You barely know what you’re doing. Walking up to the front desk or table, you sign in. Someone hands you a few things you’re too nervous to look at, including a name badge that you promptly drop.
You’ve just arrived at your first writers conference and you haven’t a clue what comes next.
Following the drone of voices, you find yourself in a room filled with excited people. Many of them smile at you and introduce themselves. Business cards exchange hands. This will happen often during the conference, so keep yours handy.
After whatever opening ceremonies your conference offers, the keynote speaker is introduced. He or she encourages and challenges you. Sometimes they make you laugh. Often, they share their horror stories about how they got their start. Bungling, novice writers, swimming against the current. Somehow making it through all the jumble. It’s hard, hard work! But it’s worth it. Every excruciating moment of it, they tell you.
And you believe it.
After the keynote, there are classes. You’ve chosen several that looked promising. By the end of the day, your head may explode. What? Did you really think it would be easy? There is so much to this thing! You’d never even heard about deep POV, or showing versus telling.
And as the day draws to a close, you realize…you’ve been doing it all wrong. Now you’ll have to go home and get out your work-in-progress, examine it for all the problems you didn’t know you had. But maybe not tonight. Tonight you’re tired, and tomorrow is another day of conference. Like the true novice you are, you have scheduled interviews with an agent and an editor.
And now, you know the truth. You’re not ready.
So after a sleepless night, you return to the writers conference. A fluttering tummy accompanies you. You force a few sips of coffee down and check your phone forty-five times to make sure you’re not late for your interview.
The agent sits across from you, waiting. You’re so nervous, you drop your one-sheet and stumble over your words. It’s not the perfect interview you’d envisioned when you signed up for this thing. In fact, it seems a bit like an interrogation. But somehow, you make it through.
She smiles sweetly as she lets you down easy. Your writing shows promise, but needs work.
The interview with the editor is easier, because now you know. Your work is not ready, so why not use these few minutes to get to know this editor? Ask questions. Find out what it will take to get where you want to go.
If they tell you to abandon your dreams–find another way to express yourself because you clearly don’t have what it takes to get published–ignore them. Because that’s what writers do. We ignore the naysayers and keep plodding on, learning and filling our heads with writer-ly things. We swallow our disappointments, pull ourselves up and start over. Over and over again.
By the end of the conference, you realize how much you still need to learn. But you’re stuffed full of hope and encouragement. You’ve made friends and connections. You have a fistful of business cards so you can connect on Facebook and Twitter. You now know how to connect on Facebook and Twitter.
The writers conference can provide you with all that and more. It’s an investment in your future. Continuing education.
If you were playing a video game, you’ve just received a key that will get you to the next level.
There’s a writers conference out there calling your name. You may need to save some cash to go, but it’ll be worth every penny. I’m going to two this year. Kentucky Christian Writers Conference in Elizabethtown, Kentucky (June 23-25), and the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Nashville, Tennessee (August 25-28). I’ve linked them for you, so you can check them out.
Have you attended a conference recently, or in the past? What was your favorite part? My favorite memory is of a connection I made with a published writer who encouraged me to stick with it. Don’t give up. She made me feel that I had a purpose. I’m forever grateful.
If you were looking for news about our upcoming mission trip to Cuenca, Ecuador — I’ve delayed the post until Tuesday, June 28 so I can give you the most up-to-date news possible. There’s a lot happening! 🙂