terrible blusher, and I once turned purple. I kid you not. Purple. I have the pictures to prove it. But even without the blushing, I’d have a hard time at my first writer’s conference. It’s wonderful that you’re going after what you want! And that you can take some constructive criticism. That’s super important!

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    • Purple???? Wow. That is abject humiliation… I said something stupid at a screenwriter’s class a while back I went into abada abada mode. I hate that! I would at least like to get out the words so they can see how stupid they were instead of not understanding what the heck I am trying to say! I think I am getting better at avoiding “the deer and headlights” freeze….
      Criticism is important! But there is a balance and you have to stay true to the tale and your own voice.
      Thanks Michelle!

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  17. You must be a whole lot of fun at any sort of gathering. Me? I’m the quiet one. ;-)

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  18. Good for you for getting out there and putting yourself on the chopping block. Next time it’ll be easier and you’ll know what to expect and be more prepared. I’m always learning something and it’s humbling when I get back home and realize how much work I have to do on my books.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

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    • I can relate!!! I don’t want to go too far with cutting description out. I think the idea is to get the reader into the story so they know the character and are so immersed, they don’t want to leave!!

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  19. Supremely interesting.
    The agents and experts are still on their various formula ideas – which would have thrown out many of the enduring classics before they got to square one. All the points are valid as general guides. All of them, however, should be thrown out of the window if it suits the story/individual style, and if one doesn’t want to pander to lazy semi-illiterates..
    I rewrote a book some years ago based on the same sort of experience. It became bland and flat. Then I reintroduced most of what they had made me take out to make it come alive again.

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    • I agree!
      If you take out too much description the book goes gray. I have read some thrillers and didn’t understand the setting or looks of the characters. I would have liked something! It is a delicate balance. I think if it works, it works!!!!
      How is your book coming?

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      • Indeed – You are so right about the balance.
        I don’t want to stimulate the readers’ imaginations by making them invent their own settings, but by getting caught up in the story. Thus adjectives, adverbs, and a certain amount of digression all give a more spectacular ride, but it must still be in the chosen direction – or following a detour with intent.
        I have been busy with editing and formatting, so writing has taken a bit of a back seat for a while. I must correct that!

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  20. As usual, you have a great spirit, Susie. I have been to a number of conferences, and they are helpful — to a point. I find that I always hear conflicting advice depending on the agent and his taste. There are a lot of published books with prologues for instance, so there are obviously some publishers who don’t mind them. It really does take time to understand our book and how it will fit best into the market, and that doesn’t include the time it takes to write it!
    Good job for sticking it out!

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    • I agree! I think that if it is a great book, it will sell itself. I skip reading prologues If I can. They always seem boring to me. Dan Brown has an excellent prologue in his new book Inferno, but he uses tons of adverbs which glare at me now. “Dizzyingly????” I think he made up that word….
      Starting with backstory is a tough sell. I think authors who are already best sellers get away with murder sometimes where we newbies are under a microscope!!!! I am still polishing away!
      Thanks so much!

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  21. what an experience. i love your swag! is “You go girl!” too nineties?

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  22. Back in the day I attended a few screenwriter’s conferences where there was pitching and scrambling to meet with agents and producers. A few of my scripts came close to winning a few awards. That sparked interest and a lot of advice I did not heed to relocate to Los Angeles. Looking back, there was a window of opportunity I did not climb through simply because remaining in New York was more important to me. I’m weird that way.

    It sounds to me that you learned a lot at this first writer’s conference, so when you attend your next one, Susie, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re in for and you can better prepare. A lot of it is preparation and showing up … on time.

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    • Hahaha! I got away with it since I beat the agent.
      See? You relocated to NYC, but you have the stubbornness of a New Yorker! I had no idea you wrote screen plays too. It doesn’t surprise me that they expressed interest since you are an excellent writer. It’s never too late, is it???

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  23. Congratulations on your … erm … deflowering! :D

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  24. Thank you so much for posting these tips, Susie! I have been very interested in attending a writing conference every since I heard about BlogHer last year. I was very bummed to find out that there was one just last weekend in LA (not far from me), but I was on call for work. I need to do more research and find another one because I’d love to network and get some feedback from agents. Plus, it just sounds like fun!

