Gotta Do’s for Conference Goers
by Cindy Sproles
Every conference has its unique qualities, but there are certain “gotta do’s” conferees should plan for as conference season approaches.
My first conference was overwhelming. I distinctly remember breaking into a sweat as the conference director opened the doors to schedule appointments. I had no idea what appointments were much less all the initials folks spit out – things like POA, GWS, MS, and RUE. What was I to do? When the director instructed conferees to purchase the conference cassettes (yes, they were cassettes back in the day), I cringed at the cost.
It was easy to see, I had no idea what I needed to do. With that in mind, here are some “gotta do’s” for your conference experience, whether you are a new conferee or not.
- Cost – Let’s address this first. If you are serious about making writing a career, then swallow hard and make the investment. Attending a conference is a substantial investment. Between conference fees, critiques, housing, meals, and transportation, the cost will vary from $500-$1100. It would be nice if conferences were free but they aren’t. Still, like anything else in our lives, if we really want it, we’ll find a way to make it happen. Begin saving early and when registrations open, you aren’t in panic mode. Attending a conference is a business decision and should be treated as such. Add the costs into your business plan, count it as a tax deduction, and invest the funds. Warning: Don’t put yourself in debt to attend. Many larger conferences offer one or two day attendance packages where you can attend the conference on a limited basis rather than attending the entire conference. Smaller conferences do not usually have that luxury. Plan ahead, think smart, and attend.
- Paid Critiques and Mentoring – Conferences offer paid critiques and private mentoring. As you plan for your conference experience, budget funds for a paid critique or a mentoring appointment. The feedback from professionals offer will help you grow as a writer. Mentoring is a bit more costly. These appointments are 30 minutes to 1 hour of one-on-one intense work with a professional. Money well spent if you want to forward your career.
- Conference Recordings – Some smaller conferences do not offer conference recordings, but if the conference you are attending offers them . . .+ leave without purchasing them. Yes, it too is an investment, but once you have these recordings you have them year round for extended learning. Plus, purchasing the recordings takes the pressure off for choosing classes. It’s smart. Spend face time with the teachers at the conference who can help you where you are in your writing at this moment. Then when you get home, you can take the classes that you wanted to attend and couldn’t. It’s a wise decision. Trust me.
- Network – Learn to network. This is your opportunity to make connections in the industry. You’ll meet other authors, publishers, and agents who can help you along your writing journey. Get to know folks. Make friends. Latch onto peers who will join you as accountability partners and critique buddies.
- Don’t jump the gun – In other words, don’t come to a conference seeking an agent until you have a completed, edited, and publishable manuscript. An agent cannot sell what they don’t have. There’s no rush. Learn the craft, work to finish that manuscript and then look for an agent. If you don’t have a manuscript then take time to meet with industry professionals and pick their brains. Find out what they look for in a manuscript and how they shop them. If you don’t have a completed manuscript that is polished and ready for publication, spend your time learning the craft. This is far more valuable than wasting time in areas where you are not ready.
Ready yourself for a productive conference. Make the money you spend become money well spent. When you have the right expectations you’ll enjoy the experience much more. A conference in an investment in your career – a business decision. Focus on learning the craft to the best of your ability while you can sit at the feet of those who have walked the path first. Your time to become published will come. Prepare and learn.
Eva Marie Everson
Have you ever gone to a writers conference and seen the class or workshop—often called a practicum—where the conferees had to sign up ahead of time? Yeah, those are the ones … the ones where someone with a little know-how gathers eight to ten writers who often tremble as they enter through “the door” for the first time. They’ve brought in a sample of their work. Double-spaced. Line-numbered. One-inch margins all around. They’ve followed the leader’s instructions to the letter. At least, they hope they have.
But, when they leave … oh, when they leave … when the conference is done and the last goodbyes and giggles and whoops echo in the vacant hallways of the venue … they leave knowing exactly why they took the chance. The leave with a mission. With a vision. With a greater understanding of what their work is supposed to be when it grows up. They leave glowing under the praises of what they did right, even if they were not aware of it when they arrived.
So, what exactly happens at these “practicums”? And why should you consider signing up?
In my fiction practicum, we dig in. We don’t talk in abstracts, but instead look directly at your manuscript. We talk about the things that work. The things that don’t. We take the building blocks of your story and grow a book. We share with one another, bounce ideas around, find a path and then take it. We look specifically at dialogue … at character arc … at plot points … at beginnings and middle and ends.
