Monday, February 15, 2010

How to Enjoy Your Conference Experience

By Renee Gray-Wilburn
2010 FCWC faculty member

I remember being anything but relaxed at my first writers’ conference—mostly because I had no idea what to expect. I was intimated by all the amazing writers and editors around me, and I didn’t realize how fast paced and jam-packed the days would be.

I was completely overwhelmed. Since then, I’ve done better at preparing and learning to enjoy the whole conference experience.

Here’s what I’ve learned that may help you truly enjoy your time at the Florida Christian Writers’ Conference:
  • Dress comfortably. You may think this goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: women, no high heels, and men, no ties (I’ve actually seen both at conferences.). If you’re like me, your enjoyment level is directly proportional to your comfort level. Do yourself a favor and wear something (especially shoes) that will be comfortable ALL day. You still want to make a good impression, so no cut-off sweat pants, but you get the idea.
  • Meet new people. At my first conference I mainly kept to myself and just observed. Many writers have similar experiences. But consider a writers’ conference a safe haven where you can—and should—step out of your comfort zone. If you come with writer friends or your critique group, I give you permission to ditch them from time to time! One of the most rewarding parts of a conference is the new people you meet.
  • Don’t always sell. Although there’s a time and a place to pitch your manuscript and tell people how awesome of a writer you are, don’t feel you need to sell yourself to everyone you meet. Be yourself and meet people just for the fun of it. Don’t look at everyone as a potential sale for your writing. Others will appreciate that much more, and you won’t have the pressure of always being “on.”
  • Know what to expect. Here’s where your prep time comes in, and where I failed miserably at my first conference. Familiarize yourself with the conference schedule to plan where to be when. Thoroughly research the publishers, agents, and faculty so you can choose who to meet with. Always have Plan B choices for appointments and workshops in case of cancellations. Finally, make note of break times, meal times, and locations of workshops and appointments.
  • Schedule time for yourself. Make the most of your breaks and downtime. Use this time to do something you enjoy, like shopping, resting, or relaxing with friends, as well as spending time seeking the Lord. There’s so much “buzz” at conferences, it’s hard to get quiet with your own thoughts. You’ll benefit greatly from taking time to connect with God to hear what He’s saying to you as you meet new people and make your workshop rounds. Who knows what divine appointments He may have in store?
  • Be anxious for nothing! Don’t panic if you can’t meet with the editor you wanted to or if you get a bad report on a manuscript you thought would be a slam-dunk. God is in control (if you’ve asked Him to be)! He sees the end from the beginning and has prepared the perfect path to get you there. Nothing happens by accident or coincidence. Put everything into His very capable hands, and refuse to worry.
  • Prepare and plan to your heart’s content. But also…pray, relax, and get ready to enjoy yourself!
Renee Gray-Wilburn writes for business, children’s, adult nonfiction, and Christian markets. Her articles have appeared in Focus on the Family’s parenting and children’s magazines, Grand magazine, KidZone, The Christian Communicator, and others. She’s a contributor to several Cup of Comfort and Guidepost anthologies, and has co-authored eight children’s curriculum books. Stop by her new blog at:

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