This weekend I’ll be attending the DFW Writer’s Conference, and while I’ve been to several local writer’s meetings and workshops, this will be my first full-weekend conference. Coincidentally, this is also the first spring in our new house since moving out to the country. Put these together, and you get three strange ways to prepare for a writer’s conference:
CORRAL THE GOATS. My husband recently bought two young female goats. We let them out to graze in the day, but in the evening we lock them into a pen because they would make a tasty dinner for a stealthy bobcat or two. Now if you don’t happen to live in the country, feel free to take this advice metaphorically. Words are like goats. There’s a time to let them graze, and a time to bring them in. Do what it takes to finalize any remaining details on your work-in-progress. Don’t let grazing word-goats stay in the pasture overnight. It’s dangerous out there – run them into the pen before the sun falls below the horizon.
PULL SOME WEEDS. Spring has done good things for our flowerbeds. Most of them, anyway. Yesterday evening I spent about an hour pulling weeds from one trouble spot because were so many weeds popping up that the flowers couldn’t grow. Writing can be the same way. As you prepare for the conference, take time to review your query, pitch, and synopsis for common literary weeds like unnecessary adjectives and formatting errors. Don’t forget to weed out your thoughts, as well. Writers are notorious for invasive, creeping weeds like self-doubt and negativity. Let’s face it: we’re going to deal with rejection. That’s just part of the writing business, so don’t compound the problem with your own negativity. Get rid of the weeds and let God handle the rest.
PRACTICE YOUR PITCH WITH STRANGERS. The mailperson. Random road workers. Just kidding, I actually prefer unsuspecting Starbucks patrons. Take your 300-page hardcopy manuscript and plop it down on the table beside your laptop. Over time, people will invariably glance at the document, bleeding with edits, and ask if you’re a teacher. Smile mysteriously and say no, you’re a writer. Oh yeah, they will say, what do you write? And that’s when you tell them, in a casual way, just like you plan to do with the agent. (Note: if a young man comes into Starbucks carrying a bottle of red soda and a package of Long John Silver’s fried fish, sits down beside you and says that he’s a comedian, tell him that YES, you are indeed a TEACHER. Then look sternly back down at your laptop and don’t look up again. Trust me on this.)
And there you have it. If all else fails, come find me on Twitter. I tweet when I write – it helps to remind me that I actually live in this century.