Tuesday, July 19, 2016

5 Writing Conference Lessons

You guys!!! I have now been to my first ever writing conference! It was not huge, nor mind-blowing, and I did not get an agent, editor, publisher, or contract. However, it proved to be exactly what I wanted needed and I'm so grateful I went! Here's what I learned.


#1 ~ Networking is Hard

Oh my goodness. Have I ever mentioned that I'm not great at talking to people? Like the starting conversations sort of talking to people? Yeah. It was not the easiest experience ever to have to walk up to a total stranger, three times my age, and say "Hi, I'm Abigayle." I mean, can you even believe I did it? Guess what? I even did it multiple times. Isn't that awesome?!?! I am still very proud of myself. Did I make any connections that are going to make me world famous? Probably not. But I did hear some really cool stories, meet some really cool people, and get a better handle on how much I need to practice networking.


#2 ~ People are Supportive

Even in the middle of all the scary networking, though, I found that people are so supportive! It's not like I expected anyone to tell me my dream stinks at a writing conference, but you never know. I was from out of town, easily the youngest person in the room, by myself, and had to give my spiel multiple times. But it was because I was 17, not 57, and working on my first novel that people's jaws dropped and they gave me a hug. That was pretty cool (even though I am not a fan of hugs). People were so proud of me for being prepared and not going to college for doing what I love. Was I surprised by that? Yeah, a little bit.


#3 ~ Speakers are Human

This was not a huge conference by any means. Maybe 100 people there, including vendors and staff? There were four speakers who spoke on Character Development, Dialogue, World Building, and Conflict. (Great topics, right?!) I manage to speak to every single one of them by accident and I realized somewhere along the way that they were just as human as me. They had struggled with writing but had managed to become published along the journey. And that journey was still in the works for them. That was so encouraging to me. Good gracious, they even got hungry like I did, so I got to have lunch with one of them :)


#4 ~ Writing is Subjective

This is probably the biggest thing I realized from the sessions themselves (which were all excellent!). Because every time any of the speakers emphasized something that was not fundamental know-how, they would give a disclaimer. That golden standard of no adverbs? Subjective. Do what you want. Paragraphs? Yeah, you need those. But still. Do them however you want, really. I was surprised to realize that for little rule-following me, probably the best "rule" I could remember, is not to follow every rule! Writing is an art, and that means taking the basics and making them yours.


#5 ~ Goodies are Awesome

So we were given this awesome blue canvas bag stuffed with handouts, ads, business cards, coupons, chocolate, and a Writer's Digest magazine. On first glance I figured most of the bits of paper I wouldn't need to keep. Yet I haven't managed to throw away a single one yet. Whether it was an editor, a bookstore, an author, or restaurant that paper was advertising, I could pretty easily find a use for any of them! Free stuff is awesome, guys.

And speaking of free stuff, here's where I go off on a random tangent and give you the details you really want to know about my trip. Like my book haul at Barnes & Noble. 



Oh yes!! The little town of Tyler, Texas was actually much bigger than I thought. And I want to live there, but that's beside the point. I stayed with my pen pal of 5+ years, who I haven't really met that often. We caught up by staying up late talking and sleeping on air mattresses in their schoolroom. Ah, it was awesome!

Besides our B&N trip, we also went to DSW Shoes, because I remembered that I needed navy or brown shoes. Two pairs of shoes and five jewelry items later . . .



Yeah. It was bad. But what can I say? I got the books free, thanks to graduation gift cards and I wasn't having to pay for hotel, flight, or gas. So of course I went on a shopping spree with my long lost best friend! 

