The People-Side of Writing Conferences

by Jeanne Takenaka, @JeanneTakenaka

The first time I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers conference, I was scared, excited, nibbling my fingernails, and not sure what to expect.

Friends further along the writing road settled my nerves so I could enjoy the conference.

A few things to remember as we prepare to attend writing conferences:

Meeting Agents and Editors:

  • Reality check: Though we have opportunities to pitch our stories and meet agents and editors, they rarely make an offer during that fifteen-minute appointment.
  • Should we still bother pitching our stories? Yes! These meetings offer opportunities to interact with professionals we may one day work with. And for them to get to know us.
  • Don’t get so worked up over offering the perfect pitch that we become a big ball of shakes. Instead, pray before appointments.
  • Remember agents and editors are people too. Don’t begin the appointment by launching into our pitches. They like it when writers introduce themselves and relate on a human level.

My first pitch was to an editor. I was scared. So, I owned it. I said something like, “Hi. My name is Jeanne Takenaka. For better or for worse, you’re my first-ever pitch.”

The editor chuckled and we discussed my story. She read my first chapter and gave encouraging feedback.

Meeting Other Writers:

  • Conferences are great places to make and deepen connections with writers. Though we’re the only ones who can write our stories, we don’t walk out this writing journey in complete solitude. Connecting with other writers opens opportunities to help and cheer each other forward.
  • We’re not in competition with each other. Sometimes, writing friends will receive amazing feedback after pitching appointments. Even if we don’t get that coveted request—if we can celebrate with those who do, rather than envy them? This deepens relationships.
  • God knows the timing for each of our journeys. If we cling to this perspective and trust His plan celebrating our friends’ success becomes a little easier. And, when we’re disappointed in how a pitch appointment goes (and it happens to all of us), it’s okay to work through those emotions. Talking with a trusted friend or mentor renews our perspective and helps us move beyond discouragement.

Chocolate helps too.

  • Don’t be afraid to talk with well-known authors. I’m a closet fan-girl of certain authors. I never want to draw their attention to me. Though I may have wanted a photo with them, I was never bold enough to ask. Reminiscing over the past few conferences, I wish I’d been brave enough to talk with my favorites. To ask for a picture. Most well-established authors are gracious, and they’re happy to spend a few minutes talking with those who enjoy their books.

After attending five ACFW conferences, most of my nerves have subsided. The anticipation of connecting with writing friends takes center stage in my heart. If you’re coming to ACFW this year, I would love to say hello to you. Come find me.

What about you? What’s one thing that makes you nervous about attending writing conferences? For writing conference aficionados, will you share one piece of advice?

~*~

Jeanne Takenaka writes contemporary fiction that touches the heart. She won My Book Therapy’s Frasier award in 2014 after finaling in the contest in 2013. She was a Genesis 2015 finalist in the romance category, and she finaled in the Launching a Star Contest and the Phoenix Rattler in 2012. An active member of RWA, ACFW and My Book Therapy, Jeanne blogs about life and relationships at http://jeannetakenaka.wordpress.com. A graduate with an M.A. in education, she resides in Colorado with her husband and two exuberant boys who hope to one day have a dog of their own.