Friday, May 14, 2010

Conference Confidence

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience by which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’”

- Eleanor Roosevelt

“I have nothing but confidence in you, and very little of that.”

- Groucho Marx

Today is the day. Today I attend the NESCBWI Conference. I’m a volunteer at the check-in table. I also have a peer critique for the first pages of my WIP Naked Eye. I’m enduring a query critique for Aura with an agent I’m intimidated to meet for reasons I’d rather not say. (Or in this case, write.) Tonight I’ll have dinner with a writer friend, attend the party, and meet my roommate.

Tomorrow I’ll be a “handler” for a double-workshop "Social Media Tips and Tricks". I will have a ten-page critique (synopsis + 9 pages) for Aura with an unknown agent. I will attend other workshops and make small talk. I don’t know if I’ll eat dinner with anyone or be alone. And I’ll be spending the night in my room sans roommate.

And the panic is creeping in.

Sunday will be easier because I have no volunteer duties and no more critiques. I’ll be attending a double-workshop with Cynthia Lord (the author of Rules) about school visits. Of course, I don’t have an agent, let alone a book so having anything to promote is just a distant dream. But still… Cynthia Lord. Besides, it never hurts to be prepared if/when I do have a book to promote. (Please let it be when.)

Thursday was spent preparing for the conference. What to wear? I’m trying to strike the balance between professional and comfortable, youthful and appropriate. And what should be my layering piece in case it’s cold. (I have the feeling the men don’t have to agonize this much.)

Besides agonizing about my attire, I also needed to print. How many pages of my manuscripts and how many? I decided on ten pages, along with cover letters and synopses, three copies apiece of Aura and The Disappearances. Of course, I rarely have an opportunity to give them to anyone since it’s more likely an agent will tell me to mail or e-mail them. Bringing them is more like a security blanket.

What if I forget toothpaste? (Gross)

What if I forget deodorant? (Grosser)

What if I forget my flat iron? (Unthinkable)

Yesterday, my son stayed home sick. Last night, my throat felt scratchy and my nose seemed stuffy. This morning, I had schmutz in my eyes. I remembered removing a piece of gook my daughter had in her eye yesterday. Now I was sure I had pink eye. Does anyone else get paranoid they’re coming down with something before a big event?

Side story, for my first kid I went into labor at midnight. By 1:00 pm, my throat felt scratchy. I said to my husband, “I think I’m getting sick.” He replied, “You’re not getting sick. You’ve been up for over twenty-four hours and have been in labor for thirteen hours.”

The critiques will hang over my head until they’re done. I don’t expect more than critical feedback, even though I can’t help feeling the tiniest itty bit of hope. I put myself through this torture to improve my writing. Although I’ve submitted Aura for this conference, it’s not where my head is right now. I’m consumed with The Disappearances and Naked Eye. But I love Aura and I want a professional opinion on it.

I love conferences. I hate conferences. Well, I don’t really hate them; I’m just apprehensive. In one of my first blog posts*, I discussed my feelings about conferences. Each time I attend, I’m more confident. I’ve accomplished more, even if it’s not tangible like an agent or a book deal, but because I’ve learned more about writing and submitting. And I have a better manuscript to present. Conversely, each year is another that’s passed since I’ve began with little to show for it.

“How long have you been writing?”

“Do you have an agent?”

“Do you have any books published?”

This is the one arena I’d love a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

When I return home, I don’t believe I’ll report miracles, but I know I’ll learn things. Important things. And I’ll share them with you because I have something I didn’t have at any of the other conferences. A blogging community.

And if I have some time, maybe I’ll even post some updates on Facebook.

I’d love to hear from you. Have you attended any conferences? If so, which ones? How do you feel about them? Where are you in your writing career?

I’ll miss you all this weekend. Have a great one!

* Previous conference post:


  1. I have attended several CORE Conferences (Consortium on Reading Excellence). You attend workshops which break down the reading skills to enable students to develop a life long quest.

  2. I haven't attended any conferences, but would love to hear what you learn in the social media workshop. What a relevant topic to today's publishing, and one ever-changing. Enjoy!

  3. Wishing you every luck, we don't have conferences here, at least I have never heard of one.
    Most people who have a successful writing career here win writing competitions in radio and print and large writing festivals.
    Then the publishers have interest in them.
    Hope you have a great time, at least you are in with a chance if you are actually there.

  4. Paul C, it sounds liek a great conference. I've only done limited teaching workshops. When I get a full-time job, I look forward to doing more of them.

    Joanne, I'm excited about the social-media one as well. It's funny because they didn't offer anything like it last year. The publishing world is changing!

    Brigid, I'm always struck how things can be so different from one country to another. Publishing is a big example.

