Janet Sumner Johnson
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Conference Advice

Oct 24, 2011 Uncategorized 32 comments

This past weekend, I went to my local SCBWI region’s annual conference. I had a great time, and my head is swimming with all the great advice and inspiration shared by the speakers.

I was reminded that agents and editors are nice, normal people, too. When you find yourself in the query trenches, it’s easy to forget that. And same goes for award-winning authors.

Also, I got to meet Caroline Tung Richmond who blogs at Adventures in Space. This is the first time I’ve met a fellow blogger in person (and of course, I didn’t have a camera), but we had a great time visiting!

Anyway, over the years, I have attended several conferences, and I wanted to impart a bit of advice to anyone considering going to one.

  1. GO. Find a nearby conference, bite the bullet, and pay the enterance fee.
  2. Sign up for a critique. This means you need to sign up early. And it costs extra. Plus it may break your heart. But trust me when I tell you it’s worth it. These are the people who know the business. They know what they’re talking about. Even the stuff that hurts to hear puts you that much further ahead.
  3. Volunteer. Okay, I can hear the groan. You don’t have enough time. Or you doubt you have anything to offer. Or you’re nervous because you don’t know anyone. . . . I’m telling you to push past that. I have done it both ways. My first few conferences, I didn’t dare volunteer. But when I finally got up the courage to do it, I enjoyed the conferences so much more. Not only did I meet a lot more people, I got a special name tag. *pauses while you all turn green with envy*
  4. Take notes. Because that stuff you think you will remember? You won’t.

In short, my advice is to participate as fully as possible. There’s nothing like a conference to boost your writers morale and get you inspired to finish your WIP. The more you put in, the more you get out. (cliché, I know, but still true).

Have you ever been to a conference? What was your experience?


32 Responses to “Conference Advice”

  1. Old Kitty says:

    Glad you had such a productive time at your conference! Thanks for the tips – I've never been to a writers' conference before but I would love to go on a writers' retreat one of these days! Take care

  2. I've never really been a fan of conferences, after being dragged along to numerous ones during school but this is really good advice! It seems hard to get going with this stuff but daunting at the same time.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the conference. I'll see if there are any near where I live anytime soon. There should be loads every year since I live so close to the capital.

  3. Beth says:

    This is all great advice. I do everything you've suggested except for volunteering. What a great way to get even further involved!

  4. I'm a conference addict, especially the national level ones. Our local ones have been pretty lame.

    I used to go to one of the annual SCBWI national conferences each year, but now I'm a RWA junkie. I learned so much from it when I went this year. I can't wait for next years.

  5. Going to a big writer's conference is one of my personal goals. I don't know when it will happen since I'm an ocean away but someday:) Sounds like you had a great time with invaluable insights!

  6. Slamdunk says:

    Glad you found it educational Janet.

    I have always been a note-taker. With my memory, it is a good thing.

  7. I love going to conferences and agree with all your advice 🙂 I just wish I could get to a few more. I'd LOVE to go to SCBWI in New York in the winter, but it never seems to fit my schedule…

  8. Great tips. I volunteered last year at a conference. I was so happy they let me, as the price tag didn't fit into my budget. I spent a full day ushering folks into their pitch sessions. I enjoyed spending the day with writers.

  9. Fabulous! I have yet to hit an SCBWI conference. I am dying to! I have been to one conference so far and loved it. I learned so much. I can't wait for the next ones that are coming this spring. So glad you shared this!

  10. Joanne says:

    I haven't been to a conference, but I like that volunteering advice. What a great way to make connections in the business!

  11. Great tips…I treat conferences like going to job interviews. I want to be prepared for anything and appear to have it all together…Take business cards with your email and your blog address on them…Network hard and heavy. That is why you are there to learn and to get to know other people in the industry.

  12. LTM says:

    oh, man. I've never been to a conference, but it sounds like you had a fantastic experience. I would love to try it. And those are great tips. Thanks, girl! :o) <3

  13. Saumya says:

    Sounds like you had a great time! I attended a conference two years ago and loved it. It's definitely well worth it! Also, thanks so much for the shout out on your post a couple of weeks ago! It was so sweet of you and I've been able to connect with some great writers 🙂 You're awesome!!

  14. Normal is a relative term.

  15. For the longest time, I had rotten luck at conferences. I wonder now if that's because I was so busy assuming I knew everything, I couldn't hear the juicy bits. LOL The last three I've gone to were marvelous and I long to go again. I hope the parts that broke your heart weren't at THIS conference?!

  16. I do like going to conferences–I like the tips, the feedback, and the energy. Love being around other writers!

  17. I've been to several, some more memorable than others. And you're absolutely right: the more you're engaged, the better the experience.

  18. I totally agree! Not that I've volunteered before, but I get your reasons. I really love conferences. I think every writer should go to every one they can manage to go to.

  19. The last conference I went to I volunteered. It was brilliant. I got to meet more authors than I would have otherwise and I sat in more talks than I would have because a lot if them filled up quickly.

  20. Sigh. Maybe you are right. I should get out and go to one of these things. At least now I have a guideline of what I should do when I get ready to do it. Thanks for the tips 🙂

  21. coneforce says:

    I have admit I never went to a conference, but i like your experience… nice post following!

  22. WritingNut says:

    I've never been, but I really want to!

  23. I agree with everything you said. I did my first one last spring and it was fabulous. I wish I had signed up for the critique — not sure why I didn't, it was fairly inexpensive.

  24. A special name tag? Sold!

    I'm so glad you had a great time — I hope we'll be hearing more about the conference in coming posts!

  25. Glad you had such a great time. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the conference.

  26. I'm so glad you had a wonderful time! I love going to conferences! They are inspiring and energizing. And it's always fun to meet other writers. I haven't volunteered yet, though (*she admits sheepishly*). I should.

  27. It was so nice to finally meet you, Janet! And I really hope we can grab lunch or dinner sometime to chat more!

  28. I've been to a few conferences, and I'm going to our local SCBWI conference next weekend – can't wait!

  29. I love conferences – the are an authorial shot of adrenaline for me.

    Great post – just found your blog – love it!

    New follower:)

  30. I love conferences. I really want to go to the one in Miami but I don't think I have the money for it this year. Who did you get to hear at the conference?

  31. janet says:

    Christina, I hope you do get to go to a conference soon . . . like Tasha said, authorial shot of adrenaline, for sure. 🙂

    There were three agents: Jennifer Rofe, Quinlan Lee, and Sarah Davies.

    And three editors: Chelsea Eberly (Random House, Abby Ranger (Disney Hyperion), and Caroline Abbey (Bloomsbury Children's).

    And a whole smattering of award-winning authors . . . Han Nolan, Brian Lies, Meg Medina . . .

    It was an amazing conference!

  32. Yay! Conferences ROCK! The first local one I went to, I volunteered to set up the area where the writers would pitch to agents. It was a little nerve wracking, but fun in the long run, and I got to meet lots of agents and get some face time w/out the tension of pitching to them. Just getting to know them as people. So yes, volunteering is the best advice ever! So glad you went!

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