I have attended a number of writers conferences over the years and have learned there are three things we need to do if we want our conference time to be successful.
First, we have to have the right clothes. Clothes make the woman (or man), and nothing makes me more woman than a new outfit. I informed my husband that I planned to buy a new outfit on my way to the South Carolina Writers' Conference this past weekend. Then, when I started to pack, I realized I didn’t need a new pair of slacks or another top. But, I had made the commitment to my husband, the promise that I was going shopping, and I always keep my word. Two tops and one pair of slacks later, I headed to Litchfield Beach for the conference, nicely dressed in stylish cranberry.
Second on the list for a successful conference is to toot your own horn. This is often hard to do. Most of us have been taught to be modest. Humble. Not to brag. The very notion that I need to point out my achievements goes against all I know. I was sitting in the hotel restaurant wondering who among those at breakfast were writers attending the conference.
I noticed one couple in particular, a man and a woman, who looked “authorish.” I approached their table, introduced myself as an author (still uncomfortable calling myself this) and handed them a couple of my bookmarks. “You can use them, or leave them on the table if you don’t want them. It’s all right.” (I need to work on my speech.) They were not attending the conference, but the woman was working on stories about her grandmother and her husband writes a weekly blog about birds (www.birdingwire.com). I shared my blog information. We had a nice chat and I headed back to my table to mind my own business again. Their food came and they joined hands and prayed. I wanted to high-five the air. I knew I liked them!
The last thing you need to do before attending a writers conference is thicken up your skin in preparation for the comments on the critique you paid money for. Repeat over and over, “it is not personal, it is not personal.” One person’s opinion, even that of an expert in the field, is still opinion. But, you paid money for the opinion and the reviewer most likely has more experience than you, and is the person your manuscript will have to pass through to reach publication, so it is best to keep an open mind and take the critique to heart.
Not all of you will be attending a writing conference any time soon, but I believe these three principles apply to life in general.
1 - Care about appearances. People are always making first impressions.
2 - Step out of your comfort zone now and then, and toot your own horn. God could lead you to some nice folks in the process!
3 - Remember that other people’s comments are just that, their comments. Use them if appropriate, but they don’t let them define you or your life.