  5. Have a FANTASTIC conference!!!!!

    We'll miss you too so do report back asap! LOL!

    I wouldn't know about these things - but all I know is that you take out what you put in yourself - so network, go critiquing and be critiqued and above all, ENJOY YOURSELF! You are doing this for you and only you.

    Take care

  6. I totally relate to how you're feeling! Every time I've had an audition or attended a workshop or conference, panic sets in...the unknown, fear of being judged and just throwing yourself into a new situation can be slightly overwhelming.

    However, your Eleanor Roosevelt quote (one of my all time favorites) sums it up perfectly - no matter what, you will drive home Sunday night feeling empowered and proud because you put yourself out there.

    I hope that you have a great weekend!

  7. Hooray! I'm excited for you! I don't know that I can count the number of regional SCBWI conferences I've been to...somewhere in the vicinity of eight or nine. Went to the SCBWI New York conference ONCE...still saving money so I can go again! My writing buddy L and I were talking about a road trip to the NESCBWI conference one of these years...mostly because I still have family in the area. You're going to have a great time! Deep breaths and remember that the agents are just as excited about meeting you (a potential client) as you are to meet them. Without people like you...they wouldn't have a job! Good luck and HAVE FUN!

  8. You are going to rock the house! No stress. Don't freak out. Just enjoy! I can't wait to hear how it went.

  9. Old Kitty, I'm always glad I've gone before and the part of that isn't nervous is looking forward to it. Small part.

    You're right. I am doing this for myself. Yay for me.

    Kathleen, no pain, no gain. Right?

    I like the Eleanor Roosevelt too, but the Groucho Marx one has its charms.

    Ant, I wish you were going to this one. I have no followers who write YA or MG who live around here.

    Agents are excited to meet little ol' me? I'll think of it that way. Thanks.

  10. Gah, you've made me nervous just reading this! As you know, I have a conference coming up in July.

    Good luck, Theresa! I can't wait to hear all about it. I'm sure it will be great!

  11. Elana, I'll. I know you got nervous too, but you ran a workshop. I just have to get critiqued twice and introduce a workshop speaker.

    I'd better stop blogging and go!

    Talli, I read your recent IDEAS for the conference. I may have even promised to try them out...

    Now I really have to stop and blogging and go. Shutting the computer now.

  12. I would LOVE to be in your shoes. I've never been to a conference. The only ones in and around Paris (for ENGLISH books) are few and far between and cost about three times what they do in the US. Boo!

  13. Creepy Query Girl, I had no idea that the frequency and relatively reasonable prices were an American thing. We're lucky. I hope you find a good one at some point!

  14. Good luck with everything! Let us know how it goes. Got my fingers and toes crossed for you!

  15. I have to tell you that before every big event in my life I got sick! I was just thinking of this yesterday. I know it must be stress related but still. Universe give me a break!!!!

  16. I've been to a handful, none have been standouts. I think it's better to apply to writers retreats. Have you tried that?

  17. I just went to my first conference and was super nervous. It turned out to be an extremely rewarding experience. I think your passion will come across when you can actually speak to people about your work. Don't worry!! You'll be amazing!!

  18. I have never attended a conference! Good luck at yours and let us know all about it!

  19. Attending a conference is a writing goal I have yet to make happen - and oh, how I want to go! I think it makes all the difference. I'm envious, Theresa! Relax and enjoy. :-)

    Have a great weekend!

  20. Have a wonderful time!!! Sounds like you have quite a few things to think about!!!! Can't wait to hear how it all went!

    Enjoy! Happy Weekend!!

  21. You are so brave! All those critiques, all those volunteers hours and new people to meet. You'll do great if only because you're putting yourself out there. And trying really hard.

    (And I love that Elenor Roosevelt quote, by the by.)

  22. Wow, is this what it's like? I've never been to one and I think I'd be petrified! Good luck!

  23. Never been to one here but I'm so excited for you. I'm sure I'd feel as if I was coming down with a multitude of things too - my nerves would be shot.

    Good luck to you and report back - and good luck!

  24. I will be pulling for you Teresa!!! Don't worry about toothpaste, etc etc. The hotel will give you anything you forgot...just call the front desk. I can't wait to hear all about it. I am so excited for you my blogging buddy.

  25. Good luck, Theresa! I hope you enjoy yourself -- conferences look like they can be fun. I haven't been to one, but I'd like to go someday. Best of luck with everything, and I look forward to reading about it when you get back! :)

  26. Have a great time. It sounds like you're going to have a blast.

    I look forward to hearing about the conference when you get back. Take pictures!

