This past Saturday I had the great opportunity to go to the Atlanta's Writer's Digest Conference. It's a great conference that brings some of the most talented writers, editors and agents right to my door for one day only. The conference is filled with various panel discussions, informational workshops, the chance to get your pages critiqued and the opportunity to pitch your novel to agents. I knew I had to go even if I was flying solo.
I had an incredible time and learned so much, but if I had to sum it up, here are 5 take aways.
1. Make Friends
I went into the conference not knowing anyone, and within a matter of minutes had already made friends simply by smiling and saying hello. Rather than eating lunch alone, I sat at a table surrounded by amazing writers laughing and sharing stories. Learning from other writers, giving and receiving advice made the conference fill like a reunion. Writers are a great bunch of people and everyone is mostly friendly and just as excited as you!
2. Take Notes
The panels are filled with information, and even if you get a handout, it's still not a bad idea to take notes. Write down anything and everything that clicks with you. Once you get home you probably won't remember everything and you'll be glad to have notes to refer to. It's also great if you've made friends and can share notes that way you get information from more than just the 1 session you can attend.
3. Research agents
If you're planning to pitch your novel, make sure you take the time to research everyone you're thinking about pitching. Read interviews with them, read their manuscript wish lists, follow them on twitter, and take notes of your own. Be ready to answer questions and have a smile ready.
This is a general writer rule but something that was hammered home by my agent meetings. Almost all of the agents I pitched asked me about what I was reading or what authors I enjoyed reading. Not having an answer would not look good so make sure that you are reading and know what books are out there. If the only books you can talk about are 20 years old you've got some work to do. Keep on top of current releases and what's going on in your genre.
5. Learn something new
Be brave and go to a panel about a topic you know nothing about. Talk to someone who is pitching a novel totally outside of your usual genres. You'll be amazed at what new information can click into place and illuminate your writing brain. Always be striving to grow as a writer and as a person.
All and all, I would highly recommend going to a conference and getting the experience. If you are writing in a particular genre, look for those writng associations. Many of them host writing conferences and it's a great chance to really hone your skills.