Don’t Head to a Writers Conference Without Packing These

by Pamela S. Meyers, @pamelameyers

Recently, my social media blew up with chatter about a new television movie. Set at a writers conference, the movie was great fun to watch, especially as the heroine, who was attending her first writers conference, had to overcome her fear of showing her first novel manuscript to anyone, especially complete strangers.

I was reminded how scary and unsettling a writers conference can be for a first-time conferee.

If you are about to attend your first writers conference in 2018, I say congratulations. You’ve made a very important step toward reaching your writing goals. Before you go,here are four things I suggest you pack besides clothing.

  1. Teachability. I’m not sure that’s even a word, but going into workshops and meetings with a teachable attitude is the best thing you can do for yourself. Learning the craft of writing takes hard work and practice. Even if something taught seems counter to what you’ve heard from others, don’t dismiss it out of hand. Make a note of it and come back to it later. You may find out it was good advice after all.
  2. Rhino Skin. If you are pitching your baby to an editor or agent, or maybe paid for a critique from a published writer or editor, you’d better not leave that thick skin at home. No matter how prepared you might think you are to hear negative comments, they still hurt. The rule of thumb for most writers who receive feedback from various people on the same writing is if you hear the negative comment only once, you don’t need to do anything. If you hear a similar comment twice about the same thing, give it some thought, but if you hear a similar comment three times, you need to take action.

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  1. A grateful attitude. There are not many places you can go to be in the presence of so many professionals from the publishing industry. They are there because they are looking for fresh new writers and want to help you grow in the craft. Every beginning writer should attend as many conferences as they can, but not all are able to. Soak it all in, take a lot of notes, and if possible, sign up for recordings of the classes you weren’t able to attend and listen to them.
  2. A positive outlook. Expect to receive negative feedback and plan ahead how you will handle it. Don’t take it personally. Remember an editor or agent appointment is usually about fifteen minutes long. The professional is trying to give you honest feedback in a limited time. Don’t become defensive and be sure to thank the person for their time and advice in a gracious manner. Then, if you need to, go back to your room and have a good cry.

The heroine in the movie at first became very defensive at what she perceived as a slam against her story and her writing, and she was ready to quit and go home. But by the end of the movie, she had a change of heart and began to see how the comments she once took offense to were actually helpful.

I’ll end this by saying my first writing conference turned out to be just what I needed to grow me as a writer. I went into the experience with a story I’d been working on that I was sure would wow editors and agents. In the end, it did none of that, but I learned volumes about starting my story in the right place, what kinds of details are important at the beginning of a story and what is not, and to never give up.

If you are a veteran writer, what was your first writers conference like? If you are planning to attend a writers conference for the first time, and have questions, please ask right here in the comments.

Happy New Year everyone. I hope all of you have a great writing year in 2018.


Second Chance Love

Chicago lawyer Sydney Knight and Texas bull rider Jace McGowan have nothing in common but everything to lose when they are thrust together during a weekend rodeo in rural Illinois. Sydney is determined she’ll get Jace out of his contract and return to Chicago with her heart intact, but Jace is just as determined to help her see they are meant to be together. Can a city girl with roots deep in Chicago and a bull-riding rancher with roots deep in Texas give themselves a second-chance love?

Pamela S. Meyers lives in northern Illinois with her two rescue cats. Her novels include Thyme for Love, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Second Chance Love, and Surprised by Love in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (a reissue of Love Finds You in Lake Geneva). Her novellas include: What Lies Ahead, in The Bucket List Dare collection, and If These Walls Could Talk, in Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection. When she isn’t at her laptop writing her latest novel, she can often be found nosing around Midwestern spots for new story ideas.