Monday, July 25, 2011

Conference Prep: Six Essentials for Your Checklist

It's a week and a half to the PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Association) Conference, and I"M NOT READY. Big surprise. I don't think I've ever actually felt ready for any of the conferences I've gone to at the week-and-a-half-to-go-stage.

It's that internal stomach grab of "what if" that gets me every time. "What if" can be great when you're trying to change up a sticky place in your novel's plot line, but not when it's "What if the agents/editors hate my elevator pitch, or don't like suspense even though they said they do on their website (it's happened, I'm sorry to report), or (gasp) don't like the outfit I'm wearing???" When it's that "what if," it means: they won't be interested in my book!

Okay, so this is your basic anxiety attack that I seem to be having here on the CSC blog. Here's how I talk myself down and make myself ready:

1. I have a completed manuscript that I think has real merit (check)
2. I've honed my elevator pitch (check)
3. I've prepared three longer pitches, each with slightly different orientation, so I can choose which direction to take the discussion based on reaction to the short pitch (still working on it, but by a week from today there will be a 'check' in this space)
4. I know my book inside out, and can talk about it conversationally, not just in the formal 'pitch' format (check, and I think this ability will expand as I finish those longer pitches)
5. I have a comparable known book/movie that my project is similar to, and I can explain how it differs from that book/movie (check)
6. I'm excited because there are some interesting people to meet at this conference, some great topics being covered in sessions, and the networking opps are terrific (check)

Those essentials, when completed, internalized and checked off, will go a long way to put any writer attending a conference at ease. Being able to check them off also allows development of a crucial element: well-defined passion. When you are passionate about your project, others can be, too.

Another thing I'm thinking about for the PNWA Conference is the broader perspective to be gleaned from top industry professionals on how things are going in the industry these days. Always a hot topic, and one that tops my current interest list. I'll let you know what I learn on that one, after the conference.

What about you? How do you prepare for conferences, and if you've been to some, what do you think works best for you in meeting your conference goals?

p.s. I know I promised a continuation of Tarot's Fool's journey this week, but he got bogged down contemplating the fuzz that fell out of his belly button from hanging upside down on that tree two weeks ago. He'll be out of his bog soon, and back on the blog page.


  1. I'll be cheering you virtually at that conference. I'm still chicken and haven't committed to going to a conference. Maybe next year. Good luck on those pitches!

  2. Linda, how can the PNWA be that close? I was going to have 3 books complete and life got in the way. I'm struggling now. Okay... you've motivated me. Follow the steps above. But, this may be my least prepared for anything. lol.
    Ahhhh. Intervention needed. :)

  3. Thanks, Lydia. I'll think of you cheering when I'm there! Yes, you will choose a good conference for yourself soon. I'm wondering if conferences aren't going to change quite a bit, too. But they're still the best venue for networking and getting to actually know people.

  4. I know, right, Karlene?!!? Life. Go figure. Oh well, I think your pitch has written itself for this year's PNWA—it's called, "Hi, I'm Karlene, I'm a finalist in the literary contest!" Pretty sweet!

  5. I'm so sad that I'm not going to PNWA! :( You sound perfectly prepared though and I know you'll do great. This is an excellent check list that will come in handy for anyone attending conferences.

  6. I wish you were going to be there, too! We will definitely miss you. Thanks for the thumbs up!

  7. Ha, so right!! I thought I had everything ready to the one christy and I went to this spring, until I took a shower, got dressed, and had my hair stuff explode all over my shirt - resulting in me having to wear the same thing two days in a row (everything else was too casual). :(

  8. Oh, no, erica! That's pretty funny. Hope it is for you, too, in hindsight. Maybe that outfit you wore for two days was a lucky one. It's good to be remembered!

  9. Hi, Linda,

    Thanks for all the advise. It will come in handy when I go to my first conference. Hopefully soon, at least I'll be prepared.

  10. You're welcome, Michael. I hope it comes in handy. (And I just read some more advice from an agent yesterday that I think should be added: identify a reasonable comparable story—published, known book—and be ready to discuss how your project differs from it.)

  11. I realized, when I responded to Michael's comment, that I COULD add a sixth thing to my list, in the blog post, so I did! Don't you love blogging possibilities??

  12. Definitely looking forward to hearing about what you learn! I think you have just the right approach -- get everything ready re. your own book, then lift your head up and learn from the professionals!

  13. Thanks, Amie. That's a lovely image, keeping your head down until you're ready, then lifting it up to learn more. Works for me. I'm looking forward to sharing what I learn!

  14. Nice list--good luck!!!!!

  15. Thanks, Laura. Luck is always welcome (the good kind, that is!).