Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Behind The Scenes: Great Tips for Going to a Writing Conference

Today I am not Sherrinda. No, I am Super Sleuth Behind-the-Scenes Sherrinda. The SSBSS…er, well, maybe not. So…I have been busy meddling into the spare time of my fellow Alley Cats, and finding out some of their most prized tips on going to conference. I even found some special tips for those who are NOT going to conference. Alas, I am in need of those nuggets of advice this year, since I cannot join my Alley Pals in St. Louis for the ACFW Conference.  But, I do have the satisfaction of knowing that they will miss me terribly.

Let’s stop and talk with Casey for a moment. She’s the youngest of our little Alley Cat Pack, but has experience beyond her years. (And there’s been talk about getting Miss Casey fixed up with a handsome hero, but from all the pictures I’ve ever seen from the conference, there’s not a whole lot of male writers….I’m just sayin’.)

Casey, share a tip or two on how to meet the people on your MUST MEET list.
Don’t wait for the “socially correct” moment. Clear your throat (God gave you elbows, use them!) and push your way to the front where you should then perform a major league tackle that will have the Dallas Cowboys waiting to sign you up and grab your “must-meet”  author/writer friend and scuttle out of there.
Or if you are reserved like me, hang around the fringes until the flock of fans disperse or go to bed. Then again, you’ll probably be there all day, so better go with the tackle.
You are FUNNY, Casey! Who are you most looking forward to meeting at the conference?
My list is so long, I know it won’t be completely realized. But hands down first and for most, I plan to send the biggest squeal ever when I run into an Alley Cat. I mean, been corresponding for over a year, I’ve been saving up for a long time. ;-) Then a full list too long to go into detail here, and I’m sure I’ll come home wishing I’d run into a few more people.

You are an avid reader. How many books do you plan on purchasing at conference?
Since we are driving down to the conference, my space is boundless and my budget limitless!
Okay, in reality it does have a boundary, but I hope to walk away with at least a small stack of books all signed (of course) by the author as I stand in front of them and gush about how much I looooove their fiction. That’s why we’re going right? Riiiight??

Okay, let me get to Julia, our cutie-patootie at The Alley. Like me, Julia is not going to be able to go to the ACFW conference this year. Julia, how do you plan to spend your time while everyone is at the ACFW conference?
Well I'll admit that I'm a bit bummed, but I'll definitely be keeping busy!  I homeschool my kids so they're weird and unsocialized (soccer practice, kids chorus, church activities, weekly co-op...).  And I'll be roaming the "prairie" teaching a "Little House" class to a group of 15 six to nine year olds.  Let me tell you you can't keep your mind on anything with 15 elementary school kids around!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
Goodness, that should keep your mind off all the fun you’ll be missing! Do you commiserate with other writers not going to conference?

Definitely.  I talked to one of our Alley Cats (Casey, do you mind if I say your name??) about the disappointment of missing conference last year and this year her turn has come!  I know mine will, too.  And I know its going to be so much more special because it will be God's timing.  I feel like God is showing me to take my time and enjoy the journey and most of all enjoy my littles because they won't stay that way long. Also, I encourage you to try to save up for the CDs.  I have listened to the past conference CDs over and over and they are invaluable. 

Have you found any other conferences or seminars to attend instead of the ACFW conference?
Well, I will attend anything that comes up in my area.  Next year I'm hoping to attend Montrose conference which I found out is only about 3 hours from my hose.  And someday I'll have to get to ACFW...so save me a hug, Alley Cats. This year I attended a Debra Dixon one day workshop and also took a local class on description. 

Awesome, Julia! I’m sure you will benefit from those ideas to keep active! Let’s move on our very own Mary!

Mary, what is the best class you’ve ever taken? The best writing class I've taken was "Blogging". Craig Van Busek taught a packed room the how to's of blogging. As a result, I've set up my ministry of telling Bible and Missionary stories to families. From there I've met some great people. Because of his advice and easy to understand directions a large number of international readers read the stories each day.

That sounds like a class I could use! Tell me, what is one thing you should NEVER forget to take with you to a conference? BUSINESS CARDS. I can't remember all the wonderful people I meet. But with a business card in hand to take home with me I can. These cards help networking in a viral way.

