Recovering from a Writers Conference
I just returned from four days at a writers conference. I had something like 30 one-on-one meetings with writers, taught four 1-hour workshops, ran two late-night critique groups, had a few lunches/dinners/coffees with editors, and still managed to get out each morning for a 2-mile jog to and from Starbucks. Phew! I really enjoyed this conference but felt pretty rundown by the end of it, which is normal. It takes a lot of psychic energy to be “on” 12 hours a day!
I came away from the conference with one very strong potential client, and a small handful of others I want to consider. However, as you know, I don’t really have much time for new-client consideration at the moment so I’m going to have to make these decisions slowly and carefully.
One of the cool things about this conference was that I ended up pretty impressed with writers in general. I mean, I knew I liked you already! But I think I reached a whole new level of awe in the last few days. I’m amazed by writers’ dedication and perseverance and willingness to learn. If you’ve ever taken the time, effort and money to go to a writers’ conference, or you’re planning to in the future, I salute you. I think you’re doing a wonderful thing for yourself, and I applaud your courage. I truly hope you find your conferences helpful and enlightening and fun.
A couple of random conference tips came to mind while I was there:
1. If you’re pitching a project, definitely bring a couple of printouts of a one-sheet, a proposal, a synopsis, and a first chapter (or whatever you have available). You never know when an agent or editor might want to look at them. We’re visual creatures; we sometimes need to look at something written while we’re listening to your verbal pitch. Also, there are often opportunities to have your work critiqued, and you don’t want to lose out. (Let me know if you want me to talk about one-sheets here on the blog.)
2. If you want to leave an agent or editor with something, always ask them if they want to take it or if they’d prefer you email them. Whatever they say, respect it and don’t push! For me this is a practical issue; I sometimes travel with only one small carry-on bag, and there simply isn’t any extra room.
3. Make a point to stop and talk to anyone you see standing or sitting alone, especially if they have that “lost” look on their face. Conferences can be so intimidating and everyone needs a friend. (If you see a faculty member sitting alone, feel free to join them! Especially if you just want to have conversation rather than give them a pitch.)
4. Remember that one of the reasons agents and editors like going to conferences is to see their friends, i.e. all the other faculty members. We often only see each other at these events. Therefore if you see a couple of faculty members hanging out and talking, consider whether you might want to give them some time rather than interrupting to give your pitch.
I really want to thank everyone for being so nice to me at the conference; for making me feel welcome and for at least acting like you got something out of my workshops. It’s truly a pleasure working with writers who sincerely want to learn the business.
Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent