Last week I attended my first writer's conference which was an hour's drive from where I live. It was on a Saturday morning and the check-in time was 7:45 AM. I am not a morning person, so I wasn't excited about getting up early on a weekend. But I was happy to do it for a writer's conference. Of course, I Googled directions to get there as the directions given with the registration were for more local folk. I am happy to say I arrived without a glick which is a feat for me as I am directionally challenged.
The registration was easy and they even had some free give-a-ways at the front from one of the magazine editors who was at the conference. They went very fast and were not replaced. So key info number #1 take any free stuff right away. I also appreciated that they had danish and bagels. I wasn't up to eating at 6:30AM when I left, but 8:00AM was another story. And they even had hot tea choices other than orange pekoe. It may not seem like anything to you coffee drinkers, but a variety of tea even if it just includes decaf is very much appreciated.
On to the conference...I discovered that three others from my writer's critique group were also attending, which was a nice surprise to see a familiar face. As usual the conference started about 10 minutes late as they were still trying to organize. That's always nice as you don't get frazzled if you arrive a little late.
Then we were ready for setting up consultations. This conference allowed us to make one appointment for a 15 minute chat with one of the speakers. A couple of help points for that. If you have the option, to a get a free consultation (and especially a paid one) make sure you read the person's bio and go to their website or blog so you know as much as you can as to the writing that they cover to see if you are a fit for them. Make sure you have at least 5 back-up choices. Read their bios and blogs also.
The set up for the consults was done by how early you registered. That's a great draw for doing early registration. It wasn't done just by turning up early the day of the conference. I had registered relatively early and my number was 48. Another writer at my table had 131. That means I had a much better shot of getting my choice than she did. We were also able to set up a 2nd consult but the time 131 number showed up there was no more room for second consults.
The way this conference was set up was with numerous one hour break-out sessions with authors, editors and agents. There was always room for anyone who wanted to hear and ask questions of the speakers. The only problem was there were at least 6 choices every break out session. So in some cases, it was a hard decision as to who to choose to hear. Good thing was the fact that most of the speakers repeated with other topics later in the day so that gave you options to see your favorites.
I actually missed my first consultation as I got involved with listening to the speaker in my break out session that I forgot about the consultation that was scheduled during that time. The good news is that he was in the next break-out session and I was able to apologize to him for not being there. I felt I got all I needed in that break-out session that I didn't really miss the consultation.
When I arrived for the lunch session, I scoped out the table that had the speaker I was not able to schedule. I saved a place there before I got my food. That was like another consultation after we all finished eating. So another tip...make the most of the lunch session as a selling point for your writing.
Lastly, a tip on the consultations. I thought the speaker would be taking the time to read the piece I brought with me. It was only a few pages. However, I discovered it was more of a pitch session. I gave the speaker a synopsis of thw work and she gave me some ideas as to why it wasn't getting accepted. It was as simple as knowing in my case that the idea of a child moving to a new place and their fears was done a lot and I had to think of a new hook to it.
So that is my take on my first conference. I now have to follow-up with the speakers and send in my work. I will also be following up with the other writers I met. If you have comments on your experiences at conferences, I would love to hear them1