Thursday, May 27, 2010

Confessions of a Conference Wannabe

Have you ever stood on the outside and looked in? Feeling like the little matchstick girl?

When Krista, Pepper, Mary, Sherrinda and I got to talking about what to post this week, we decided that we would talk about going to a conference. Okay, let me reword that, Pepper and Krista decided and we all thought it was a good idea. : )

And if it had been in a person instead of being on the other side of computer screen, Sherrinda and I would have looked at each other with a blank stare and the question stamped on our foreheads, "What do you talk about when you have never been to one??" You can tell we are the only ones who have not had that privilege, read Sherrinda's hilarious post HERE

So thus this blog post was born, Confessions of a Conference Wannabe.

Last year I heard for the first time, of the ACFW conference (click the photo for more info for this year). Every website I visited, every blog, had pictures of attendees scrunched together in poor lighting, but such excitement to see friends and to learn more about this crazy craft we all profess to enjoy.

In that moment I wanted to go. I wanted to go with a desire burning within me like an out of control wildfire. Might I even say I was even a bit jealous. Na, don't need to go there.

Okay, maybe I do.

Not everyone can afford the $1,000+ total expense the ACFW conference entails. But at the moment I saw that conference I was willing to ditch the expense, hop on a plane and fly to wherever this conference was going to be held. I wanted to rub elbows with today's best authors, shake the hand of an editor after meeting them for one of those coveted 15 minutes sessions and leave with my head so packed with knowledge it would explode if I moved too quickly.

Needless to say that isn't happening last year...and it won't this year. And the battle to dominate the niggling jealously was pure torture for several months. Until I decided to implement these few things to help me in my quest for a conference trip.

So here is what I suggest for nixing that little green monster when you start seeing all those great photos popping up everywhere.

#1: Prayer
Every time I even think about missing that conference and want to go off and pout, I pray. God knows the right time for any of us to go to something this big. Maybe we aren't ready spiritually. Maybe we aren't ready financially. Maybe we aren't ready for all that head hurting knowledge. But GOD knows and that is all that matters. His timing is perfect. I certainly didn't want to accept that last year, but with each day I am learning to trust more in what He knows is best for me. My writing needs to improve and when I go to a conference, I would love to take a sample of what I have, but right now, I have none of that ready. My writing is just not ready. But I grow everyday and God is teaching me more and more. By the time I get to a conference I will be ready to have my horizons expanded.

#2: Save
Turn into a miser (within reason here, don't starve your children). I have a jar in my room and every time I get pennies, nickels and dimes in this pocket of mine (isn't that a song??), a dollar bill (we all know those pile up in our wallets), when I sub at the local preschool, when I babysit, when I do my neighbor's chores, clean a friend's house, make a little cash on the side that isn't part of my normal pay, then I set that aside in my "Go to Conference" jar.

Once I have paid myself back for starting my jewelry business, all profits will go towards my writing conference budget. All of these things I am doing on the side to help fund a trip someday. I am sure you are thinking, "I have a family, I can't squirrel away that kind of money!" But the thing of it is, you can. It is simply a matter of being willing to save it and being proactive to take the steps necessary. What if instead of eating out, you put that money in your jar? Talk to your family, tell them of your desires and see what they would be willing to do to help.

Writing is not a solitary job, it takes people willing to help and often all you have to do is ask.

Now I do have one small advantage over some of you- for now- I still live at home. Free of rent and my family is extremely supportive of what I am doing, so that allows me to save a bit more. But the point is, even if for every paycheck you are given, you put $15, $10, $5, anything you can aside and save it, that amount will grow. You might not get to go every year, but I bet every other year you can go. That's better than not at all, right? Where there is a will there is a way.

#3 Live Through Those Photos
If you can't beat 'em, you might as well join 'em. (in this case at least). Every time you see a photo from a conference you wanted to attend, enjoy it. Read the comments around the photo, recognize faces and dream you are in that photo too. Take a peek at surroundings, and just spend a few minutes dreaming about it. I know, sounds eccentric, but hey, this is characterization people! Use it! : ) Besides we are artists. Cut some slack here.

(Okay I don't know who all these people are (it is an ACFW photo), except is that you, Krista??? Google Images in a scary thing!)