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    • You would love it!
      I think Blogher is more of a blogging conference, but you can check out the list of classes before signing up. Once you pay for the weekend, most classes can be attended, first come first serve for free, at least that’s how this conference was run.
      I think if you go into it with a positive attitude, it will BE positive.I posted a link above that has a list of conferences. I don’ know how comprehensive it is. If you Google California Writer’s Conference, I am sure a list of them will come up!
      Good luck with your book! It was a blast!

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  25. Okay, first of all. You are so adorable. If I ever have cancer, I want to look like you when I come through. You are perfection.

    Secondly. I love your honesty. These are all things I would probably do at a conference. I say incredibly stupid things at my Master’s Level class all the time(still an undergrad, and boy do I feel it). Thank you for this post. Who knows what kind of conferences I will be going to, but I love your advice. :)

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    • Ohhhhh! Thank you! You are so sweet….
      I am such a late bloomer, graduating in art many years ago. I figure there will always be so much to learn about the craft. I don’t get down on myself over the stupid stuff I do. It’s way more fun to let everyone laugh with me. The humiliations just keep on coming!!!! Good luck with your classes!

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  26. What wonderful advice! I’ve never been to a writer’s conference, but you just stopped me from being terrified of them. Thank you thank you!

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    • I am so glad! No need for fear. Everyone is in the same big boat. They are invaluable for information. I wish some of the classes had been offered more than once since some conflicted. I am going to order at least one DVD.
      Thanks so much!

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  27. Yes, I went to the one you did about five years ago. I’ve been to Taos which was much more intimate and Portland which was like Denver’s. You pretty much nailed it for experience. Very mixed feelings on them. I think they’re great for learning about the industry, but it’s still back to our little lives to learn about writing.

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    • I learned a lot about revisions and what tightening a manuscript means. I also learned a lot about writing fight scenes, sex scenes, and how to add setting with fewer words. It was really cool and I would definitely do it again!
      Thanks for reading!

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  28. filbio

    Great advice Susie. In my biz I attend many conventions and conferences. For many it is hard to deal with meeting strangers. It’s also hard to take constructive criticism and be open to learning. Sounds like you made this work for you and was a great experience.

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    • It was a great experience. I think one of the the challenges of taking criticism is understanding specifically what the reader is having a problem with. I had no problem understanding the agents. They were in hysterics!!!!
      The smoke metaphor has left my book permanently… :)
      Thanks Phil!

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  29. Such great advice. You are so wise. :)

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  30. This was good advice, thanks for posting. It sounds like you had a great time and definitely learned to fine tune your pitch. I’ve gone to a writer’s conference before in Palm Springs, but there was no one on one with the agent for free, just a panel with the Q & A, which had some really good answers. We got more one on one time with published authors, but I kind of like the agent one on one pitch learning sessions you mentioned. Love the fact that you have business cards :)

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    • Thanks Guat!
      I finally got my cards done professionally. I used the banner from this blog.
      Are you working on a book?

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      • Yes! I’m trying to finish it by the end of the year, hoping to finish it before December, but let’s not crazy I’ve got till Christmas :) Then hoping to hit the publishing world like you like a Guatacular storm :) But I don’t have any cards …

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  31. Susie,
    Good for you! Everybody needs an editor and to listen to the editors.
    You gave me just the impetus I needed to get back to work. Thanks. Because only when I finish the damn book will I need an agent!

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  32. Good for you for going through this! I’m sure your book will be great.

    I have never been to a writers conference, a critique group or anything of the sort. My first step should probably be to sit down and actually write a book before I try to get anyone to look at it.

    How are you doing these days, Susie? I’ve been swamped at work and keeping a low profile, but I miss my buddies.

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    • I wouldn’t bother if you don’t have a book, but there are blogging conferences every once in a while.
      I am doing great! I have to give my body the that it needs to heal. I am planning to jump on my bike when I get back, but only if it doesn’t feel weird. I am visiting my parents in Wisconsin!
      Thanks for asking Peg! I hope you are well. :)

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  33. I’m a conference virgin. The only one I’m hearing about is in LA. I live on the east coast and I don’t love LA. There’s one coming up in NYC. I have issues with traveling, like getting lost a lot, anxiety attacks and the general feeling that no matter how thoroughly I’ve prepared something will go kablooey. So much for macho confidence.

