Today I’m continuing my post on the five lessons I learned at my first writer’s conference. If you haven’t already, I recommend checking out Part 1.
LESSON #3: Don’t be afraid to share your work
I have regularly attended various critique groups for around 6 years now. Each runs a little differently and some are more helpful than others. I had also sent out my manuscript to 4 different Beta Readers and heard back from 3 of them prior to attending the conference. All this to say two things:
1) I was used to having my work critiqued by a wide range of people.
2) I had already received a significant amount of helpful feedback on my work.
Nevertheless, it was still intimidating sharing my work at the conference’s read and critique late night sessions. It was also absolutely worth it. The room held not just aspiring writers, but also successfully published authors, editors, and other experts of the industry. The nature of the feedback you get from a group like that is very different from the nature of the feedback you can get from your typical writer’s critique group. Both are valuable, but don’t talk yourself out of sharing at a conference because “you’ve already gotten feedback” and, well, let’s face it, you’re scared. Take a deep breath and raise your hand. Trust me, it’s worth it.
LESSON #4: Don’t be stingy.
After spending so much money on the conference itself, not to mention travel and accommodation if you’re from out of town, it can be tempting to brown bag it or otherwise separate yourself from the crowd in order to save a few dollars when it comes to those meals not covered by the conference. Don’t do it. If you can at all afford to, stay close by and pair up with one or two other people from the conference. The conversations you’ll have while you’re eating are well worth the additional cost.
LESSON #5: It’s not a party, you don’t need to say goodbye to everyone.
I’ll admit, this one took me completely by surprise. Never having been a part of the corporate world on a scale that required me to attend a conference of any kind, I just didn’t know the etiquette for wrapping things up. My mom had raised me to never hang up first in a phone conversation and to always say goodbye to your host and/or friends before leaving a party. So… I went with that.
At the end of the last workshop I wandered around looking for those people I’d most connected with so that I could say farewell to them before they left. Some of them I found, some I did not. Those I found were mostly newbies like me, but all were friendly and happy to say farewell to me. They were also all visibly exhausted like me.
I also stopped by to say farewell and thank you to the conference organizers…. It was a nice thought, but I don’t think I executed it exactly right. Tired as I was, I was a bit… chatty. In hindsight a very brief, one or two sentence, thank you and farewell would have been better. Why? By the end of this thing everyone – especially those organizing it – is worn to a frazzle, and as much as they may have enjoyed getting to know you over the conference, at this point they are barely standing and just want to do what they need to do the close things down and go home. So, if you want to, go ahead and say goodbye and thanks, but keep it brief. Don’t take offense if people leave without saying goodbye. It’s not personal. It’s exhaustion.
Well, that concludes the five lessons I wanted to share with you. The truth is I learned so much I could probably write a dozen more articles on this same subject, but for now, I’ll conclude here.
I hope those of you preparing for your first writer’s conference have found this information helpful. For additional information, I found The Writers Conference Survival Guide helpful. (NOT an affiliate link)
For those who have already attended a writer’s conference, what do you think of my lessons? Are there any you would add?
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