by Edie Melson @EdieMelson
Attending a writing conference is a big deal. Writers often budget all year to be able to go, especially if it’s a larger (more expensive) event. But along with the financial planning, we also need to calibrate our expectations.
I remember the first few conferences I attended. My emotions ran the gamut—from fear and dread of meeting new people, to excitement and actual euphoria about the prospect of spending a week with real writers.
Along with those emotions came my dreams for the outcome of the event. As a beginner, I came with the expectation that my list was truly achievable. After all, God had called me to this writing endeavor, this was a Christian writers conference, what could go wrong?
Well, just so you know exactly what I had planned to come away with, here are my two goals for that first conference in the late 90s.
- Find an agent.
- Find a publisher for my book.
Needless to say, things didn’t go as planned. That conference was a HUGE eye-opening event. I learned some hard lessons about what I did and didn’t know about the publishing industry as a whole and writing specifically. I also discovered that I was several years away from book publication and even farther away from signing with an agent. At that time, with my experience level, these were unrealistic expectations.
To save you some heartache if this is one of your first conferences (or even if you’re like me now and still need some recalibration) I’d like to share some reasonable expectations.
1. Get to know how publishing actually works. This is truly the first and greatest benefit for attending a writing conference. Publishing is like any other industry, things happen a certain way and in a certain time. It’s important to meet professionals and learn exactly how things happen in publishing.
2. Network, network, network. I can’t emphasize this enough. Bring your business cards and get ready to exchange them with others industry professionals. Don’t just concentrate on those higher on the publishing ladder. Networking with those attending with you is a vital part of your connective network. These are the relationships you need to focus on:
- Editors and Agents: even if you’re not ready for publication, now’s the time to start building relationships with these professionals so you can approach them later.
- Published Writers on Staff: get to know these industry giants. They’ve been where you are and can give you valuable advice. When you have a relationship with them, you can also email them with future issues that you need advice about.
- Fellow Attendees: these folks are like your college school classmates. You are in the trenches together, and although every writing career looks different, your relationships with these folks will stand you in good stead in the years to come. Through the years, you’ll recommend each other for writing gigs, encourage one another when times are tough, and celebrate the hard-fought victories.
3. Hone Your Craft. I used to feel guilty about spending the money to attend conferences, but my husband set me straight. He told me that these conferences were just like going to college. To learn how to write well, he knew I’d need instruction. And he was right on target. Invest in learning how to write well and you will find success.
4. Soak Up the Atmosphere. Writing can be a solitary pursuit. And a lot of the battles we face take place in our minds. Spending some time away with people who understand us can prepare us for those future battles. Take time to talk writing, explore what it means to be a writer, and discuss how exciting it is that God gifted you with this unique talent.
5. Fill Up on God. We are Christian writers—whether we write for the Christian market or the secular one doesn’t matter. If we call ourselves Christ-followers, our writing will reflect that. Beyond that, it’s God who has instilled us with this drive to put words on paper. Use this time to get to know His call on your life better. Plug in through worship, prayer walks, and one-on-one time with God. Being certain that God has indeed set you on this path will help in the moths to come.
These are my tips for recalibrating our conference expectations. I’d love to hear what you’d add to the list!
Edie Melson is the author of numerous books, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Her blog, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy. She’s also the Military Family Blogger at Guideposts. Com, Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine and the Senior Editor for NovelRocket.com. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook. Look for her newest book, While My Soldier Serves (Worthy Inspired), coming in May.
To make reservations for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer's Conference, call 1.800.588.7222