Thursday, April 28, 2011

Meeting the Muse

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?


Alicia Gregoire said...

Have fun at the Muse. I'm not going this year--opted for the regional SCBWI instead.

Take notes!!!

Pam Harris said...

Have a great time! I love writing conferences. I coughed up money to attend SCBWI in LA again this summer--which is probably the BEST conference I've ever attended. :)

Perri said...

Hi Pam. I've heard SCBWI is very good. But alas!I am not a children's or YA writer.

I'll miss you this year, Alicia!

maryw said...

Wait I second...I thought I was the one who met the most wonderful critique partner and friend in the line for the bathroom last year. Can lightening strike twice at the same conference?
Can't wait to see you!

A.M. Swan said...

Great advice Perri - and I think I too am at a safe distance this year. For one - I am glad I am going for one day - rather than two - it was just draining last year. I am also glad my agent meeting is at the end of the day. That way I can enjoy the rest rather than let that set the tone. And I too am not wanting my agent to say you are the one - rather I am looking for feedback only. I have work to do and will need to do that before I look again for the one - myself.

Can't wait to see you there.

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Have fun at the conference! :)

FranceRants said...

Good luck and please pass on any good tidbits, to write a plot :)

KO: The Insect Collector said...

Perri-- thanks so much for the versatile blogger award! I really appreciate it. I am a little in awe of your super-cool conference plan. going for the agent who specializes in your weakness-- very savvy!

Jenny Phresh said...

Your awards are not over, Lesser Apricots! Visit
to collect the one I just gave ye!

Christine Murray said...

I too think that the word behoove is underused. Best of luck at the conference!

KO: The Insect Collector said...

oh, Perri- and now I have an award for you!

Alison Smith (aka miss ali) said...

Sounds like a great opportunity! We tend to have "writers festivals" here in Aus which sound pretty similar. They are always so informative and I love the feel of so many writers around too- its pretty awesome. great advice too!