Friday, July 3, 2009

Surrey - Here We Come!

"What are you doing?"

"Oh, hey, Muse." I didn’t expect to see Muse since I had told her I wouldn’t be doing any major writing while I was packing boxes. "I’m signing us up for a writers conference."

"A what?"

I hate it when she gets super close, perched right on the edge of my shoulder, glaring at the computer screen. "The Surrey International Writers Conference. It’s where like minded people, writers, gather to learn more about the craft of writing."

"Really? They have things like that?"

"There are lots of conferences across the country, both here in Canada and in the United States. Some overseas, too, but I can’t afford to fly overseas for a conference."

"Wow, there are that many writers in the world?"

Again, Muse’s self-centeredness had me shaking my head in wonder. "You need to get out more, Muse."

"So you’re taking me?"

"Me, too!"

Great, now Evil Editor had arrived. He hates being left out.

"You can’t come!" Muse stabbed her finger in his direction.

"You both will stay home if you start fighting. We’re all going to the conference, along with some of our writing friends." I had been contemplating this for six months and now the time to sign up had come. I was hoping to get it done alone, though.

"We’ll be good. How many days are we going for?"

"It’s a three day conference. There will be workshops on craft and I’m signing us up for an editor pitch – "

"What’s that?"

Both of them were leaning forward, trying to read the computer screen as I searched for the perfect editor to pitch my work. "I have ten minutes to convince an editor that she wants to read more of my writing."

EE’s cynicism jumped all over that. "Ten minutes!"

"That’s not long enough for her to read my writing!"

I leaned back in the chair. "She doesn’t read our writing. I go in and sell the premise, make her curious about the story, tempt her with the unique characters so that she asks me to submit a partial as soon as possible."

"Well don’t let Muse start talking or ten minutes will be up and she’ll still be explaining the choice of title."

"At least I won’t shoot myself in the foot as soon as I start talking. ‘But that’s not good enough. We shouldn’t have written that part. We’ll take it out, you know, if you want.’"

She really does a great impression of EE, but I sealed my lips together to stop from giggling and upsetting EE more than he already was. Then I reminded them, "You fight, you stay home."

EE stuck his tongue out at Muse. She gave him her best ‘nanabooboo’ face. They turned away from each other. I accepted my role as referee. "We’ll work on this together, after all we write as a team. I’m also signing us up for a Blue Pencil session."

That drew their attention back to the conference. Together they asked, "What’s that?"

"A fifteen minute session with a published author to talk about our writing."

"The same as the pitch?"

"No, this time I do show them our writing. Three pages that they can read and comment on. It’s informal and hopefully not as stressful as the editor pitch."

They both grunted.


EE tipped his head toward Muse. She cleared her throat. "You’ll still be stressed."

Well, she spoke the truth, but I wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction. "I’ll be fine."

They were quiet while I researched my choices and finally decided on an author who writes romantic comedies. I had a lot of work to do in preparation for the two sessions, but I also had lots of time since the conference wasn’t until the end of October.

As I was reading the workshop choices and realizing there were more than I could possibly take in over the three days, Muse and EE were having their own discussion. Pleased that they were actually communicating without verbal barbs or physical violence, I ignored them. In the back of my mind I was wondering how I was going to keep them in check for three whole days, especially considering I was going to be sharing a room with Jana.

Muse tapped me on the shoulder. "What do we have to take with us, Janet?"

I opened my mouth to give her and EE a flip answer – clothes, notebook, money, enthusiasm – then snapped it shut. Perhaps I needed more than the usual holiday items with a notebook thrown in for those sessions where information struck a chord. I opened up an Internet window.

With Muse and EE leaning in to suggest keywords to type into Google, I realized that I really didn’t know anything about conference paraphernalia. From what to bring with me to my pitch session to keeping in touch with those that I meet, for friendship and networking. I needed to do some research.

"You should post these links on the blog, you know for others that are going to a conference this year."

Sometimes Muse is brilliant. "Great idea! Since tomorrow is the American Holiday there won’t be any guest blogger, maybe I should share this information with our readers then?"

Muse clapped her hands. "I’ll get to work on some introduction blurbs." She wandered off to find her notebook.

EE yawned. "Let me know when we’re going to edit. I’ll be back." And he disappeared.

I would need to do the research myself. Again. Sometimes I wonder if we really are a team.

