Conference season is upon us! In fact, it already started. Last week I had the privilege of attending Kweli, The Color of Children’s Literature Conference in New York City. I was thrilled to attend a master class by THE Angela Johnson, and multiple workshops, panels, and presentations that renewed my creative energy.
I’m getting ready to attend three of my favorite author gatherings in the next few weeks and throughout the summer months (Storymakersin May,WIFYRin June, and the SCBWI National conferencein LA in August). I’ll be part of the faculty at two of them and a participant in the third one, and I wanted to share the things that have helped me in the past to make my time at conferences the most productive, enjoyable, and inspiring experience to keep me going through the rest of the year as I work by myself.
I belong to vibrant writing communities, but there’s nothing like the energy of attending an event just for MY people. A bunch of people obsessed with reading, writing, and illustrating books for children that truly change the world. People that are usually (not always) a bunch of introverts who’ve only met online and try not to act awkwardly meeting in person for the first time (or after a long time of digital conversations).
These are the things I can prepare ahead of time to help me cope with the amazingness of conferences:
· Business cards or another form of sharing my info: Right before I left for Kweli, I dug out my author business cards that I’ve been using for a couple of years now. My contact information hasn’t changed, but my agent switched agencies, and to my horror of horrors, I realized that I’ve been giving out a card with the wrong email address for the last two years. Thankfully I had included several ways people could get in touch with me. Besides email, I included my website info, and my social media handles. For the rest of the summer, and because it’s the first time I’ll attend a conference after signing a book deal, I’ll have postcards with my book info so people can know it’s coming out soon (ish… 2019). Business cards aren’t a must, but they’re great ways to gather contact info of the people we click with when we sit together for lunch, at classes, or outside in a green area taking a break. I’ve met a lot of my friends at writerly events!
· Getting submission materials ready on time. If I’m part of a workshop (either as faculty or attendee), I like to read my workshop materials ahead of time so that I may be the best help to my fellow workshop attendants. Talking about submissions, make sure you format your materials properly. By this I mean, make sure there’s identifying information such as name, title, page numbers on a cover letter, and every page. Also, when you save your piece, make sure you labeled it in an appropriate way. Remember every person will be able to see the file name and root. Go simple. Your last name and title will suffice (Name.Title.doc) instead of something generic or inappropriate like: firstchapter.doc, workshop.doc, thefreakinglastdraftb*tches.doc.
· Going over the schedule and giving myself time to recharge: I love planning my classes, and most times my plans change. Sometimes if I’m meeting friends, I’ll change my mind on what class I’m attending. Sometimes I take longer to arrive to my first choice and when I finally arrive I realize the class is full. Sometimes I need a break. But I like being prepared and knowing ahead of time what my options are.
· Remembering to be yourself and keeping in mind why you attend these kind of events: dress comfortably but professionally. Wear comfortable foot-ware. Enjoy the moment. Don’t compare yourself to others. Remember this time is for you to improve your craft, to make connections that will invigorate your writing and your personal life. If you have a pitch session with an agent or editor, remember that they’ve been looking forward to meeting a project to fall in love with, but most of all, they want to help you improve yourcraft. However, meeting and agent or editor shouldn’t be the main purpose of conference attendance. Save every moment, so when you’re at your desk, pounding words on your latest WIP or that tenth revision, you’ll be able to draw from the magical energy of being surrounded by wordsmiths and storytellers.
What conferences or events will you be attending this year? What are your best tips for newbies and old-timers? Please share in the comments, and if you attend any of the same events I’ll be at, seek me out and say hi!