For the next couple of weeks on Tuesday & Thursdays we’ll be focusing on conference preparation here at Writer…Interrupted.
Early last summer I met Elizabeth Musser at a book signing for her newest release. She signed my copy and I mentioned to her that I write fiction.
“Go to a conference,” she counseled me. “That will teach you how to do everything professionally.” Her words were a confirmation, as I was already planning to attend the Seventeenth Harriette Austin Writers Conference in Athens, Georgia as my first professional writing event.
Although it was not a Christian-themed event, within five minutes of registering God led me to the first of my new friends, writers who talk about their work and their faith in Him with passion. Regardless of career level or literary role, everyone I met and spoke to understood writing. The sessions struck a good mix of business and craft, with plenty of time for socializing worked into the schedule. By mid-morning of the first day, I knew this first conference wouldn’t be my last. I recorded my impressions for maximizing the value from the experience.
Prepare to learn. I planned to focus on craft, so I participated in the sessions by taking the writing exercises seriously and volunteering to read aloud and receive feedback. Next time, I’ll go the extra step of researching the speakers so I’ll know in advance who the experts are.
Remember to network. Then again, if all I needed was information, Google would be my only professional contact. I knew I wanted to meet other writers and I armed myself with business cards, in spite of my concerns that I’d be the only geek passing them out. To my great comfort, I wasn’t. I found everyone approachable and as eager as I was to make connections.
Get organized. I knew I’d be taking notes and making friends, but I should have been ready with my favorite list-making device. I came home with at least seven book recommendations, which is not surprising given the company, but they were scrawled across various slips of paper by the end of the weekend. I wouldn’t have chosen my first conference to practice using a brand-new gadget, but next time I’ll be ready to capture the interesting thoughts shared with me.
Do everything. Every portion of the program that I attended had great value to me. Scheduling and budget constraints imposed on a few segments which I would rather not have missed, like the open-mic poetry closer I sadly left in order to get on the road. At future conferences I’ll stay the extra night whenever I can and make much of every opportunity to share in the writing life.
Best of all was the great affirmation that my Lord is watching over the writer He made me to be. For two fantastic days, I was among my own people. My recommendation for writers echoes Elizabeth Musser’s advice to me: go to a conference. As valuable as the program and resources will be, the great blessing of the experience rests with those you will encounter while you’re there.