#4 Buy Recordings
That is truly the next best thing to being there. Hearing the lectures, the questions and ACFW has a place where you can buy everything that was talked about for about $150 in CD-ROMS or MP3 downloads. (Click HERE for more info) It is a fraction of the cost of the conference and you can listen and learn at your own speed and time. It doesn't quite beat the experience of being there, but when you can't be, get the recordings. I have the 2008 ACFW conference recordings and have found it invaluable. I need to get the 2009 and just keep forgetting...

#5 Read Up on Self Help Writing Books
This doesn't beat learning this knowledge in person, seeing the hands on supplies and listening to the teachers and asking questions. But if you can't hear about writing, how about reading about writing? I know that I personally have many self help books on my shelf that I have yet to read. Conference time would be a good time to catch up on that and maybe learn something new or understand something better.

For everything there is a time and season. Scripture was right you know. Like I said earlier, God knows the PERFECT timing for that conference trip you have been longing to take. And if like me you aren't going this year, then use the time to work on another novel, polish off some books you promised yourself you'd read about writing. Right around conference time I will start edits on my second novel, just think if you were going, you wouldn't be home to work on the next best seller. ; )

And trust that God knows what He is doing.

So join the club of conference wannabes. We will grouse, complain, pray and generally live vicariously through the pictures that the attendees take. And just look out everyone, we will be there someday, 'cause you can't stop us!

So, are you going to any conference this year?? I would love to hear about it and take plenty of pictures for me!!


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh Casey!!! This was EXCELLENT information! You are so incredibly wise for your young years! I loved all your points, especially the prayer and the saving. That green little monster always wants to rear his head when I start seeing pictures of my online friends getting to meet and have fun together. :)

In that picture: I see Jody Hedlund, Katie, Jessica, Jeanne Campbell, Ralene, Eileen, KRISTA, and I can't remember the other lady...Cathy, maybe?

My favorite picture from last year was the one with Krista in the tree. I so wanted to tree hop with her!!!!!

Keli Gwyn said...

Casey, what a great list of ways to deal with your desire to go to conference. Last year, I wanted to attend RWA Nationals and the ACFW conference, but I wasn't able to. And it was tough. My CP was a Golden Heart finalist, and I wanted to be there to support her. Many of my blogging buddies were at the ACFW conference, along with every single one of The Seekers, and I wanted to meet them in person.

I did some of the things in your wonderful list. I made real progress on my story, read about the conferences and enjoyed the pictures on blogs, and prayed that I'd have a good attitude in spite of the fact that I wasn't able to attend.

I am blessed to be able to go to both conferences this year. My CP and I get to room together at Nationals in Orlando. I've not seen Anne since I first met her at the conference in San Francisco, so getting this time with her will be awesome. At ACFW, I get to meet my agent in person as well as many of the terrific friends I've made online.

And I'll definitely share about my experiences when I get back so those of you I don't get to see can experience some of the fun through me.

Kaye Dacus said...

Actually #1 should be---Go to smaller, regional conferences. They're more economical (lower registration fees, lower travel costs, lower lodging fees) and you'll find a more intimate, less intimidating environment.

I love the ACFW national conference; and, up until last year, I had perfect attendance at them since the first one (back when it was ACRW) in 2002. But it's grown so large now that I actually recommend that people attend a smaller conference their first time out. With 500 to 600 people at ACFW---along with all those big-name published authors, agents, and editors, ACFW can be one of the most overwhelming and intimidating experiences a writer will ever face. Two years ago when I went to the conference in Minneapolis, there were so many people there that days and weeks afterward I was finding out that FRIENDS of mine---people I've spent time with face to face---were at the conference and I never saw them or knew they were there!

I'd never tell people "don't dream big"; just take small (affordable) steps to make that dream, attending ACFW, come true!

Casey said...

I am glad you liked it Sherrinda! I tell you it was SO tough that first year that I wanted to go so bad, but learning those things for me personally has been a HUGE help. Someday I want to go, I can't wait to meet you all in person. :)

Casey said...

Have a WONDERFUL time at the conferences, Keli! I will look forward to your pictures. :)

I know that money is a huge hurdle to launch over when it comes to finacing these things, so I am thrilled for you that you get to attend both and how exciting to meet that amazing helpful person on the other side of the screen!!

Casey said...

Kaye! What an honor to have you here, thank you so much!!

Going to smaller conferences is GREAT. I went to one really small one, okay maybe it would be better to call it a workshop :) earlier this year and had a great time. That would have been a great point to make, but I know for me personally that where I live, it's kind of like all or nothing.

