10 Dos and Don’ts

Next weekend, I’ll be attending the Central Coast Writing conference at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, CA http://www.communityprograms.net/wc/wcindex.htm. It’s a great little conference, where I always learn something new.

To remind myself, and fellow conference goers--here are some tips to get the most out of a writers conference

DON’T dress to impress. (At one conference I attended, a woman came dressed as a tree. Shedding real leaves. Don’t do this. Also, dressing as one of your characters WILL get you noticed, but not in a good way.) Wear neat but comfortable clothing. The days will be long and intense.

DO wear a distinctive scarf, hat, or jacket every day that will help people remember you.

DON’T pitch your project unless you’re in a specified pitch session. I’ve seen writers pitch to agents through the bathroom stall door. Seriously. Don’t be that person.

DO offer to get an agent a cup of coffee or ask how she’s enjoying the conference. Or ask what books he reads for fun. It will give you great material for your query letter.

DON’T cart around all 800 pages of your magnum opus and try to thrust it upon faculty members.

DO perfect your pitch before hand, so you can tell an agent or editor in three sentences what your book is about. Then ask if you can query. (If you’re querying a novel or memoir, make sure to tell her if it’s complete.) If she says yes, you can put “REQUESTED” on the envelope. A big plus.

DON’T compete for faculty attention like a needy two-year old. The accolades will come when you perfect that book and get into print.

DO bring a notebook, several pens—and if you are attending a hands-on critique session workshop—a first chapter, story, or a few poems. Business cards, if you have them, will help with networking. Also, bring some protein bars and energy drinks and/or water. Your breaks may be too short to grab real food.

DON’T forget to have fun. You’re there to make friends as well as learn. One of the most important aspects of a conference is meeting fellow writers.

DO remember agents and editors are people too. As the late great Miss Snark said “It’s like visiting the reptile house. They're as afraid of you as you are of them. Honest.”