I am heading to another conference this weekend. This time it’s a professional day with the Houston chapter of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Truly looking forward to a whole day with professional writers, agents, and editors sharing their wisdom. I hope to come away with some gems that will shine up my own writing. The only question left for me before tomorrow morning is what to wear to give just the right impression to the editor with whom I’ve been paired for my critique.
In a happy coincidence, my sis-in-law, Randi, who writes exquisite short fiction, invited me to attend a Literary Salon sponsored by Inprint! of Houston. True confession — I have been writing for over 20 years now, but I was intrigued — what the heck is a ‘Literary Salon’ anyway? It turns out that it was a talk by a wonderful writer and University of Houston MFA-Writing Professor on critical reading with a bunch of nicely dressed intelligent folk who like to read.
While I felt the need to buy a new pair of shoes for the event so that I would be sufficiently Literary, I came away with the sure knowledge that watching folks at this salon was the same as people watching at conferences. There’s always one person who feels the need to stand out — not always in a good way. (Not at this particular event, but I needed a segue.)
So for those getting ready to attend their first conference, a few “rules”.
- Polish the heck out of your work.
- Put it to bed before you go. Don’t take your manuscript with you unless someone has told you ahead of time that they want you to deliver it to them.
- Don’t try to talk business in the bathroom. Just. Don’t.
- Practice an elevator pitch until you can deliver it in your sleep.
- Dress nicely, but comfortably. Those spike heels are killer — in more than one way.
- Mind your manners.
- Listen. You may hear things you didn’t want to hear. Don’t argue (at least not out loud) with the experts.
- Sleep on the advice, then weigh it and see if it hits a chord you didn’t know was there. Not all advice is good advice, but it never hurts to think on it.
- Network with folks just like you. It’s fun, and you never know when one of them turns out to be oh-so-helpful next week.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself if your nerves cause you to break one of the “rules”. Everybody does it. Everyone gets over it. Just don’t break the same one over and over again, cause that gets old really quickly.
Don’t have a conference lined up this weekend? Do an internet search — there’s bound to be one coming up close to you soon. Meanwhile, sit your behind in the chair and work!