So what are my thoughts about the conference? You wonder….
I didn’t know if I should attend when it was nearing because my project wasn’t ready. The project I wanted to take with me was left at home because something didn’t ring true in there. So I had doubts if I should go. But instead I brought the project I didn’t plan on bringing with me as a rescue plan. It was collecting dust for a while. I have done only minor editing to it. And in the end, everything worked out pretty well for me. I’m glad I attended; I got what I needed; I learned what to do next.
So my words of wisdom are:
If you are a new writer, put trust in the Lord because He knows the reasons for you to be there. For me, the highlight of the conference was talking to an agent who gave me words of wisdom. I learned a lot. I found the agent that I want to work with in the future. God willing, that’s what will happen one day. We just clicked! I love when that happens.
I have spoken to several agents and interviewed them for a change. Don’t be afraid to talk to them. They are just people. If this is the only reason you want attend the conference, then go. You might have only one or two appointments, but the opportunities to mingle with most of the agents or editors are everywhere. And not every agent would be suitable for you and the other way around. So it is important to meet many of them and see which one would be a fit for you.
Networking with other professionals is another reason for you to be there. If you meet people with whom you just can’t seem to click with, that’s fine. We all have different personalities. So, if you run into situations which make you uncomfortable then know that it happens all the time. All of us will not click. That is why it’s so great to go and have the opportunity to talk to a variety of people who are behind the scenes and right on the spot. You will find people who will help you grow as a writer. You will find the ones who will help you take one step or more toward getting published. You will not be taking back steps. You will know what path to walk on.
I met some wonderful people who gave me good advice. (God is working in mysterious ways to make those pieces fit into the puzzle if I don’t know what to do with them.) I had the opportunity to chat with wonderful writers who I love. Writers just beamed with happiness! I was surprised how humble and good-natured they were.
When I was registering for the conference, I heard a lot of advice that it’s okay to miss the class or classes if you need to talk to people you meet. I didn’t know why people would post advice like that. Aren’t you paying for the classes? Aren’t we supposed to learn and take all the knowledge we can? I learned a lot by spending time with individuals after the classes, or when I have waited for my appointments, or during lunch or dinner, or during breaks. Around seven hundred individuals attended. You can imagine the floor being busy with people everywhere who share the same passion for reading and writing. Not that the classes weren’t valuable–they were. I have learned plenty. But, you can order the recordings of the conference to listen to at your convenience after you go back home. I highly recommend it. But you won’t see the cluster of people for another year, so use it to your advantage.
Remember to take time for yourself at the conference. I could have talked more but I had to digest things I’ve learned. I played conversations back to myself. I smiled about positive remarks. I put a few things critiqued under the rug.
Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Be true to yourself and learn as much as you can. Compare critiques so you can pick up on things you can improve. Determination is key. Sometimes you will need to cut your work or revive it to make it more alive in order to connect with your audience. But don’t seek critiques if you’re just starting out. Look for inspiration.
Accommodations could have been a little bit better. I’m not going to lie. I wasn’t so lucky. I couldn’t see the St. Louis Gateway Arch or the river. What I had outside my window was the black roof adjoining two wings blocking the view of the city. Also, I could hear the water coming up in the bathroom. I had the seepage that left black residue in a sink every time someone was taking a shower next door. The noise of the water coming up wasn’t letting me fall asleep at night and made me nervous. I’m so thankful that there was no overflow.
The program was packed. The classes were good even though the most valuable information I learned came from things happening outside of the sessions. You just have to see for yourself. You can’t get any closer than that. Books cannot serve as a substitute.
The truth is that more likely than not you will be overworked after the conference. It may have a negative impact on you for a short time…. You are likely to feel drained like me. I have poured all of my energy into getting ready for the conference, i.e. working on my project that I wanted to submit, getting my business cards ready (had to reorder twice), creating my website, etc. After I came back, I felt restless. I couldn’t write or read books about the craft. I took the time to do other things, like watching movies. I didn’t plan on going back to writing at that time. This was a phase that passed! It lasted only two weeks. I got my strength back as well as my passion. I felt ready to plunge in again. I was excited to go back to my work. I don’t know where it all came from, but I wasn’t expecting it. So don’t kill yourself. (Just kidding–I never thought you would.) Take a break if you feel that way. Your body and mind will tell you when it’s enough and time to loosen up a bit. Recharge your energy. Be gentle to yourself. After taking a hard long walk, take a break and sit on a rock and stretch your feet.