Who is this girl you ask? Our mothers have known each other longer than they've known our fathers and we took up writing letters to one another years ago. Let's suffice it to say that she has the best smile and writes the most awesome snail mail ever. :)

~~~~~
Have you ever attended a writing conference? They're pretty great, aren't they? 

Do you have a pen pal that you send hand-written, mail-stamped letters to? I'm thinking snail mail deserves it's own post, how about you?

26 comments:

  1. It sounds like you had fun! I've never attended a writer's conference before, but I'd like to! And free books are awesome. =) (I saw Kisses from Katie in your book pile- I know you'll love it!) I actually have 4 pen pals that I write letter to- it's so fun! I'd love to see a post about that sometime. ;)

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    1. Yes, you have to some time! It took me a while to find mine, but it was worth the wait! :)

      Oh, really? I bought Kisses from Katie because my awesome friend that I was with said she had heard good things!

      Ah, I used to have that many! Really just the one now :) Pen pals are so much fun, though. It will definitely be a post at some point!

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  2. AHH, writing conferences are the best thing ever. I'm going to another conference in a week here, which I'm excited about. (and always get a little bit nervous, but I'll try not to freak out about that.)

    It was so fun reading this post, Abi! It sounds like you did an awesome job reaching out and talking to people. That's not always the easiest. :P

    // katie grace
    a writer's faith

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    1. YES! I can finally agree with experience behind me ^.^ Wow, that's awesome! I need to pay more attention to Austin, since that's the biggest city near me :) I definitely had my share of freak out moments, but all in all, I think it was good for me :)

      I'm so glad! I really did try, so I'm proud of that. Because, yes. It definitely was not easy :P

      Have fun at your conference!! :D

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  3. WHOA YOU WENT TO A WRITING CONFERENCE AWESOME

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    1. YES!! Ah, it is still so fresh, I get excited just thinking about it! I may have to go again next year if they're going to have great topics again :)

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  4. Wonderful post, Abi, I really enjoyed it! SNAIL MAIL IS AWESOME. Wish I had more time to actually hand-write letters to people :(. I should turn that into a goal for August ...

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    1. That's good to hear! I never know how much people are going to enjoy personal/tip posts, but I had fun writing it, so I took that as a good sign. And not all posts should be about pleasing people :P

      Snail mail IS awesome, isn't it? *happy sigh* But, yes. It will eat your time like nothing else! Oh, great idea! Making goals is my new obsession :P

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  5. Fantastic lessons - I wish I lived in an area where conferences like this happen! Where do you find out what's in your area?

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    1. Thank you! Well, Tyler was 4 hours away from me, but I had friends. Lots and LOTS of Google did it for me. I would search for things in state or in specific big cities near you. Write down whatever you find and then go back to it to see if it's a good option. There are probably writers guilds (that's what mine was) and associations near you that have conferences. :)

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  6. Wow, a writing conference huh? Sounds exciting! Great points too! I find networking a hard part of life too. Like why do I have to talk to people? Haha but it's good to get out there. I think a snail mail post would be awesome! I love writing and receiving snail mail so much!

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    1. Yes! Thanks! Yep, networking means talking and so it's not my favorite, but it's SO helpful. I'll just have to get over it :)

      Oh good! I will definitely do that then. Snail mail is the best! ^.^

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  7. You got to go to a writing conference? That's so cool! I'd love to, someday.
    I also struggle with, or rather don't much enjoy, meeting a lot of new people. But well done you for doing that.

    -T.
    x

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    1. Yes! I definitely recommend them to any serious writer :)

      Good news is, we are not the only ones who struggle with that and people are so understanding! But thank you. It was a new accomplishment :)

      Thanks for commenting!

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  8. I'm glad to see that you've enjoyed yourself! :P I find it easier to talk to older people because, I dunno, they seem less judgemental than people around my age. But the fact that you were the only 17 year old there was pretty crazy. Well, not crazy but it was cool.

    I'm glad that the adverb rule doesn't have to be followed.

    Free stuff... I want free stuff so I can books, people...

    Snail mail? used to do that in Primary School (Elementary School) when I was 5-6 (other Irish students) and also when I was 9 (to an Egyptian student because my teacher used to work in Egypt). I kinda miss the person but she thought I was a boy :/ Because of my first name (which isn't Grace). I don't think my first name sounds boyish at all. But then again, she probably has not met any Nigerian people, of course. I have online friends from around the world but time zones suck :/

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    1. 'Tis true. That's probably why all the enthusiasm for me being there. It would have been different at a writing conference for young people :P Thank you! There were maybe 3 other people who looked under 30? It was pretty different.

      I know, right?! I mean, I wasn't following it strictly (see what I did there?) anyway, but it was refreshing to know rules can be broken ^.^

      Yes! Free stuff for the win!

      Ooh, how fun to write that young! And to someone in Egypt? I'm jealous. That's kinda strange though that they got your gender wrong. Shouldn't they have just asked? :P I've only ever written stateside, and I totally understand how time zones throw off simultaneous interaction! :( Thanks for being my internet friend anyway ^.^

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  9. This sounds so fantastic!! I'd love to go to a writer's conference someday.

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    1. You totally should! I know they can cost a lot or be hard to find, but I have only ever heard of people enjoying them. Just don't be afraid to be picky and it'll be worth it :)

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  10. Wow girlie, I'm totally jealous. This is so cool. Thanks for sharing what you learned!

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    1. Of course! It was too amazing not to share :) And you're supposed to be jealous so you'll find a conference to attend ;)

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  11. So glad you had fun!! Conferences can be intimidating, but they're probably the #1 element that drives my career forward. Hang on to those friendships! :)

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    1. Thanks, Jamie! It was a little intimidating for sure, but it was a great starting point for a conference. I feel much more prepared for a big name one now! Yes ma'am ;)

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  12. I've never attended a writing conference, but I know that we have one in my city. I really have no excuse for not going this year, tehe! Glad you had a good experience!

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    1. Ah!! You have to go some time! If the flavor of the year appeals, I mean. They are so invaluable!!

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  13. Congratulations on your first writing conference! I have gone to lots of different workshops and some courses and yes, it's always freaky being the youngest one in the room, but all the adults think you're super cool for it. XD
    I'm gonna have to look up some conferences in my area I think...

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    1. Thank you!! It really is kinda freaky, but I did think it was nice to realize that I'm getting such an early start. And you're never too old to begin :)
      Good luck finding a great conference! :D

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