The magic of a writer’s conference

This weekend I am taking myself to a writers conference. This isn’t the first one I’ve attended and it surely won’t be the last, but I am going with one very important goal.

Any writer who has attended one of these conferences knows that there is the potential to connect with an agent, land representation and perhaps take a step closer to a book deal. At least that is how these conferences are billed; pitch your book, land an agent! It is all very exciting, and easy to get caught up in the spin, but that promise is harder to grab than a golden snitch. Everything has to come together just right. You need the right book, the right pitch, the right agent, the right timeslot, the right shoes, the right smile, the right… you get the picture. It certainly doesn’t hurt if you know a little magic and can fly on a broom, but even a talented magician would be hard pressed to land a book deal at a writer’s conference.

I’ll be honest, I bought in. After my first pitching experience I was convinced that face to face pitches are the best way to land a literary agent. At the very least it is a chance to see who you are dealing with on the other side of the slush pile. And don’t get me wrong, I am definitely going to pitch at this conference, but landing an agent is not my most important goal.

You see, one of the hardest things for me is to talk about my writing. It’s not that I can’t hold a conversation, but talking face to face about something as personal and challenging as writing fiction is difficult. Every time I talk about my work I invite risk and judgement.

My own questions are reflected:

  • Is my story interesting enough to hold your attention?
  • Why spend my time writing when I could be doing a thousand other things?
  • Does my art matter?
  • Is it even art?
  • Am I wasting your time?

When I find a thoughtful ear, I want to lean close and whisper about the stories that wake me in the night. I want to open the peep hole and share the worlds of my imagination. I want to bring my characters into the conversation, and let them tell stories about the capers and mysteries they have entangled themselves in. I want to share the treasures of my mind, but more often than not, I slam the door to the vault shut and swallow the key. I avoid talking about my writing, because it is hard, and there is risk and fear.

So for me, the magic of this conference probably won’t happen when I pitch (as lovely as that would be) but when I engage with someone who leans in with curiosity and listens with interest. My most important goal for this weekend is to talk about my writing. With proper pronunciation, and the right flick and swish of my wand I might even cast a spell.

2 thoughts on “The magic of a writer’s conference

  1. Ann Clark McFarland says:

    Such a true description of the “writer’s conference” experience, where great potential always circulates in the air, but the formula for “landing the deal” is as elusive as salting the tail of a squirrel. (I was told if I could sprinkle salt on the tail, I could catch the squirrel.) Being your own marketer is the biggest deficit for many writers. I started in the trade in the first place because I have a passion to “say something” but cannot speak. So, I write.

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