Recently I attended a writing conference and I will freely admit I attended primarily because I knew my time had arrived. Yes, this time I would be discovered. My critique editor would be so impressed with my submission that she would pat the chair next to her and state, “I’ve waited all day to finally meet you. I adore this * points to my pages* and we need to talk about contracts.”
This, of course, did not happen and I doubt it will. Or if it does I hope the actual moment will not be as corny as my version.
I didn’t always used to be conference goer. I used to be a conference nayer. “Pfft–I don’t need to spend money, drive miles, and sit and listen to people who have made it. I have my books and magazines to tell me what I need to know.” That’s me turning down a suggestion to attend a SCBWI conference. My critique group sagely retorted, “You go because it’s all about networking.” And she was right. Making connections is primary, and gaining knowledge is secondary for me.
When conference invites drop into my mailbox I first check the line up–who is going to be there? Getting to hear a favorite or well-known author or to glean industry insights from a respected editor, publisher, or agent might entice me to reach for the calendar. Yet, what gets me actually going to the conference is the critique, having the opportunity to learn and to receive an assessment of my writing from an industry professional. If I can get a renowned publisher, editor, or agent to look over my work and get their attention for 12 minutes, I’m all in. Critiques range in price and my pocketbook can handle the $60 variety, which translates to roughly $5.00 a minute . I consider this a good value since I willingly pay a dollar a minute for my ten minute chair massage at the farmer’s market. Both are invigorating focused sessions, yet only one is beneficial towards my career.
Once at the conference I diligently sit through the various speakers, deftly mining worthy industry nuggets. Admittedly I’m only half tuned into the program because I keep glancing at my at my watch after continually rechecking my critique appointment slip. Bad form, really. It would be much better to relax and relish while waiting.
This year I did do just that.
My appointment was probably the last one of the day which meant I needed to pass the time. I actually decided to really listen to the speaker presentations and not just flick through the bin of offered treasure trove of advice but to really savor the meal before me. Yes,a muddle of metaphors. As for the actual conference I had a productive meeting with a publisher of a respected, well-known publishing house. She liked my approach, style, and even appreciated my humorous bits in the manuscript. She had prepared an amazing critique page–the best organized I’ve ever received. No, she did not offer a contract. However, she did hand me her personal business card and invited me to send my proposal for another project to her directly *no slush pile*. And she said I could resubmit the piece she had critiqued. Better than six chair massages, I’d say.
So, if are on the fence about attending a writing conference I would give you a bit of a nudge and so “Zip out the credit card and go absorb and mingle and learn.”
Oh–I would appreciate some good thoughts towards the project I just emailed her. Having just received a rejection for a manuscript, I wouldn’t mind some good news around the corner.
Well that sounds promising! Sending you good thoughts. I love conferences, although I’ve never been to a writers’ conference.
Ah, Pam, first let me say I’m glad you attended a conference! I, like you, the first time I attended a conference, went with much the same intent and expectations. That was about 12 years ago. Since then I have learned that, although it’s difficult not to be hopeful, it is best not to have any expectations. Networking is truly the most important thing, in my opinion, and not just with the editors, agents and art directors, but your fellow authors.
It is rare that people get contracts through their critiques because finding the right match is so difficult. And you’re actually getting a bit more of a bargain than you calculated 🙂 That’s only for the face-to-face discussion (which is invaluable). For the $60, you got them reading and critiquing your work prior to the meeting. The meeting is just the discussion 🙂 It’s ALL good, I think. I look forward to our conferences and any event I can attend (our Craft Weekend is right around the corner 🙂 ) because there’s nothing like being around kindred spirits and anything that concerns this wonderful aspiration 🙂
Yes, yes, yes! SCBWI conferences are the best! Good luck!
I’ve never been to a writers’ conference so it was interesting to get an insider’s view point!