Now, there’s a reason why we take only a select number (only eight). We want to make sure all the time needed is there. That no one walks away “hungry,” (other than hungering for more days such as these). So, if you are a fiction writer who is ready for this next step, I hope you will consider joining the fiction practicum I’m offering at the Blue Lake Writers Retreat. You’ll have to email me to ensure your spot (and eight spots will fill up quickly). If you make it in, I promise you an experience you’ll treasure. And, possibly, chocolate.
To ensure your placement, email: PenNHnd@aol.com
Place: Blue Lake Fiction Practicum in the subject line (this is very important)
Hope to see you there!
Eva Marie Everson
Blue Lake Practicum Leader
First Time Conferees!
If this is your first conference, never fear. We’ve all been there at one time. Faculty member Susan Neal aka Health and Fitness expert, will lead a First Timers Orientation on Wednesday afternoon at 5:15 to explain how things work and what to expect. What should you bring to a writers’ conference?
- If you already have a book proposal completed, bring at least six copies.
- Bring One Sheets for appointments.
- Bring Business Cards
- Bring a laptop, iPad, etc, if you use one.
- Bring a journal and pen.
- Toiletries – they are not provided at the conference center
- Hair dryer if you need one, also not provided at the center
A Willingness to Listen and Learn – let the voices of experience explain the world of writing to you.
A heart of worship. Our worship leader Lynn DeShazo will lead us in low-key praise and worship music. Let it minister to your soul. Allow God to show you how to speak to the world through your written word.
Your prayer requests. We will have a designated prayer basket for your requests and prayer warriors who will pray for them. No request is too big or too small.
Comfortable clothes and shoes. Most of the events are inside but bring good walking shoes if you want to take a walk on the grounds. The temperature outside will probably be in the low 80’s during the day, high 50’s at night. Please bring bug spray if you plan to go outside. Also bring a sweater if the rooms are too cool.
First Posted by Susan Neal at floridacwc.net/fcwcblog
There are incredible advantages to being a Christian author—fulfilling God’s inspired dream, determining your schedule, and writing in your PJs. However, with that flexibility there are some negative aspects as well—it can be a lonely and inactive profession. This blog will provide tips on how to beat the solitary and sedentary features of this career.
- Start your morning by spending fifteen minutes meditating with God.
During this time don’t bring your prayer requests; instead, allow time for your mind to wander. God will lead you to important things you may have forgotten. He may remind you to send a friend a word of encouragement, or it may be a time to process an emotional issue that is bothering you. After this quiet time with the Lord, pray.
- Before breakfast, drink two glasses of water and take a probiotic with ten different strains of beneficial microorganisms.
Antibiotics and medications kill the good bacteria in the gastrointestinal system. It is vital to balance your gut flora, so you don’t crave sugar and processed carbohydrates. The probiotic will also increase your energy level. With your healthy breakfast take a multi-vitamin.
- As you begin your workday get the blood pumping with five minutes of exercise.
Exercising improves your brain function. I have a portable desk with an adjustable height and a mini-stair stepper. I get on this as I review my to-do list for the day and peruse Facebook.
- At some point during the day go for a walk or perform a fifteen-minute workout.
I lift five-to-ten pound weights and do an upper body work out. If I need mental clarity, walking is a useful way to help me focus and generate new ideas.
- In addition to exercising, we need to fill our bodies with whole foods, the way God intended for us to eat; not processed foods that come out of boxes and bags.
Foods high in sugar and carbohydrates, cause brain fog. We need clarity of thought to write well, so eating a nutritious diet is essential to a successful career. Instead cut up fresh vegetables and eat them with a healthy dip like hummus or guacamole. Eat more salads, nuts, and seeds.
To escape from the solitary aspects of being an author, I joined a Word Weaver Christian Writers Critique Group. I drive 75 minutes one-way to attend our monthly meetings. The members have become my dearest friends. They understand the ups and downs of this writing journey.
I needed more than one monthly meeting, so I joined an online Word Weaver Group too. I had lunch with one of the members last week, as she has a winter home 90 minutes away. We met half way so we could become closer friends and understand God’s calling on our lives. Sharing this passion with other writers is fulfilling.
To improve your writing life join a Word Weaver group, start your day by meditating with God, take a probiotic, drink plenty of water, eat nutritious foods, and perform a short workout every day. As you take care of the glorious body God gave you, you will create work that glorifies Him.
Susan Neal RN, MBA, MHS is an author, speaker, and Christian yoga teacher. Her motto is “to help others improve their health so they can serve God better.” She published three books, 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates, Scripture Yoga a #1 Amazon best-selling yoga book, and Yoga for Beginners. She produced Christian Yoga Card Decks and DVDs. Susan is the president of an online Word Weaver Christian Writers Critique Group and vice-president of the Destin Word Weavers Critique Group. She has been interviewed on Moody Radio, Blog Talk Radio, Premier Christian Radio from the UK, Divine Wellness Academy Podcast, Author Audience Podcast, A Fine Time for Healing Podcast, and Fabulous Beyond 40 Summit. Susan blogs on HealthyLivingSeriesBlog.com.
