Saturday, February 14, 2009

What to Bring to the Conference – Cheri Cowell

As a Central Floridian, I’d like to welcome all those traveling to the conference from elsewhere around the state and from all corners of the U.S. We are heading into our nice time of year with highs usually in the seventies to low eighties with lows in the fifties. But, we can get a stray cold front, so check the weather before you come to be sure we’re not getting a visitor from the North.

Lake Yale is a beautiful camp setting, which means comfy shoes (can I get an Amen on that) and a jacket for those lake breezes or drafty rooms. I plan on wearing dressy (some call it snappy) casual, which simply means I’m dressing for comfort with an eye for looking professional.

I like to say writers’ conferences are five-day interviews because you never know when that opportunity will happen for you to meet an editor. At one of my first conferences I met an editor while standing over a garbage can. I didn’t know he was an editor; he simply asked if he could share my makeshift table over the trashcan. I laughed and moved over to make room. We exchanged names (his didn’t ring a bell) and some minor chitchat, and then he asked what I was doing at the conference. I shared my pitch that I’d just learned how to do earlier in the day at the first-timers meeting, and then I asked what he was doing there. I almost choked on my hot dog when I found out he was an editor. He was so nice. It was a relief to find out that editors were real people and they really do want us to succeed.

What I tell those attending a writers’ conference for the first time is look for opportunities to be a blessing. Encourage someone, pray with someone, see how many smiles you can pass along, be interested in other people’s stories, see how much you can grow in wisdom, and radiate joy. Editors are watching you and I, even when we’re standing by the garbage can.

First-timers should look through the list of editors and make a list of who may be interested in the kind of things you write. If you have material to bring, by all means bring it.

But most first-timers have rough ideas. For those, you may want to create a “pitch sheet.” It is a single page four-to-five paragraph introduction of your idea. It succinctly tells of the idea, the reader benefit, and a little about you as the writer. It also has your contact information. Creating this pitch sheet will help you to form your idea into a pithy pitch, which you will then use when you sit down with an editor.

Another suggestion is to take advantage of people like me—authors who are there to listen to your pitches and give suggestions and encouragement. We know what it is like to be in your shoes. Because someone helped us, we are returning the blessing. So, sign up for appointments with us; practice your pitches and gain that confidence. And when you go those editor appointments (or have a chance one at the garbage can) after meeting with us, be sure to let us know how it went. We are here for you.

A veteran 21 conferences (and a teacher at six), Cheri Cowell is:
  • Hot dog lover
  • God-incidence spotter
  • Native Floridian, Central Floridian
  • Sunset admirer
  • Author of over 200 articles, stories in more than 10 anthologies
  • Night owl whose best writing time is 10 pm-2 am
  • Author of Direction: Discernment for the Decisions of Your Life (Beacon Hill)
  • Been rejected by almost every publisher at this conference
  • Encourager
  • Wife
  • Seminary student
  • Speaker
  • Reader
  • Bible teacher
  • Friend
Visit Cheri at

1 comment:

  1. Cheri,

    That was a good idea to bring a pitch sheet, although I wasn't sure at first what you meant by a "pithy pitch." I loved the encouragement you gave in your facts about yourself, especially that you had been rejected by almost all the publishers at the conference. It made me feel that you don't have to be a prolific writer to be able to benefit from coming. I am looking forward to signing up for your encouragement and help. I, too,love hot dogs, sunsets and believe in paying it forward!


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