  27. Just enjoy the conference. Everything will be fine. Liked reading the quotes at the top...:)

  28. Oh I hope you have a wonderful time and come home with brilliant news. :o)

  29. Enjoy yourself! I'm sure it'll go well once you get into the groove of things! :)

  30. The only conference I've been to is a women's conference (nothing to do with writing).

    I haven't looked for any conferences in my area yet. I think I'm going to finish my book before I take that step.

  31. There aren't that many conferences here, as Brigid says, or indeed writing workshops for that matter, unless you live in Dublin.
    As for my writing career, wrote 2 kids books, third on the way. Thinking about moving from writing picturebooks to writing for slightly older kids (7-9). Also, am thinking may start looking into screenwriting as a hobby, as film & writing are my two favourite things, so why not combine the two? :D

  32. Bossy Betty, thanks. It wound up being an excellent conference.

    T. Anne, I'm glad neither of us got sick!

    Bitethebedbugs, I can't afford writer retreats. I like the workshops, peer critiques, and agent and editor critiques at the conference. I get a lot out of it.

    Saumya, how great you went to your first conference. I was much more relaxed this time (believe it or not) and it made a big difference.

  33. Aubrie, I'll catch everybody up soon.

    Choices, thank you. All these good wishes must've made a difference!

    Shannon O'Donnell you must go. There are so many great big and regional ones. And they have broad and ones for specific genres. I recommend smaller ones.

    Jen, I took the most advantage of what was offered out of all the previous conferences and I'm glad I did.

  34. Jackee, I'm glad you liked the quote. It's better to be brave and improve my writing than be a coward. Right?

    Lydia, I always get nervous beforehand, but then I get there and realize there's no much reason to be, especially when my critiques go well.

    Jaydee, you should've seen me running around like a mess beforehand. It's amazing I remembered to bring everything.

    VKT, thanks! It was a nice break to focus on writing for three entire days. I already miss it.

  35. Shelley, you should go. I always learn a lot and make friends. I even met people from Cambridge and a couple of towns nearby.

    Shannon, I took a few pictures. Maybe I can post one or two.

    Mr. Stupid, I'm glad you liked the quotes.

    Niki, I got good feedback. No book offers, but I think an editor was tempted but couldn't (another vampire book just about to come out).

  36. India, you're right. I got in the groove.

    Miss V, what did you do at a woman's conference?

    It's probably good to be done with your writing. And then take advantage of everything the conference has to offer.

    Olive, I'm impressed with people who write picture books. Everyone thinks it's easy, but it's not.

    Screenplays are hard for me too. I tried one and abandoned it.

  37. Have an awesome time at your conference and I hope you leave totally inspired!

    I've only attended Surrey International writers conference, but I've gone a couple time and plan to go again this year. I always come away encouraged on how I can improve my craft, agent contacts and requests and enjoy the people I meet.

    It was after the last conference in Oct (09) that I decided it was time to start a blog, I also settled on a name I wanted to brand.

    I did get an agent since then (not related to my going to the conference) so it will be nice to go this year where I'm not stressing about that.

    Can't wait to hear more from you about your experiences. Have Fun!

  38. Thanks, Elle. I would imagine having an agent would relax you somewhat. There are published people who go and still attend workshops, run workshops, and speak. I'm sure even when published, you make friends and love the feeling of being around other writers.

  39. I hope the conference went well, Theresa! Can't wait to hear about it :) Hope it was helpful to you. I bet the talk with the agent was very enlightening.

  40. That sounds like an awesome conference - you're so lucky to be able to attend and get all that feedback! I hope it went well!!!

    I haven't been too impressed with the conferences I've attended around here, though the week-long Highlights Writer's Workshop at Chautauqua I attended two years ago was amazing.

  41. It was great to be your roommate and surprise you weren't sans me Saturday night! I'm with you on the feelings - anxiety sucks, which is why Sunday was the best day of the conference time to kick back and relax!

  42. Susan Fields, it was an awesome experience.

    Those week-long experiences sound great. But I get a lot out of this one too.

    Anniem, you were a great roommate. It was nice to meet you and hang out. The conference went by too quickly.

  43. Admiring the time and effort you put into your blog and detailed information you offer! mba

  44. It was interesting to read about your post because I just went to the Southeastern PA SCBWI conference in mid-April. I had the same feelings--"I love conferences! I hate conferences! No I'm just apprehensive!" They get better each time though. It's just that feeling of sticking your neck out there that you have to overcome. And meeting people like me, but who have gotten a publisher, is motivating. (I have a self-published book that's doing pretty well but it always makes me feel a bit like a wannabe at conferences, no matter how proud of it I am). Keep going! Something will happen!

  45. Stevie, it's hard not to fall into the trap, but I don't believe in classes of writers. Whether we write adult or children's, self-published or unpublished, or other, we're all writers. Thanks for the comment.

  46. i am much delighted to read the post