So, People of Blogland, are you going to a conference this year and, if so, which one? Do you have any suggestions for a newbie conference attendee? If you’re new to the conference game, or looking for tips on how to better utilize a conference (and I’ll have a link to an online conference for those that don’t have the time to physically go to a conference), join us tomorrow for a links day. Tips, suggestions, and links to popular conferences will be on tap – along with a raised glass of champagne as we wish a Happy Birthday to our neighbors to the south.



Lu said...

I just love when you let Muse and EE out to play, they are such fun. And about as well behaved as my own version of those two devils.

I'd not heard of a "blue pencil session" before, sounds like a lot of fun.

I took a quick peek at the list of speakers - holy cow! I would think just breathing the same air as those folks would be enlightening!!

Have a great weekend!!!


Janet C. said...

Pretty impressive, eh! I had a real hard time trying to decide who to chose for my Blue Pencil session - I mean, Diana Gabledon! But I'm happy with my choice - since I think romantic comedy is where my voice fits. I'm really looking forward to going!

Muse and EE are all over themselves this morning with your compliment - and agreeing with you that I should let them come to play on the blog a lot more than I do. Imps, both of them, imps!

Hope your Fourth of July weekend is great, Lu. And good to see you here today. Talk soon.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

I'm still so agonized that I can't go, especially now that all the info is up. Hopefully it won't be old hat for all of you after this fall, and I can go with everyone later.

As for the ol conference utility belt, I'd recommend...

Sturdy folders/binders/duotangs for anything you're pitching, offering, etc, so nothing gets folded, crushed or dog-eared during travel. Make sure it's easily accessible (rather than fighting with tight, tiny binder rings) and slim so you're not fumbling or fighting to get some beast of a container out to show to an editor. If you go for one carrier for everything (if you're bringing more than one thing), make sure it has very separate sections, pockets, or whatever, so you're not pawing through loose sheets for that One Brilliant Page you can't find for your pitch. I remember Anita mentioned some interest because she had her editor pitches all in one thing, so that's good to keep in mind as well, and she also had them very clearly separated. No commingling!

Other things... personal business cards/group business cards (scratch your name on an SRW card if you don't have your own... but probably don't do that for an editor ;) Laptop, fantastically long power cord, spare battery if you have it, wifi connection. Notebooks or a reliable binder, etc, pens and pencils, and plenty of em, given all the information you'll find at the sessions you choose. Also I'd say designate a spot (on you, not just somewhere) for business cards and things, so you don't just cram someone's card in your back pocket and then send it through the wash.

And from my experiences at non-writing cons I would suggest: map of the facility, timetable (and a watch!!), food & water. Know where you're going, know where you need to be (oh how time can fly) and keep yourself fueled. Or maybe that just matters for me and my iron-fail blood. Also might want a camera, but going OMG-celebrity!! on your favourite authors may not be the best way to get to know them.

The one thing you shouldn't bring? Others may correct me on this, but I'd say don't bring your manuscript, or at least not the full. I've read enough faux pas accounts of people making a great connection with an agent who asked for the ms (you know, when they get back to home/work) and the author whipped it out right then and there, and promptly realized they'd just severed that connection. No one wants to tote around another person's literary doorstop, so probably best to let it stay at home and wait for the envelope :)

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Oh and Janet... why is it I have a sneaking suspicion this Muse vs. EE rivalry is going to end in a palpable romantic attraction? With the kind of tension and character contrast between them now...

Janet C. said...

Morning, Hayley! We wish you were coming, too.

Great list, BTW. I should add this comment to the Links I will post tomorrow for Conference 101. You're organizational tips are perfect for newbies like me to remember. And I love the hint about a map of the facility - everything I read failed to mention that helpful tip. Good job.

Hmmm, Muse and EE. Right now Muse is shuddering with disgust and EE has his finger in his mouth mimicking throwing up at such a horrendous suggestion. Ha - love it! Not sure if they'll stick around for the rest of the blog day - which makes my life easier :)

Jana Richards said...

Hi Janet,
EE and Muse better be good when we share a room!

Stuff to bring to conference? Business cards for sure. There's a lot of sharing of cards at these things. Your one-sheet thing (I still have to create one). I write my pitch on small index card and read it rather then trying to remember it because I'm way too nervous. Hayley's right about not bringing a manuscript or even an electronic version. Send it from home if requested.

I'm seeing an agent. I'm not sure if that was the best decision, but I wasn't sure if the editors there would be a good fit for me. I still have to figure out exactly what to do for the blue pencil session I signed up for! Do we send them our work in advance?

Don't forget to bring comfortable shoes!


Karyn Good said...

