If Pat’s a guy, the first thing he does when he walks into a writer’s conference is notice that he’s outnumbered and locate the most out-of-the-way men’s room, knowing that all the others may already be sporting signs indicating he’s temporarily not welcome.
The next thing Pat does is ask for directions to registration (unless Pat’s a guy, of course, in which case he’ll wander around for an unreasonable amount of time first) and will locate the table of friendly smiling people seated and waiting to greet conferees. Pat will check in and receive a notebook which includes the schedule for the conference and a list of confirmed workshops and pitch sessions.
If Pat sees a problem, discovers that she didn’t get to see an editor she’d requested, or remembers that she forgot to order the vegetarian meal for the evening banquet, she’ll speak up immediately, using her most pleasant tone, and ask the registration coordinators what the protocol is for such things. She’ll recall that she paid her way to come to the conference, and that it’s okay to ask to have her needs met – within reason.
Pat will understand volunteers have spent tons of time coordinating the conference, and so will demonstrate his appreciation by thanking the staff, remembering that most every detail of the conference has been prayed over, and resolving to make the best of every chance meeting and divine appointment.
If new to this particular conference, Pat will attend any preparatory sessions available, and perhaps make an effort to get to know another new conferee so they can help one another navigate their way through the conference.
Pat will remember to pray.
Pat will understand that publishing is about relationships, and so will make it a point to talk with other writers about where they are in their journey toward publication. Pat will make it a point not only to learn from others, but to encourage others as well.
Pat will always be prepared with a writing sample (just in case) to present if requested at anytime during the conference.
Pat will be on time to pitch sessions and be respectful of other writers in the pitch sessions.
Pat will take no for an answer, receive feedback without defensiveness, and resolve to follow through as soon as possible on any requests from editors or agents. If, during the pitch session, Pat isn’t clear about something or feels the need for additional feedback, he’ll let it go for the moment, realizing others are waiting to pitch their projects.
In workshops, Pat will ask clear and appropriate questions, make eye contact and smile, will not interrupt the presenter, nor will she sit in the back of the room scowling and making derisive comments about the editor who declined a proposal.
Pat will remember that Christian publishing, especially, is a very small world where reputation often precedes talent. And that talent is not a divine gift which all must instantly recognize, but a skill that is cultivated and honed over time, with the application of discipline, practice, prayer, and hard work.
Pat will leave the conference a smarter, better informed, and more prepared writer, and be glad he’ll probably not have to find an alternate restroom when he gets home.
Sandra Bishop will be teaching the workshop: “Christian Market or General Market: What Are My Options?” at NCWA’s Renewal Conference. Click here for more information.
Sandra is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary, Inc. and represents fiction and nonfiction authors in multiple genres and with varying levels of publication background. She was recently named Vice President of the agency.