I got overwhelmed thinking about how to write this post. I knew I wanted to write about my experience of the Writer’s Digest Conference 2014, but I learned so much that I wasn’t sure where to start. My friend, fellow writer, and critique partner, Lisa Pais, and I took the train down to New York on Friday night and were in time to join the conference Saturday morning. We both had work obligations on Friday, preventing us from making the Friday afternoon workshops.
(Looking at the mezzanine at the Roosevelt Hotel, where the conference took place)
I really liked Tim Grahl’s workshop, “How to Sell your First 1,000 Copies.” Tim is the founder of Out:think. On their “About” page, they say “We empower your brand, your tribe, your career.” I felt like I got a lot of good advice on a good philosophy for building one’s author platform as well as some specific suggestions. My favorite quote from Tim was “Be relentlessly helpful.” I will try to do that with this blog–I’ll do what I can! Let me know if anyone has questions, and I’ll answer to the best of my ability. Tim has his own blog on the Out:think website–you can see a lot of the advice he gives, which made sense to me!
I also enjoyed learning about how Goodreads works from an author’s perspective (thanks to Michael J. Sullivan and his wife, who gave that presentation). I had used it as a reader, but didn’t really know how it functioned for authors. I’ve now claimed my author page and have joined some discussion groups.
I learned a lot from the panel including authors Joe Nelms, Sean Ellis, Jeffrey Somers, Kristopher Jansma, Julia Fierro, and Kelly Braffet (and have added a lot of books to my mental–“to read” list–just need to add them to my Goodreads “to read” list now!). It was eye-opening to hear that some of them had not had their “break-out” until they had gone through multiple agents and written between four and ten manuscripts. This is good and bad news, right? Good news that if you haven’t made it in the first few years, or with the first agent, or with the first manuscript, you can still hold out hope that your writing will someday be read in a traditional published form. Bad news if you’re thinking that finding an agent or writing a book means you’re all set. I felt good about what I learned though.
Both keynotes were wonderful–I loved hearing from Harlan Coben and Kimberly Lawson Roby. Both were inspiring, entertaining, and spoke to a lot of the common experiences that writers have. I may add some more later on some of the specifics they shared. I don’t typically read books of the type Coben writes, but liked him so much I think I may have to try one! I haven’t read Roby’s books before either, but I definitely plan on it. She was wonderful and I loved how she spoke about her characters.
I participated in the Pitch Slam, and was so nervous that I wanted to make sure I kept my hands in my lap during most of my first pitch in case the agent noticed me shaking. After the first pitch, I realized that I could do this, and that all the time I had spent honing my pitch and practicing talking about my novel did help, and then I was less nervous with the rest of the agents. They were incredibly nice! In fact, I think everyone I met at the conference was warm and friendly. I had been nervous because I was expecting this conference to be much more overwhelming compared with my only other writer’s conference experience, the New England Romance Writers of American conference, which I attended with members of my writer’s group. By the way, that was also a great conference! I’m not a romance writer, but learned A LOT–I would recommend going to any writer. Why was I expecting to be overwhelmed? I suppose because I was going all the way to the big apple, and felt like I was really ready to pitch my first novel, so I had upped the stakes for myself.
All in all, I certainly feel that the conference was a worthwhile experience. I always cringe whenever I pay something like that and have a moment of panic, BUT I’m very glad I went. I’ve also been traveling around for writing and for teacher training, and then went on a road trip with my husband to visit friends of ours out of state. I’m glad to be home for a few days now and get back into my writing routine! My writing buddy is tired, too. He was at doggy daycare the last few days: