By Gayle Carline
Tomorrow I'm going to San Diego for the Southern California Writers' Conference, to spend a weekend with writers, talking about all things writing, from the craft to the business end of it. I will return on Monday feeling both energized and frustrated by being around other writers.
Some writers know how to get the most out of any writer's conference. They are a joy and I've made some great friends among them. Some writers still don't get it, no matter how many times you offer to show them the ropes. So, since they won't learn from positive example...
How To Have a Crappy Writer's Conference Experience
1. Attend with the only goal of getting your book published. I can't tell you the number of people who are convinced their novel is ready for publication by a major house and spend the entire weekend stalking every agent to get signed. Maybe it's a brilliant piece of work. Maybe it's a piece of something else. Doesn't matter. Here's some news: you send off a needy-creepy vibe that makes most agents turn and bolt out the door.
2. Don't talk to anyone the whole weekend. Yes, we writers can be shy, but if you are too tongue-tied, you will miss opportunities to network with other writers and possibly even publishers and agents. Put on your Big Girl/Boy pants and resolve, at each workshop, to walk up to a stranger and say, "Hi, my name is (blank). What do you write?"
3. Make your every conversation about YOUR book. Yes, we do talk about our work, within the context of problem solving and our craft, but if you are sitting with a table of others, wondering how you can turn the conversation back to your post-apocalyptic dinosaur thriller, well, knock it off. Invest yourself in the topic at hand, or find another table.
4. Spend all of your time in Read & Critique workshops. This particular conference offers all-day sessions of read and critique groups, and some people spend the whole weekend going from one R&C to another. If you're convinced your work is gold and want to read it aloud all day to an admiring audience, stand outside a Starbucks and give it a go. If, despite having at least one room of people tell you what is and isn't working in your first five pages, you're still not sure, one more of these sessions is not going to help you. Go back and study the craft of writing. Take some of THOSE workshops.
5. Be rigid and unwilling to learn anything. Some writers come with strong convictions, from their skill set is stronger than it is, to spelling/grammar aren't that important, all the way to self-publishing is the only way to do it or the mark of Satan. If no one can change your mind about anything, why are you attending a conference that is supposed to offer teaching?
6. Take yourself seriously. We work hard and we play hard. When we're not in workshops, talking about writing, we're in the bar talking about everything. I'm going to go out on a limb here and tell you that if you think we're a flippant and disrespectful group, you are going to have a hard time when your work is published and you start getting those one-star reviews. Learn to chill now, or your head will explode later.
I will be teaching two workshops. One will offer tools to writers who are unsure of how to correctly pace their work. The other is a discussion about what it takes to self-publish.
When I'm not teaching, you'll find me checking out some of the other workshops, learning something. Or I'll be at the bar, maybe hanging out with Drew Kaufman. If you are at the conference, come hang out with me. We have a lot of fun!