What to Expect at Your First Writers Conference

Is this your first conference ever? Congratulations! You’ve made a big step toward getting real about your craft. (Yes I am using all bitmoji for this article!)

For many (looking at you, introverts) the thought of spending an entire weekend around a bunch of strangers can be absolutely somewhat terrifying intimidating. As a fellow introvert, let me be clear, you’re going to be great. Even if you start off a little shy, just smile at folks, and before you know it, you’ll have made three new friends, shared email addresses, and be scheduling vacations in the Hamptons together!

Well maybe not quite all that, but in reality, you’ll have lots of fun. Peruse our site! There are many great tips and tricks. Plan your days, but be flexible. If you see two classes you like and they’re scheduled at the same time, ask yourself what your goals are. Let that drive you. In a sense, as I’ve said before, be selfish. This weekend is about you. For you to learn and for you to help grow your career and network.

If you’re like me, you dread events like this–even if you scheduled it yourself! You mull over the whipping it will be to go there and deal with people, and put on your happy face and “turn it up.” I hear you. Two things: 1) once you get to the conference, get your badge and set a tentative schedule your day is going to FLY by. You’re going to look up and wonder just how it got to be 4:30 already.  B) When the conference is over on Sunday, you will collapse on your couch, spent…and yet, fired up, thrilled, eager, nervous (Can you really do all that stuff you promised you would do? You can.)

Mostly, you get out of the conference what you put into it (as trite as that sounds). If you want to go to one or two classes and sit out in the common areas and surf the web, do, by all means!

When you first arrive, get your badge, and whatever goodies we’re handing out. The friendly folks at the front desk will direct you to where you need to go (if you are ever in question about your destination, no matter where, go to the front desk).  We typically have some opening remarks to welcome everyone and ensure everyone is primed to learn! Then, the classes start, the pitch sessions start, and the brain begins to fill. If you need a small break, stop by our vendors and check our their wares. Then back to the meat of the conference.

Around noon, we all break for lunch and some entertainment, then it’s back to the classes, and pitch sessions. Afterwards, we break for a little while Saturday afternoon for you to run and freshen up before our evening gathering, where you can meet other friendly writers, literary agents, publishing professionals, and us friendly conference committee folks 🙂

You will go to bed tired.

And you will wake up invigorated. Sunday, you know what the plan is, you know where you are going, you know some people, you’re confident in your ability to navigate the conference center…

…and then you look up and it’s Sunday afternoon. The conference is winding down. Your mental cup is full. What a ride! You are so pumped! You walk out of the final session and scour the schedule, hoping for one more class. People are putting their badges in the recycle bins, the front desk is wrapping up. This can’t be it! You want more, but deep down, you know you’ve had enough, and know–really know--the learning part is over, and the writing part is looming. The actual writing. The putting down on the page what you’ve spent all weekend scribbling notes, trying to remember every word that speaker said, and filling that lovely mind with education.

And that is the scary part. As long as you’re at the conference, you’re soaking it all up like some giant sponge, safe from doing any actual work. Once you leave, the burden of knowledge rides on your shoulders, settling in. It’s not easy, but it wasn’t before either was it? You’ve got more knowledge now and maybe a tad bit more concern when those first post-con words go on the page. Are they better? Did you really learn something? Are you better?

Well that’s not about your first conference is it? That’s about the after…

That, my friends is a post for another day.

 

-Jason

2 thoughts on “What to Expect at Your First Writers Conference

  • I remember the first time I went to the conference…I had a non-writer friend attend with me, but she just stayed in the hotel all day and was there for moral support! The second time I went, I felt way more confident and was surprised when people I had met the year before remembered me! We started talking like we had known each other forever! Now this is my third year to attend and I am super excited to see old faces and meet new ones!! I like the advice of just smiling at people. It’s true! Also, that first morning while we are finding a table…just start asking people what they write and you have a friend for life!

    • Laura, we’re delighted to hear that you’re getting a lot out of the conference and keep coming back! See you in a few weeks.

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