I'm with Hayley on the be prepared to go again front! I was signed up to go, had my hotel room booked and then got word that my daughter's confirmation is that weekend. I'll still have a lovely weekend, it just won't be a writing themed one.

I've been to one conference in the last ten years and knew not what to bring but fortunately someone else remembered the wine! Although you'll likely have a bar, so you'll be good to go!

Anita Mae Draper said...

I will be attending the American Christian Fiction Writers conference this Sept in Denver. I went to this conference last year and loved it.

The Seekers had a post on Tips for Conferences a couple days ago. Read it and the comments here:

Ban said...

Alas, I've never been to a writing conference so I have no advice :( Someday, when I grow up, I'd like to attend one :D
Have a GREAT time Janet !!!

Janet C. said...

Hey, Jana! I'll be warning EE and Muse to be on their best behaviour - and I'm sure they'll be like me, too 'deer in the headlight' to get into any kind of trouble :)

As far as I can figure out, the Blue Pencil session is real time. You bring 3 pages (manuscript formatted) with you and let them read it as you sit there (biting your nails). Then you get the remainder of the time to chat. I think I'll prepare some questions for my author so that it's more about the business (specifically writing romantic comedy) and less about my writing. And maybe that way I won't be stuttering over what to say.

Comfortable shoes - do slippers count?

Janet C. said...

We're so sad you're not going to be coming with us, Karyn. But you're weekend with family will be wonderful and you'll create tons of memories.

Wine! I'm all about being stocked up (ask anyone who goes to the writers' retreats). But since I'm flying I'll have to find a vendor near the hotel. I'm sure there will be some late night sessions where libations will be required - and I'm too much of a Scotsman to pay hotel mini bar prices :)

Next year - maybe Nashville?

Janet C. said...

Thanks for the link to The Seekers, Anita. The more information we can gather in order for the conference to be the best possible experience, the better!

And enjoy the ACFW conference in September - fill us all in when you get back.

Janet C. said...

Ban - you'll get to one, I know it. And when you do, you'll be well prepared.

Thanks for the well wishes. I'm going to keep a journal of my thoughts, reactions, feelings and possibly do a blog about it when I get back. Like you all want hear that :)

Helena said...

I think you should just count yourself lucky that you have a Muse and an EE who are so involved in what you are doing, Janet. With the three of you working on your one-sheet (you are going to show it to them, aren't you?) and planning your pitch together, you're way ahead of the game.

I think my Muse has been sleeping for a couple of weeks, so I'm not getting any help there. Maybe I'll be able to get him off his butt by the time the Sept. retreat rolls around. Don't have any trouble with the EE around this place, that wicked witch is always making comments!

Don't forget the other events that are going on -- bring books to be autographed (my copy of Outlander is already set aside for D.G.).

Umbrella, the small kind that can be carried in a bag -- you never know about fall in B.C. I know we may never emerge from the conference hotel.

Deciding what I need to bring is an evolving thing, always, for me. We could start a checklist over on the SRW blog. Ooh, I love making lists!

You've got us all excited today, Janet.

Karyn Good said...

I'm all for Nashville!

Anita Mae Draper said...

I can't remember if I said anything yet, but you guys are already talking about Nashville, so...

... I will be in Nashville. A couple weeks ago, a Love Inspired (LI) author invited me to share a timeshare with her and another pre-pubbed writer. Since then, another LI author has joined us. The booking is from Sunday to Sunday at a cost of US 187 each. We're already talking about where we want to sightsee (like the Opry) Mon-Wed. This year's RWA is still 2 wks away and I'm dancing around the house waiting for next year. :)

I'm having a hard time believing they ask me...

Ban said...

timeshare - sounds like something everyone else should look into ...

Janet C. said...

Helena, great to have you suggest an umbrella and books to be autographed - OMG, never even thought about that!

I rarely get anything done without EE and Muse's input/nagging. I'll be working on a one sheet, so I'm sure they will have something to contribute.

A checklist on SRW - I'm on that as soon as I get settled in September.

Janet C. said...

Karyn, Nashville, must seriously consider that! A year away, surely we could plan for that?

Janet C. said...

You did mention the timeshare, Anita - a wonderful opportunity! I've heard so much about RWA Nationals that I seriously want to look at that for an option for next year. Must. Find. Job.

BTW - I'm a huge country music fan :)

Janet C. said...

ban, timeshare - we should look into it. Are you interested in Nashville?

Ban said...

hmmmm ... I MIGHT be ...