This weekend, is a big one. I'm heading over to Grub Street Writers' Muse and The Marketplace conference. This is my 3rd time at The Muse, and there are a lot less jitters. Partly, this is because I know that whatever happens, it'll be an instructive and interesting, and partly because I am practicing my Zen conference attendance skills.
Though I am meeting with an agent, I am approaching my 20 minutes without a smidgen of that do-or-die bustle. Rather, I've attained a state of reasonable detachment. I chose an agent who's focus is my weakness (yep, you read that right). She emphasizes the importance of plot. And, I, dear friends, get caught up in character and setting and voice and sort of struggle with plot. Rather than hawking my first 20 pages-- which I suppose I can do by email when the time comes, I am hoping to learn a thing or two about what makes a good plot tick and how she assesses the tick. I mean, does it have to look like this? How do I get it there?
Also, I want some feedback on my much-revised query before I start sending it out.
Also, I plan to take a bunch of seminars about plot and revision, hang out with some old writing friends, and meet some new ones.
There are many, many blog posts out there about making the most of a writers' conference. Most involve how to pitch and dress and optimize. I have no idea how to pitch.
And my clothes are Salvation Army issue "eh."
So I can't help you there. If you are going to a conference, it would behoove you to check out this or this. (I love using "Behoove" in a sentence!)
My tips mostly involve taking a few deep breaths and...
1) Have realistic expectations. It's alright to dream about some high-powered agent clutching your manuscript to his/her chest and declaring "This is absolutely perfect, I MUST have it!"
But perhaps you might set out some goals that you yourself can control, to learn something, to find out if a particular plot point works or doesn't, to meet 3 new critique partners. Maybe that agent will find you, but if this is the sole focus, anything short of it will be disappointing.
2) Meet and greet and meet and greet and meet and greet. When you are at a conference, talk to everybody! How often do you have a chance to mingle with so many serious writers-- in person? You never know who will stick and who you'll never hear from again, but let me tell you, I met the most wonderful critique partner and friend in the line for the bathroom at the last Muse.
3) Push it. I am a sort of shy person (people never really believe this, but at one point I very seriously wanted nothing more than to live alone in a remote cabin in Montana ala Ted Kaszinsky. I truly am a natural-born recluse.)
But when I am at a conference, I push myself to do things I normally wouldn't. Like participate in an open mic reading (gulp!) and attend a mixer alone. Push that envelope because, if you are going to all the trouble and expense of a conference, you don't want to go home with even one woulda shoulda coulda.
That's all. I can't tell you how to take good notes (Mine are always illegible) and can't figure out how to tweet for crap, but I can tell you to go into the thing with an open heart and Zen sense of whatever and enjoy!
What experiences have you had at conferences? Any additional advice?