This weekend I attended my first writers conference. That’s something that’s been on my writer’s bucket list since I started my freelance editing-writing journey. Until now, the cost of attending a conference was beyond my resources, but thanks to a scholarship, some careful budgeting, and a highly recommended conference nearby, I can add another checkmark to my bucket list.
- By my estimate (and affirmed by a dinner companions) the average age of attendees appeared to be 50-55. The oldest attendee admitted to 82.
- Attendees were predominantly women–at least 3:1 maybe even 4:1. Apparently that’s par for such conferences and not too surprising since it’s generally accepted that women are more verbal than men. I find it curious, however, that this gender imbalance among writers doesn’t seem to carry over into publication. Male authors dominate on both the latest NY Times Bestseller List and Christianity Today’s 2014 Book Awards.
- The Florida Christian Writers Conference isn’t the largest one on the circuit, but attendees who’ve been to others find FCWC to be more relaxed, while faculty and offerings take a back seat to none. I feel fortunate to have had this opportunity without incurring major travel expenses.
- Perhaps my biggest surprise was how approachable the faculty, editors, and agents were. As a first-timer I was apprehensive about introducing myself or pitching an idea for an article or book to total strangers. For the most part, those fears were unfounded. Faculty members were quick to remind us that they had once been in our place and were eager to share how to navigate the quickly-changing publishing world.
- If we’d used a match.com my roommate and I could not have been better paired. We had only recently met online and agreed to room together. The similarities in our personalities, thinking, and preferences were evident moments after we met and continued throughout the weekend. This was truly a God-arranged meeting and the start of what I expect will be a rich friendship with Tina Hunt.
The best advice I got heading into the conference came from my Facebook Mastermind Group. Concerned about not having something to pitch – or time to prepare one – they encouraged me to forget about preparing a pitch. Just go and take in all you can, hand out business cards, and enjoy yourself.
Relieved to have that monkey off my back, on Monday morning (three days before I was to leave for the conference) I got online to order business cards. After perusing all the options, I settled on a design, added my name and contact information, and placed the order.
OK…that sounded easy, but in actuality, the process took me more than an hour. I’ll admit to being somewhat technologically-challenged, but I’m not a novice on the web.
Now what? Less than twenty-four hours until the conference and I have nothing to pitch. And now I have useless business cards.
Or do I? There’s no contact information for the mysterious Vanessa LeMiarra my husband pointed out. And besides, they may make you stand out.
Time will tell if he’s right. At least it was a great icebreaker. And I can only hope that when I submit my next query or article to an editor they will be impressed not only by my writing, but will remember a writer who carried on in spite of a misnomer.
Next week I’ll share some of the more substantive take aways from the conference.