Should you dress for comfort or style?  Yes. Here in Montana I've see new blue jeans worn by grooms (cowboy hat and boots, too). BUT the "when in Rome" rule fits all occasions. That means I'll have to dig up some dress pants for days and a fancy dress (ewww) for the banquet to properly socialize with the rest of the world.

Who are you most looking forward to meeting at the conference?  The other Alley Cats.  Of course you are! They are the coolest!

Have you practiced an elevator pitch in front of your mirror 100 times?  No (sniff--I should--too nervous)

What's the one class you MUST take at conference? Every class I sign up is a MUST class for me.  I didn't know it at the time I registered, but I found out during the class. :) 

Mary, I love hearing that, because I always fret over what to take! Thanks! Now, Miss Sarah, are you ready? Let’s hear what you have to say…

Sarah, what is the best class you’ve ever taken. At last year's ACFW Conference, the editors from Thomas Nelson re-enacted a pub board meeting. They walked through what often makes or breaks a decision for them to extend an offer. It was candid and eye-opening!

What is one thing you should NEVER forget to take with you? Business cards and camera
Should you dress for comfort or style? Both! But comfort comes first, especially when it comes to shoes. Find a cute pair of flats or dressy sandals and make sure you break them in. The worst thing is discovering your new shoe gives you a blister on your pinkie toe!

Ouch…I’ve had that blister! So, how many books do you plan on purchasing at conference? Enough to warrant an extra suitcase. :)

Now that’s my kind of reader! 

Wendy, it's your turn! Tell me, Wendy, what is one thing you should NEVER forget to take with you? The infamous one sheet. I was comforted to have it, not just to pass it out when needed, but to help me feel more comfortable with my pitch. I’m not much of a memorizer, so it relaxed me to know I had all the basics at my fingertips.

Excellent tip! Why is picking the right roommate is vital to the health and well-being of all those involved? I’ve been so blessed to room with the ladies I have. It certainly helps to know that you’ll have the opportunity to laugh, and bounce ideas off your roomies throughout the conference. Also choosing folks who’ll respect your time, space, stuff, etc. will do wonders to keep you in an optimal state of mind for bringing your best everywhere you go.
Sounds like you have a lot of experience in that area, Wendy! Thank you for sharing.

Now it is time for Cindy! Share with us a tip or two on how to meet the people on your MUST MEET list.  Don't let intimidation stop you! If you run into the person on your must meet list or you seek them out, take a deep breath and walk right up to them with a smile. Most everyone is very gracious and happy to talk to you. Also, keep your mind open to opportunities to talk to anyone. They might not be on your must meet list, but it could still be the exact person you were meant to run into and you can gleam something amazing from it.

Have you practiced an elevator pitch in front of your mirror 100 times?  
I practiced my elevator pitch dozens of times before the ACFW conference last year but it was never with much confidence until I actually got in front of other writers. My roommates at the conference made me give them my pitch and encouraged me to do it with confidence. It was such a blessing to get their feedback and learn and grow from their advice.

What great roommates! Now, tell me, should you dress for comfort or style?  Dress first and foremost for comfort. Pick something you feel good in and is versatile. It doesn't hurt to bring a sweater for those colder rooms or areas, and definitely wear comfortable shoes because conference days are long and busy and you want to be able to keep going the entire day.
Angie, my friend! Tell me who was the coolest person you met at conference? Well, the coolest people I have met at ACFW was Patti Lacy and Pepper! They took me in and made me feel comfortable. I was such a nervous wreck before they came up to me!

Pepper is nice like that! Now tell me what is the most important thing to take to a conference?  I think breath mints and confidence are a must to take with you!!

Breath mints! I’ve never thought of that, but I’m sure that’s important in those little elevators, giving your short elevator speeches!

Last, but definitely not least, let's hear from our very own Pepper. I’m sure she’ll have some words of wisdom for us. Pepper, dear, what is one thing you should NEVER forget to take with you?  UNscented deoderant. #1 - this year the conference is scent free #2- no agent, editor, or author will want to get near you for too long without it ;-)
Oh...and I try to never forget a smile.