I don't live in those areas with smaller conferences near me, so I might as well go for broke! Ha! I know it is HUGE and probably exhausting. I would have to make a list of the people I want to meet. LOL!

I agree with the small steps, absolutely! It is the best way to climb the mountain.

Thanks again, it is great having you visit!!

Keli Gwyn said...

I second Kaye's recommendation. My first conference was a small one geared for beginning writers. There were about 100 of us, and even that number of fellow newbies was intimidating for introverted me. I went the following year and didn't feel quite as overwhelmed.

A month later, I braved the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, where I was one of about 450 attendees. That was my first exposure to some big names in the inspirational market. It was hard not to stand around with my jaw on the ground. I was in awe. But I survived and only embarrassed myself once. (I lost in when I saw Sally Stuart in the bookstore and asked if I could shake her hand. I must have looked like a crazy woman cuz the look on her face when she extended her hand revealed some apprehension.)

Three months later, I attended RWA Nationals in San Francisco, along with 2,000 others. I durn near got whiplash as I spun my head around watching NYT bestsellers walk by, let me tell you. To be in the same place with so many famous authors was incredible. I embarrassed myself three times: in both my pitch sessions and when I talked to an agent without knowing who she was. (One, it turns out, who'd rejected me.) But I survived. :)

Starting small and working my way up to the larger conferences really helped. I'm still an introvert, but I now have two years of Toastmasters behind me. Plus, this time my focus won't be on me and my fears. My goal will be to seek out those I've met online and get to talk with them in person.

Casey said...

LOl Keli on whiplash. Yep, I could see myself doing that. :) And I agree about meeting those online that you have chatted with. I have several friends I would love to meet someday. :)

I would be a nervous wreck in a 15 session with editor/agent. I just have to remind myself they ARE normal human beings, just tough to weed out all the chaff from the wheat. :)

Thanks for coming back! I love reading your comments. :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

And you thought you didn't have something new to add to this topic. LOL!
Just last night I saw a book on my shelf that would sharpen my skills. Bought it last year, hadn't read it yet.
My daughter needs to do some remedial work this summer so while she does her studies, I will join her and improve my writing skills.
Great post, Casey
Now you need to go to a conference and report from the other side of the fence. Maybe next year?

Pepper said...

GREAT post, Casey.

I agree with the ladies above. Start SMALL. As you guys know, my first conference was Blue Ridge. It's a nice size, but not enormous...and it was STILL overwhelming.

As a speech-language pathologist, I'm used to big conferences, but ACFW will be VERY different. There will be WAY too many people to meet and not enough time. Too many classes to take and not enough time. Sigh.

BUT - I get to go. I've been saving for 8 months. I probably won't get to go again for a LOOONG time. And I'll take MUCH better pics than I did at ACFW :-) Definitely.

Casey - keep planning. You'll get there.

Casey said...

That is my sincere hope Mary! I am busy squirreling away that change and hopefully with over a year to do that I can make it work.

Glad you liked it. :)

Casey said...

I am anxious for those photos Pepper! I am sure you will meet everyone that God wants you to. He will put people in your path. :)

That is one great thing about getting the recordings. All the stuff you didn't get to listen to, you can relisten to over and over.

I know I'll get there. Just a matter of time. God must think I need a lesson in patience. I probably do. :)

Krista Phillips said...

LOL! Sherrinda done good on naming us:-) Yes, that was from last year's conference, and yes, that is Cathy Bryant (who btw did a guest post for us this last Saturday!)

Oh, LOVED climbing trees.

*sigh* I'm really missing ACFW this year already!!

(I'll have more to say later... gotta get back to work!)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

**blushing** YES, of course if was Cathy Bryant! How embarrassing! lol are one of the ones I soooo want to meet face to face!! One day, my friend, one day!

Now, this is the first time I've heard that newbies should attend smaller conferences first. Somehow I guess I thought that in a bigger conference, someone who is intimidated could blend into the crowd. In a smaller one, you would have to step forward and put yourself out there more.

Can you tell I'm not ready yet? lolol

Casey said...

Krista that was funny finding that picture online. I was looking for a general ACFW photo and imagine my surprise when I found you!! Fun though, but like I said, Google Images is scaryyyyy. :)

Casey said...

Sherrinda, LOL! I meant to say that was Cathy Bryant. She was the only other one I recognized besides Krista. :) But I forgot and didn't want to leave another comment at the moment. :)