Well, I'm back from the Pacific Northwest Writers Association conference in Seattle. I've been to exactly one writer's conference now in my adult life, so of course that makes me an expert.
So here are Christine's Top 10 Tips to a Successful Writing Conference:
1. Fly in the night before the event begins.
Everybody is boring the first two hours after they get off the plane. I could immediately spot the folks who flew in Thursday morning, staggering around all haggard in wrinkled clothes. I met a nice man that day with an undoubtedly fascinating novel, but he'll forever live in my mind as "The Guy Who Spent 40 Minutes on the Tarmac."
2. Want to make friends? Drop your registration packet while standing in line for pitch session registration. With any luck, you'll scatter the detritus at the feet of the host organization's president. It worked for me, although I lost two pens and an event ticket.
3. Don't wear a bright color or a vivid pattern on the first day. I met a woman who's writing a paranormal romance with pirates. Unfortunately, she was wearing a lurid orange shirt on the first day and I never caught her name or memorized her features. I never found her again.
4. For the love of God, figure out what to do with your business cards. First I had a special pocket, then I tried a special baggie, then I wrapped a rubber band around them. Finally I used my brain and stuffed a bunch into my name badge — problem solved. Then I could look on smugly while new friends ransacked their pockets and bags looking for cards to give me.
5. Linger after sessions. This is how I nabbed three of the four agents I pitched before my official pitching session. It's slightly more dignified than pouncing on agents on the elevator or in the bar. Plus you get to eavesdrop on the people in line in front of you.
6. This is a trick from my days covering board meetings as a reporter:
Draw a little map of panel participants first thing. That way, when the Question and Answer starts, you know who said what.
7. Never abandon a muffin to get to a session on time. You’ll end up surreptitiously crunching peanut M&Ms from the bottom of your purse at 8 in the morning just to survive the 90-minute session. Crinkly candy wrappers can be very loud in a hushed conference room.
8. Crash different genres at the Writer’s Café, where there’s a Memoir table, a Romance table, a Literary Fiction table, etc. I always like to know what’s going on in the galaxy at the Science Fiction table. Gene manipulation and artificial intelligence are apparently very hot this year.
9. The plot of your book should be a closely guarded secret. Plots take forever to spin out, and pretty soon people’s eyes start glazing over. If you start describing the climax of your book, and a certain person named Christine goes off to get another drink and look at the appetizer menu and she gets back and you’re still in the climax, it’s time to tighten up your book pitch.
10. If an agent you’ve pitched says “Fine, send me something” or better yet, gives you his or her card, this is your cue to disappear. I’d read this advice already from the fabulous Anne Mini, but that didn’t stop me from babbling some more to the first agent I pitched. Some people just can’t take yes for an answer!