Last week, after I hit the publish button on Writing Conference Preparations – Part 1, I realized I had forgotten something important. I’m not sure if it classifies as preparation because it harkens back to the act of signing up itself. But is probably the most important thing I remind myself when I attend a conference. And that is—
Sign up for everything!
I didn’t do this for my first conference, and I regretted it.
Conferences are expensive both in terms of time and money spent. I want to get the best return on my investment. I’m sure everyone who attends a writing conference wants an editor or agent to fall in love with their work. But other than working on craft and becoming the best writer I can, there’s no way to control this variable. But I can make sure I’m going to peer critiques and meeting the other interesting people around me. I don't plan to be in my room by myself unless I'm sleeping. When there’s a time slot where I can be active with my peers, I’m in. Pre-conference intensive. Check. Mix and mingle. Check. Writing conference success. Check.
Another way I use my conference time? I volunteer.
At the upcoming NJ SCBWI conference I will be the “workshop facilitator” for one of the workshop sessions. Do I think this will fast track my words to stardom?
Nope. But I do think conferences are important, I appreciate the opportunity to attend and I want to help them run smoothly and keep costs down. If checking the volunteer box helps the organizers who make these opportunities possible, I’m all in.
So what else did I do this week in preparation for the upcoming conference?
I chose my wardrobe wisely. And I’m not talking style. Frankly, as long as it’s within the bounds of decency, I don’t think anyone cares how I dress. At other conferences I’ve attended, depending on the venue, folks wear anything from t-shirts and blue jeans to business casual. But the important consideration is—layers! I spent one entire workshop last year sitting on my hands because the room was so cold. The conference organizers sorted it out later in the day, but that first workshop was physically painful. The reverse can also be true. Air conditioners break or are overwhelmed. I want to be able to focus on the subject matter and not be at the mercy of the indoor elements.
Yesterday I started practicing my pitch for a recently completed middle grade novel. I have a four minute pitch slot with a terrific agent and I don’t want to sit there like a blathering fool. I know there will be nerves, and I know when push comes to shove I may forget my own name and end up talking nonsense anyway, but at least I know I prepared the best I could. It’s easy to talk about my novel for twenty minutes, not so easy to condense my enthusiasm into one or two, leaving time to talk with the agent.
This morning, I printed off the three copies of my first page for my first pages workshop. Printers have a way of running out of ink/toner at the most inopportune moments (those of you with kids who wait until the last minute to write papers for school know what I’m talking about!). I put it in the folder along with my critiques, hotel confirmation and directions to the venue. While I have a GPS, it’s been wrong before and I’m a visual person who likes to see where I’m going in advance.
I think I’m ready! I'm reading my contributing author's copy of the newest Chicken Soup: Inspiration for Writers, jotting down motivational messages to myself, shadow-boxing writing demons, practicing the Ann Cuddy's TED talk body language.
Anyone have any other suggestions for me?