by Cindy Sproles, @CindyDevoted
Learning curves. They’re a pain in the . . . well, you know. No one likes having to learn something new. We’re comfortable in our space just the way it is. When you unload your suitcase and stare at the hotel, it’s easy to ask that burning question: What have I done?
Your conference director and faculty have things coordinated, organized, and ready to go. You, on the other hand, feel the butterflies. As you walk through the halls of the conference venue pods of folks gather hugging, laughing, and sharing their writing adventures. Do you even fit in this world?
Of course you do and it begins right here.
Firsts are always frightening. There’s uncertainty, unfamiliarity, even self-doubt, but what you must remember is you are blessed with a gift. It’s new and there is a lot to learn.
Here are some ways to help you make your way through your first conference.
- Take a deep breath – I know, easier said than done. You’ve taken the hard step by simply showing up. Your first conference can be overwhelming, so don’t EVEN try to do everything. Take a deep breath, chew on that conference class schedule and look at classes that apply to your current writing level. I understand there are big name authors and publishers and you’ll want to take their classes, but to get the most of the dollars you spend, seek out classes that meet you skill wise. You have an opportunity to learn face-to-face with experienced professionals. This personal learning time is valuable. Take in the information that helps you grow your skill level.
- Purchase the MP3s or CDs – Never walk away from a conference without investing in the recordings of the conference classes. This will help you focus on the classes that are on your current writing level. After the conference, you can listen to the big dog classes who may be teaching advanced writer levels. Not to mention, continued learning at your fingertips. I never leave a conference without the recordings. Yes, they cost a little money. It’s a wise business decision. It’s a wiser career decision. What helps you justify those costs? Most conferences fund their scholarship programs with the sale of these recordings. When you purchase conference MP3s or CDs, you are helping fund a scholarship for a less fortunate conferee next year and you have the conference in its entirety. Win, Win.
- Network– It won’t take long until you begin making friends. I’ve found at Christian Writers Conferences, conferees are eager to make friends. This goes for the faculty too. Networking not only develops your writing peers, but it opens doors for future contacts with agents and publishers. You’ll find a group of peers that may become your first critique partners. There are more seasoned writers willing to take you under wing as a mentor. So network, network, network. This is where you develop lasting relationships that will encourage you, and help you along your writing pathway.
- Carry business cards – Business cards are a must. They don’t have to be fancy or expensive. Your local office supply store sells blank cards that are easily printed on your home printer. Add your photo. This helps your peers and professionals recognize you. Complete your card with your email address and website or blogsite. No need for private information or phone numbers unless you want the world to have that information. Your email address does the trick. As you meet other conferees and faculty, share your business card. Make notes on the business cards you collect. Once you get home, you’ll be able to remember and recognize the individuals you’ve connected. These cards will become valuable assets as you develop your tribe.
- Get a business email – Take time to make yourself a business email. Cute email addresses are great for your friends and family, but for your writing peers and professional contacts, secure an email address with your name, i.e. email@example.com. This is especially helpful for agents, editors, and publishers. It’s much easier to locate you by your name than by a cutesy email address only your friends understand. I can’t tell you the times I’ve almost NOT opened an email due to a questionable sounding email address. Keep it simple. Get a new email address for your professional use.
- Enter contests – Entering conference contests are excellent opportunities to learn. You learn to follow guidelines and how to manage rejection when you lose. Accolades are wonderful and it’s important to work toward those goals, but winning is not always the case. That’s fine. It’s important to learn writing does not give out participation awards. Winning requires practice and practice develops the skills, hones the craft. Before you know it, you’ll be raking in the awards. You can’t win or learn, if you don’t enter. Start with your first conference. It’s never too early to learn to enter contests.
- Learn to pray over your work – The Father assigned your gifts and talents long before you were known in the secret place. He has a plan for you and you’ve begun the act of obedience by accepting the His call to write. Cover your work in prayer. Listen intently to the guidance, stories, and words God places on your heart. Then write them. Write them to the best of your ability. Don’t rush the publication process. Time trains you to be the best writer you can be. When you trust in the Lord and His timing, you will rarely go wrong.
That first conference is a little taxing on the nerves, but you can manage it. Practice these skills. Work hard. Write. It won’t be long before the conference jitters fade and the confident writer emerges.
Lochiel Ogle was born with a red-wine birthmark–and it put her life in jeopardy from the moment she entered the world. Mountain folks called it “the mark of the devil,” and for all the evil that has plagued her nineteen-year existence, Lochiel is ready to believe that is true. And the evil surely took control of the mind of the boy who stole her as an infant, bringing her home for his mother to raise.
Abused and abandoned by the only people she knows as family, Lochiel is rescued by a peddler and given the first glimpse of love she has ever known. The truth of her past is gradually revealed as is the fact that she is still hunted by a brother driven to see her dead. Unsure if there’s anyone she can truly trust, Lochiel is faced with a series of choices: Will she continue to run for escape or will she face her past and accept the heartbreaking secrets it reveals? Which will truly free her? – RELEASING AUGUST 2017
Cindy K. Sproles is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries, a best-selling author, and a speaker. She teaches nationally at writers conferences as well as mentoring new writers. Cindy serves as the managing editor of SonRise Devotionals and Straight Street Books, both imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is a contributing writer to The Write Conversation and Novel Rocket.com. You can visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com.