Scripture Yoga Classes
Susan is teaching Scripture Yoga™ Friday-Sunday morning at 6:30-7 am. Susan recites theme based Bible verses while participants hold a yoga pose. It is like a mini Bible study. Meditating on verses while in the postures creates a very tranquil time for God to penetrate one’s heart so you can hear from him. Join Susan and get away from all the distractions of life, and enter into His presence. If you have a yoga mat, please bring it with you to the conference, but there will mats provided as well.
First posted by Michelle Medlock Adams
- MYTH: Writing books for children is much easier than writing books for adults.
- TRUTH: Good writing is tough no matter what genre we’re talking about; however, writing for children can be one of the most difficult to master and one of the most difficult to break into—but you can do it!
MORE TO PONDER…
*You have to say a lot in so few words—must make every single word count!
*You must be selective in word choice so that each word matches grade level. (Get a copy of the “Children’s Writer’s Word Book” by Alijandra Mogilner, published by Writer’s Digest Books.)
*It’s highly competitive! (The average national publisher receives 6,000 -15,000 unsolicited manuscripts a year, and of those, they publish 2-3. The rest of the books they publish come from agents, from authors they’re already publishing, and from other authors they meet at conferences.) But, you can do it!!! J
*I recently read an interview with a children’s book editor at Bloomsbury Children’s Books in NYC and the interviewer asked her, “Is there really a slush pile? If so, how many manuscripts would you estimate are in it?”
She replied, “It is many piles. It is huge! And I have no idea—maybe a thousand manuscripts in it.”
Then she was asked, “What percentage of manuscripts from the slush pile do you estimate get published?”
She answered, “Less than 1 percent but that’s still a real number—we get thousands of submission a year, and every year, we find one or two great things in it.”
So, you could be in that 1 percent!
FAST STATS: GOOD NEWS!!
E-books are giving children’s writers more opportunities to publish their work! In fact, 11 million parents have purchased an e-book and 19.6 million parents plan to buy an e-book in the future, according to recent stats.
- MYTH: Children’s stories should always teach a lesson.
- TRUTH: Children (as well as children’s book editors) dislike preachy books.
MORE TO PONDER…
*Good children’s books usually have a message woven throughout the text, but the story is what drives the text. Of course…there is an exception to every rule. J
*Good example…Veggie Tales books teach good morals, but they are fun, silly and kid-friendly while doing so!
Want to see a list of best-selling children’s books? Read this article at: http://www.timeout.com/new-york-kids/things-to-do/the-50-best-books-for-kids?cmpid=ppcaw-Kids-Books
- MYTH: The adult in the story should solve the problem.
- TRUTH: Actually, any adult in the story is simply a sidekick. The main character must
be the child, and that child must solve the problem. He can certainly take advice from an
adult, but the child needs to do the problem solving.
MORE TO PONDER…
*Through our books, we want to empower the child, not tell the child that an adult must always solve every problem. We want to instill the message of “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”—in a sneaky, funny, kid-friendly way!
- MYTH: After I write my children’s story, I need to find an illustrator to illustrate my story before submitting it anywhere.
- TRUTH: Unless you are a professional artist yourself, it’s not wise to send pictures with your manuscripts. In fact, it might even hurt your chances for publication.
MORE TO PONDER…
*The editor might really love your words but despise the artwork that your sister did to accompany each page. Her yucky artwork could nix the whole deal for you.
*Editors at publishing houses already have a list of talented illustrators that they love to use, so let them choose your artist.
*Especially if you’re a first-time children’s author, the publisher will try to pair you with a better-known illustrator to improve your chances for better book sales.
- MYTH: Writing my book in rhyme will give my book a better chance.
- TRUTH: Actually, it could hurt your story’s publication chances. Some editors despise rhyme because they receive so many poorly written rhyming books; therefore,they are prejudiced AGAINST rhyme. However, if you can write rhyme well, go for it!
MORE TO PONDER…
*FYI: I have sold more than 40 children’s books to publishers such as Zonderkidz, Simon & Schuster, Ideals Children’s Books and Concordia, and all but my non-fiction library books are written in rhyme! J
*Rhyme isn’t a crime, as some editors would have you think— it sells well! (Just get yourself a rhyming dictionary for help!)