"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Sunday, March 13, 2011


It seems the season of conferences is here and strong! We had our local Austin SCBWI one last month, the Houston one is next month. WLT. TLA. BEA. ALA. And Dallas ComicCon*. It's all a bit overwhelming if you let it be.

*Did I mention I'll be at Dallas ComicCon? Okay, that's a post for another day!

Anyway, with all the conferences and opportunities for learning and networking, we here at THE PLACE (being K. A. Holt, Jessica Lee Anderson, E. Kristin Anderson, Madeline Smoot, Mari Mancusi, Stephanie Pellegrin, and sometimes member Jenny Ziegler) are here to make the overwhelming not seem so overwhelming after all.

We give you...


1) Talk to as many people as you can.
Eat lunch with a group from a different town, look at books by people you met five seconds ago, approach your idols and chat about books but also kids and pets and the weather. Building connections is about getting to know people!

2) Say yes!
We work in an industry of no, but a conference is a good time to say YES! Did a new friend ask you to go to dinner after the conference? Say yes! Did a stranger ask you for your email? Say yes! Did Greg Pincus ask you if you're going to join Twitter later? Say yes! Did an agent ask you if you're willing to change something major in your book if it means an offer? You had better freaking say YES!

3) Take advantage of the local authors!
(in a good way, of course)
Sometimes the critiques that fill up fastest are the ones with the editors and agents and out of town authors. But remember, local authors are a great resource, too! They've found success for a reason, learn from them. I totally had a breakthrough in my critique with friend and local author Brian Yansky this weekend! Last year, PJ Hoover gave me info that changed my perspective on writing across gender! (From E. Kristin Anderson)

4) Bring snacks.
Even if the conference food is delicious, your brain will be so fired up that you will need the extra fuel. Chocolate is highly recommended.
Highly recommended.

Depending on how delicious your snacks are, you may want to offer to share.

5) Stay hydrated throughout the day.
But not too much so that you have to run to the bathroom every couple of minutes and miss the part where superstar editor, Elizabeth Law, talks about how an introverted, sore-ridden, closet-living author would still be promotable if his/her book was THAT good.

6) ALWAYS wear comfortable shoes.
You never know where you'll end up parking or how many stairs you'll go up and down a million times.

These shoes are not recommended.

7) Try your best to mingle.
This can be hard. But, you know, talking to people is a good way to actually *meet* people. And people are nice. Especially writing and illustrating and library-ing people.

8) Offer to help.
Look around at how things work. Note what you could do, and next year when the opportunity comes up, offer to help out.
Wait? The opportunity never comes up? Email whoever's in charge and ask how you can help.

9) Prepare your pitch.
Seriously. The week before, write out your two sentence pitch. Not three sentences. Not two long sentences. Two normal sentences. Write them out how you would say them, and then practice them at home until they sound normal when they come out.

10) Leave fear at home.
Do not be the shy person.
Do not be the person who takes a nap on the sofa during lunch.
Do not be the person who sits in the far back all by her/himself.
Be the person who smiles and says hello.
Be the person who is upbeat and happy to be there.
Be yourself, but be the fun, non-shy part of yourself. Because the day will be over before you know it.

For help with overcoming fear, watch this video.


Lindsey Lane said...

Great tips. No, really, GREAT tips. Thank you, Tricia.

E. Kristin Anderson said...

I've gotta say, we did a particularly OSUM job with this one!

Colene Murphy said...

Oh my. This post alone just made me nervous!! But awesome tips I will definitely need to bookmark!! Thanks!

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks, Lindsay! I have to remind myself of them every time I go to a conference.

Ditto, Emily! Our writing group rocks.

LOL, Colene! Don't be nervous (okay, at least try not to be). It should be fun, too, right? Good luck!

Miriam S. Forster said...

Say no to no!

I like it. :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great tips. And this is a great time to post with the spring conferences coming up. And I like your new design.

Jessica Lee Anderson said...

This is as OSUM as could be!

PJ Hoover said...

I like it, too, Miriam! So apt.

Thanks, Natalie! It does seem to be that time of year.

We rock, Jessica! Thanks for your input!

Angela Ackerman said...

These tips are beyond great! A conference is a big step to take and a financial investment into a career in writing. get the most out of it!

(BTW, website is aces! Nice work, Woman!)

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

PJ Hoover said...

THanks, Angela! I think it's important to realize you have to invest in the career and that it does pay off.