Here are some thoughts from a veteran of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference (September 9–10–11, 2011 here in Denver).
- First-timers: Arrive early to scope the lay-out of the Renaissance Hotel so you know how best to get from the Platte room to Ballroom A with the least amount of panic. Especially memorize where the bathrooms are and possibly the bar.
- Keep updated on changes to the workshop schedule by checking the RMFW website under Conference. (Try to imagine the olden days when there was no internet and the conference organizer was just a blur rushing around taping hand-written changes to posterboards. It’s better here, trust me.)
- Plan your own schedule ahead of time, using a complicated colored marker system if necessary. There are tons of great workshops to choose from, some that conflict with each other, so choose carefully. (You can also order CDs if there are some you must miss. Decide which to go to live and which to listen to based on how hot the presenter is.)
- Look up agents and editors ahead of time–most of them have websites or blogs or they do the tweety thing. If you’ve put in for a pitch session or you’re signed up for an agent/editor workshop, read up on some of their existing authors so you have a good idea what they’re looking for. Try to make it to the agent/editor panels–always informative. Please don’t ask them how to ensure your work doesn’t get stolen. (Just email your novel to yourself and you’re covered.)
- Practice, practice, practice that pitch for your writing. Perfect an elevator pitch: “It’s like Pretty Woman meets Out of Africa.” Have a slightly longer one ready for the 10-minute pitch session. “A hooker with a heart of gold who looks like Julia Roberts if forced to jet to her dying uncle’s coffee farm in Kenya. But the farm’s overseer, a Robert Redford/Richard Gere type, hates hookers because one broke his heart and gave him syphilis, so they spar and flirt but bond over their mutual love of bi-planes and opera.”
- Schmooze outside your comfort zone. Sure your critique group and your Facebook friends are the best, but at a writer’s conference, almost everyone you meet is interesting and has a story to tell. Even if you fumble about a bit, just remember. It’s like karaoke–no matter how much you wipe out, there’s always someone worse.
- Business cards come in handy. So why have I never, ever had any? This year, I swear.
- Hold onto the workshop handout booklet. (This year it’ll be on a flashdrive in your conference packet.) You can reference the info for years to come.
- You can still register for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold conference. There are plenty of great workshops and networking opportunities, plus the guest speakers, the fun writers, the hospitality suite, the Novel Idea Follies, Literature and Liquor … is that last one a redundancy? Go here for more info.
- Try to relax and have fun. And have coffee. Lots of it.