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  34. The book I’ve been revising (forever, it seems) is a fantasy for middle graders. Early on when I decided to write for children, I joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I’ve attended quite a few of their conferences. I think you took away more in your first conference than I did in four. I’m shy and easily overwhelmed in large groups. I’m getting better, though. Now I’m actually co-director of a small annual conference. It’s an intimate weekend that takes place a cozy lodge in the woods with about 35-40 attendees, two editors, an agent, a marketing expert, an author, and an illustrator. In spite of all that experience, I STILL have a hard time giving my elevator pitch. I get tongue-tied to the point of near catatonia.

    You, my friend, rock! I don’t think you’ll have a problem getting published. And yes, a good critique group is invaluable.

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    • For me it was all about talking slowly, and knowing the verbs. I think it helped that I spoke with her briefly the day before.
      Thanks so much Mary! I have my fingers and toes crossed. Good luck with your book! What are you waiting for????

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  35. This was awesome info. I just passed it along to a friend via email who will be going to her first writers conference in a month. She’s been very nervous. :-) You know I love the way you approach things. I’ve told you a bunch of times. Personally, I’ve only been to a readers conference, though there were agents and publishers there for pitch purposes as well. :-)

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  36. Oh–my–doG! This was terrific! I do remember when I was a conference “virgin” and we could be twins separated at birth (I’m the evil one). Since then, I’ve attended dozens…and even been in charge of organizing/running them, even SPEAKING at them, yikes!…so I can relate to everything here. So glad you shared and that you found terrific info/advice. There’s always so much to learn. And remember,sounds trite but true–being a writer is as much about the journey as the destination. Enjoy your new travels!

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    • I am thanks Amy! And thanks for stopping by to read. It is an amazing life-changing journey and I have met the most wonderful people. I can’t wait for what happens next.
      How cool that you have spoken at them! Wow!
      By the way, Roxy is devouring those bones in minutes, not burying them. How wrong is that?????

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  37. Melissa Lewicki

    This was a great post. Thanks! I’ve attended a couple of conferences and have learned so much. I wanted to attend WANA’s virtual conference this weekend, but will be out of town. Thanks again for some great hints.

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  38. Gret list superlative Susie! I not only Liked it I bookmarked it! Thanks for sharing….

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  39. Chris

    Good for you for your courage to get out there and willingness to learn. Sounds to me like traditional publishers and agents are feeling very threatened. As they should. Their way of doing business is dying. You are clearly a talented writer so write your book, get together with other writers rather than condescending folks who lord the rules over you – rules which are probably pretty meaningless by now, and publish your book. It’s a new world out there. We readers await your book.

    Like

    • Thanks so much Chris! I can’t wait to get it out there. I will probably send the pages out at the end of next week. It will be fun to see what she says. I agree about getting together with other writers and am now getting some great online critique!

      Like

  40. Writers Conferences are a great experience. I’ve been to many, and the best lesson to learn is to have a thick skin and learn how to take criticism. It’s never personal.
    As a published author, I can’t stress enough to find yourself a good critique group. Not one who will adore every word you put to paper, but one who will teach you to “kill your darlings.” (Smoke???) Honesty is not the same as cruelty, and if you can find a brutally honest group, so much the better.

    Congratulations on losing your writer conference virginity, and for writing a great post.

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    • Ohhhhh! Thank you!
      I think I do have a thick skin. I have 6 more books lined up to write and I want this first one to be the best it can be. Maybe it is because I just started writing that I don’t resent criticism. I welcome it!!!! I heard a few writers at the convention comment that they have a hard time with it because of their training and education. Big mistake….
      The smoke metaphor has vanished from my book…. POOF!

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  41. “I refused to admit defeat.” See? This is only one of the amazing things about you, Susie. I don’t think I said a word at my first writing conference, even when I found myself two feet behind one of my favorite authors outside the hotel. I maintained my role as observer. Although, I did rally a teensy bit, when I emailed that author a couple of days later. She actually responded. I’m still learning how to be courageous. :)

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    • Go Coleen Go!!!! It does take courage. I think I’ve hit that age and I’ve been through so much that I won’t let my insecurities get in the way of achieving my goals. I don’t have time for messing around! The conference was very well organized and offered so many interesting classes.

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  42. Writers Conferences are such a hoot – between the nervous ones, the shove-you-out-of-the-way ones (who end up crying), and the agents gods/goddesses….possible a good setting for a novel (no mystery- a murder one?)
    Sounds like you had a great time. You write with such a relaxed delightful style. This is solid information with a touch of humor.(Those room names and the temperatures – hilarious ..and true)
    YEA you! May all that potential smooth your glide into success

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    • Thanks so much! I guess I write the way I talk. There were a lot of “types” at the conference. Most were cheerful. I always chatted with whoever I sat next too. The funny thing is, at a conference like this, we all have something in common!!
      Thanks again Phil and for all your support! …..glides across floor…and slams into refrigerator…. :)

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  43. What an awesome experience! This is why I can never be late I am never that witty lol.

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  44. Susie, you were awesome at RMFW, and this is an excellent write up of tips. Thanks so much for the shout out and for coming up with a picture that makes me look good. :)

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  45. This is just great. Humorous and informative all at the same time. I think I’ll bookmark this and keep it handy for when I attend a conference. If you need a critique member, let me know.

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  46. Went to my first writers’ workshop last spring– haven’t braved a conference with agents to pitch to. Thanks for the blow by blow. I think. Cracked me up — the parts about (1) being cold – why are those conference centers like refrigerators? and (2) the reminder to think before speaking. Any tips on mastering that one would be greatly appreciated. Congratulations on taking the plunge! (Seems like almost a year ago you were taking a different kind of plunge). Looking forward to hearing how much the agent loves your first 30 pages!

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    • I signed up so late and had the most jam packed week. I didn’t have much time to prepare, but I would have made the fiction novel comment anyway….I caught myself saying that again yesterday!!!! DUH!!!
      So cool that you attended one. It was very fun!

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  47. I went to the Taos Writer’s Conference a few years ago and loved it, but I wasn’t pitching a book, just took a few writing classes and attended the readings at night. And I got this really cool T-shirt! :-) I found it inspirational and fun, but I wasn’t nearly as brave as you, Susie. Congrats on nailing the pitch session!

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  48. I loved this post. Wish I could print it out for reference :)

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  49. That’s a lot to go through in one day! I’m exhausted from reading about your experience. But, you not only survived it, you kicked ass and went way beyond your comfort zone! You not only have new powerful breasts but you have quite the “cojones” too, Susie! :)

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    • Hahaha! You are funny!
      I decided that since I committed to it, I would take advantage of all that was offered even if I humiliated myself in the process. And I sure did!!
      Thanks Maria!

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  50. I saw this on LinkedIn, Susie, and the use of vaginal, I mean, virginal before the word “experience” as written in the lead, completely sucked me in! Nice (unintended?) visual hook! Have a great day. ~Bob

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  51. I give you credit! First, for going there with the attitude that you had, and second, for not giving up, even when things were getting wonky. Keep us posted on the progress of your book, OK?

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  52. Good for you! That sounds like a great experience that you made the most of.

    How about a paranormal thriller where all the embarrasment and humiliation of the writers at a conference congeal into a supernatural mass that runs around giving agents wedgies?
    It can only be stopped by the plucky new writer who has magic breasts that can defeat the spirit.
    Oh, and she should have a dog.

    (I know, I can’t believe I’m not published either.) ;)

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  53. I’ve never been to a writers conference. I loved every minute of your description, and I’m so jealous. But I do write paranormal thrillers. (Book 2 coming out in Dec.) So if you’d like to trade chapters for critique, let me know.

    PS: I didn’t change my first chapter, but I DID buy a new living room set while on pain meds. Damn online auctions. (I got pink. With fringe.) A smoke metaphor doesn’t sound nearly so bad.

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  54. No I have not… but I this was so interesting.. who knew> And you did great.. I would have had it after getting there late.. But you are Susie… wonder woman to us all. And you kept getting back up and going for it.
    Bravo!!

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    • Thanks Linda! I kept putting myself out there and I learned a ton of information. I think the hardest thing for some writers is criticism, but I never get defensive. I want to write the best story I can and get it out there since I have a lot more to tell!

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