Writers conferences are a great source of instruction, encouragement, and blessing to the writer, but they can also cause stress. Writers know attending a conference can be crucial to their success. They’re told that the agents and editors are the gatekeepers to publication and they usually have less than three minutes to get through the gate.
Shaking voices, trembling hands, and sweat-stained armpits prove writers are aware how each encounter could fulfill or flounder publication dreams.
In the final countdown to the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal April 11-12, 2014, with Davis Bunn, the proverbial butterflies have begun their migration to registrants. To relieve pressure with laughter, NCWA members decided to share our worst conference experiences.
Ocieanna Fleiss – An editor from a prominent Christian publisher told me to not be afraid to write a @#$% first draft. LOL! At my first writers conference EVER! I about lost it and the very sweet, conservative older lady sitting next to me almost fell off her chair.
Roberta Kehle – I used to pick up our speakers at the airport, but often got lost going to the hotel, usually when they needed to go to the bathroom and were in misery. Another time I was trying to get a Starbucks for an agent and had a minor parking lot mishap. They quit asking my pick-up help. Wonder why? Hmm, this might scare off attendees.
Sonja Anderson – My most embarrassing moment related to a writing conference came after the conference. I had the opportunity to submit a manuscript to an agent and an editor from the annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference in Seattle. After I wrote a query letter to the female editor from a fancy New York publishing house, I thought I’d save time and cut and paste the letter for the male agent from Chicago.
Big mistake! Imagine my great grief and embarrassment when I looked at the letter more carefully (after hitting “send,” of course, to the male agent ), and saw that I never removed the line about hoping that the rest of her PREGNANCY went well!
Needless to say, I never heard back from that agent. Sigh.
Lynnette Bonner – At an NCWA conference several years ago, I sat in on a pitch session with a big-name agent. She liked what she heard and requested that I send her a proposal after the conference. Later that same day she was chatting with Jim Rubart.
I needed to talk to Jim about something so I approached and was standing off to one side as they chatted. Jim turned to me and in his gregarious way said, “Hey! How’s your day gone? Did anyone request your stuff?”
And I replied that yeah, “Actually she requested that I send her a proposal.”
To which the agent jolted back and gasped, “I didn’t request a proposal from YOU!”
Jim did a double-take between the two of us as I said, “Well, actually you did.” She then apologized profusely and admitted she remembered me. Needless to say, I never sent her a proposal.
Mindy Peltier – After hearing how volunteering at a conference can impact your ability to get published, I arranged to meet two editors at the airport. They were from the two Christian publishers I dreamed of writing for some day. I’d rehearsed a line I thought was clever and would prove my passion and need for writers conferences.
Feeling brave as I deftly merged into I-5 rush hour traffic, I said, “Writers conferences have become counterproductive for me. I’m writing less…
One editor didn’t realize the airspace was meant to be a dramatic pause before my brilliant punch line.
He began defending conferences and instructed me on my need to attend and appreciate them. I didn’t want to interrupt. I merged into the carpool lane. The editor in the back seat added to the defense.
Shocked, I was convinced the misunderstanding had crash-dummied my publication dreams. I figured my name would be passed around the editors’ circle, along with the guy who tried to pitch his book at the urinal. I couldn’t even finish my sentence.
The punch line he missed was “… because the more conferences I go to, the worse my writing becomes.
I was trying to cleverly reveal how conferences were impacting my writing life. I was learning about writing, but on a larger scale, I was understanding how much more I needed to learn about writing and the publishing industry.
I’ve relived that agonizing moment over and over since then, and even in my dreams, I crash before the punch line.
Every year I attend and volunteer at several writers conferences, and I’ve even taught at a few. But, they’re still counterproductive for me, because the more writers conferences I attend, the worse my writing becomes.
If an embarrassing moment at a writers conference occurs, don’t worry, it won’t affect your publication dreams. All of the above writers were published after their blunders.
Brush it off and move on, but only after you send the story to us. We’d love to use in a blog post next year.