Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Storymakers 12

Writing doesn't have to be cold and lonely.
(I also really like this drawing and wanted to use it again.)
Someone asked me the other day why I went to a writer's conference.  She thought I knew it all. If only.  I do have some short stories published.  I even have a Christmas pamphlet coming out later this year. But I'm still learning. I smile and nod when other people throw out words like predicate and participles. When I write I go by what sounds right.  I usually get it correct but there are times when those sneaky homonyms trick me.  (Who came up with this language? Aisle and Isle/ Brake and Break  Ugh!) But the writers conference didn't deal with grammar.  I have books that teach about comma splices and semi colons. (And I should read them again.) I have spell check (although it doesn't always help) and the internet to cover the rest.  I also have writing forums and beta readers to help with the stuff I can't see. 

So here is what writer's conferences are for, in case you ever wondered.

1. Meet other writers.  
 - The other people at the conference understand what I'm going through.  They've experienced the rejection.  They've had other people look at them like they're delusional when they admit to writing a book.  There have been times they haven't admitted to being a writer.  They are also great people to go to when you need feedback.

2. Meet industry professionals. 
 - I got to meet my editor.  (I love how that sounds. My editor.) She's the acquisitions editor so she won't do the final edits but she does have a say in what else they will accept.  It's nice to meet the people you work with.  They are a wealth of information. (The cover for The Candy Cane Queen isn't done yet and they are still reviewing my other manuscript.)
 - This conference had an amazing lineup.  Classes were taught by Kevin J. Anderson, Holly Root, Molly O'Neal, Kathleen Ortiz, Michelle Wolfson, James Dashner, J. Scott Savage, Weronika Janczuk, Janette Rallison, and several other industry professionals.  What an amazing opportunity. I got to have my query critiqued by Holly Root.  It isn't often do you get the chance to have an agent tell you what they really think of your query.  And, after she ripped it to shreds, she said I rocked.  How cool is that?
 - Pitch sessions are another way to meet agents and editors.  You get 15 - 20 minutes to make them fall in love with your project.  I haven't done one of these yet.  My manuscript isn't ready yet.
 - The publisher's meet and greet is also a great opportunity to meet acquisition editors from local publishers. 

3. Amazing feedback.
 - Last year I entered the First Chapter Contest and tied for second place in my genre (which has since changed).  This encouraged me to finish the book.  It also came back with some fantastic feedback that helped me improve that first chapter. 
 - I already mentioned my query critique.  It's still bleeding in the corner of my folder.  I'll pull it out when I'm ready to query and patch it up.  
 - Other agents gave the attendees the chance to have their work critiqued too.  This takes a super thick skin.  Imagine having your hard work put up on a screen in front of hundreds of people while someone points out everything you did wrong.  It's not easy.  They also point out what you did right so it doesn't hurt so much. But's not for the faint of heart.
 - Last year I attended the publication primer.  We were separated into groups, given an industry professional, and spent two hours critiquing each other's work.  Everyone had already read each other's work so the entire 2 hours were spent talking about how we could improve.  I kept in touch with two members of that group.
 - There is also boot camp which is a full day of the publication primer. I haven't tried this yet.  maybe next year.

4. Classes
 - Two days of classes taught by industry professionals.
 - I took two marketing classes.  One by Kathleen Ortiz and one by Elana Johnson.  These classes are a must for anyone published (or will some day be published.)  What good is getting a book on the shelves if no one knows about it?
 - The range of classes was amazing.  I'm using that word a lot but it's true.  I already dove into my manuscript using some of the tips from the conference and I'm giddy with excitement. She Came From the Hill is going to be incredible.

On a side note.  Things you should bring to a writer's conference.
1.  Notebook and pens.****
2.  Laptop (they had a free WIFI connection)
3.  Pepto (dinner the first night was brutal on my stomach.***)
4.  Tylenol (for brain overload.)
5.  Contact info
6.  Camera (and don't forget to use it like I did)
7.  Open mind.
8.  Conference schedule.  Know what classes you are going to take and bring the materials they suggest.
9.  Cell phone so you can call your kids when you miss them.
10. Clean clothes. (No one wants to sit in a room with a stinky writer.)

If you are serious about being a writer, I highly recommend a writer's conference.  Find the one closest to you and go! LDStorymakers is the biggest one in Utah.  (You don't have to be LDS*) 

*I almost giggled like a schoolgirl when Weronika Janczuk** added swear words to a piece she critiqued for a class.  Half the people cringed and you could almost feel a collective gasp.  We're so sheltered.  lol
**I never did figure out how to pronounce Weronika's last name. Everyone said it different and sort of coughed halfway through. 
***Don't order the chicken.
****Paper is especially useful when your laptop battery has the energy of an eighty year old.

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