by Sue Brower
I have just returned from a great week at Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference. Alton Gansky and his team provided an experience that I know changed the lives of many writers. We had writers from beginners to bestsellers, those that write 500 word blogs to those that write 100,000 word novels. What we all had in common was our love of writing and our desire to improve our craft. I say “our” because I learned something from every person I spoke with at the conference.
As we approach the ACFW conference in Dallas in September, I would like to encourage as many of you who can, to go. But before you walk into that hotel, take the time to set goals, strategies and tasks for the whole weekend. Here are few do’s and don’ts:
• DO look at your writing as a career, professionalism speaks volumes
• DO choose workshops and seminars that help you achieve your goal. If you have not finished at least one manuscript, focus on craft.
• DO ask questions of faculty, fellow writers, and established authors.
• DO be on time! If you have an appointment, don’t make them wait, and don’t take more than your scheduled time.
• DO research the publishers and agents that you have appointments with. Find out what they are looking for!
• DO let someone know if you are unable to make an appointment. There is always someone waiting to take your place.
• DO introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. It’s as simple as asking “what kind of fiction to you write?” “Where are you from?” “Is this your first conference?”
• DO bring chocolate and comfortable shoes.
• DON’T dominate the conversation at lunch and dinner if you are with a faculty member that everyone wants to talk to.
• DON’T go to editor and agent appointments unprepared.
• DON’T hide in your room between sessions. Socialize! Network! Meet new friends!
• DON’T overschedule yourself. You can’t go to every workshop, so look at those that will help you take the next step towards publication.
• DON’T pitch your book to an editor or agent in: the restroom, the elevator, standing in line waiting to go in for meals, or on the last day when he/she is checking out of the hotel.
• DON’T be afraid. Editors and agents don’t bite…except maybe Chip MacGregor!
Oh and my most memorable conference moment? I was recently at a conference where all of the faculty was introduced after dinner (and in my case, after traveling all day) and we were all pretty worn out. My first appointment was a lovely older lady, Southern to be sure. She shook my hand and gently reassured me “My you clean up well!” And that, my friends, is probably NOT the best way to open your editor or agent appointment.
So how do you approach going to writers conferences? Are you looking for network opportunities or to improve your craft? Or are you just hoping to find new friends with a common interest in writing fiction? No matter what your goal is, a little planning can go a long way towards making this a life-changing experience. See you in Dallas!
Sue Brower is Executive Editor at Zondervan. Prior to taking on this role, Sue was Sr. Director of Marketing for Fiction and Inspirational product for over thirteen years. Fiction is business as well as pleasure for Sue as she is an avid reader of both inspirational and mainstream novels.
Sue is on the Advisory Board for the Christy Awards and a member of ACE (Academy of Christian Editors. She was also awarded the 2010 ACFW Editor of the Year Award. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with husband, Todd, and “kidz”, Pepper, Ollie and Shep.