Yes, indeed. The smile is ever so important! Now, should you dress for comfort or style? A little of both if you can do it. I always go for business casual (and bring a jacket. Temperature fluctuates)

I’m sure you’ll have a great answer for this next question. You do so love to meet people. Who is the coolest person you’ve ever met at conference? I got a pic with Janette Oake while helping at the registration desk, but the VERY BEST people I met were the Seekers!!!!!!! And Siri Mitchell!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE Mary Connealy! And Audra Harders! and Myra Johnson!! Oh my goodness, they are wonderful!

I know you are a Seeker-at-Heart, but at this conference, who are you most looking forward to meeting? THE ALLEY CATS!!! And possibly my future agent? Here's hopin'!

Now, one last question…what's the one class you MUST take at conference? The kissing class from the Kissing Queen, Julie Lessman

A kissing class, huh? Sounds very interesting. I wonder…will there be demonstrations? Hhhhmmmm….er, okay.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this LONG interview of our Alley Gals. I know I’ve learned a few important tips for going to conference, and I hope you have too!

Do you have anything to add?


Kav said...

Fun insights into conference going but a I have a question...which will reveal what a newbie I am. What on earth is an elevator pitch???????

Julia M. Reffner said...


You always get me laughing!! Love it and love that you have a sense of humor about yourself...can't wait to meet up with you at a conference someday!!

Keli Gwyn said...

What a fun post, Sherrinda. I'm certainly looking forward to meeting more of the Alley Cats. I've got hugs for all of you. =)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Kav, there's no such thing as a stupid question...some of us here at The Alley still feel like newbies!

An elevator pitch is a short blurb about your book. It is called that because it is short enough and captivating enough to capture the interest of an agent/editor when traveling an elevator together. :)
(From what I hear, people DO get stuck in elevators with the most wonderful agents and editors!)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Julia, I love making fun of myself. Actually, I just love to laugh...and I'm very good material for laughs. ;) I can't wait to meet YOU someday!

Keli!!!! I so want to meet you and hug you in person! I think I would probably squish you, I'm such a big gal, but it would be fun, nonetheless!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Loved this, Sherrinda. :) I'm not able to go this year, either. I don't know what I'll be doing yet, beyond enjoying my family. Someone (you perhaps?) talked about how your children aren't small forever. I'll remember that and cherish the time I have with them. :)
Loved reading great tips for conference. I hope I'll remember them when it's my turn. :)

Krista Phillips said...

HOLY COW, I just realized I forgot to answer your interview questions, Sherrinda! I AM SO SORRY!!! But this post was amazing, so obviously you didn't miss anything:-) Ugh, so frustrated with myself. My head is not with it these days!!!!

Pepper said...

Love this! Absolutely!
And I'm hoping for demonstrations in Julie's class. Her hubby will probably be there with her. Research show visual demonstration is a much better teacher than auditory learning alone (snicker). What do you say, Julie? :)

Oh, my wonderful alley cats...I am soooooo thankful God placed you guys on my street

Pepper said...

I sent a meaasge to Julie to see if she will come verify the status of hands-on learning in her class.

Er....should I have written lips-on learning?

Julie Lessman said...

LOL, Pepper!!! Demos???? I think not because I'm pretty sure my guy will not show his face anywhere near the workshop door because he's too afraid of what I might do!! He never knows what kind of stunt I will pull, and he's a very private person to boot.

BUT ... we'll do our best to crank up the romantic tension with some pretty sizzling scenes, so do drop by!!

Sherrinda!!! What a GREAT blog!!! Sure could have used it back when I was pitching ... :)


Casey said...

Ah Julie can't you talk him into it??? ;-)

LOVE this interview form Sherrinda, what fun with this!! Love that pic of you. :D

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

My internet was down most of the evening yesterday! Lookie there...we got Miss Julie to stop by!

I sooo wish I could go and take your class, Julie. Just the thought of seeing some demonstrations sends me in a fit of giggles! Leave it to Pepper to egg it on! :)