Today we're joined by Jim Casada. He has some tips on how to MAXIMIZE your conference experience.
TIPS ON WORKING A CONVENTION
Over the years I’ve attended close to a hundred state, regional, or national gatherings of writers in my field of interest—the outdoors. That attendance has come from both sides of the fence—as a speaker and as someone anxious to improve my craft—and perhaps sharing some tips on what I have learned about how best to benefit from conference attendance will be helpful. Here are some thoughts in that regard.
*Go prepared. That means having an ample supply of business cards, some means of taking notes (tape recorder, note pad, laptop, or the like), and a “game plan” focused on the agenda.
*If there are simultaneous sessions which interest you, see if the convention offers tapes or if you can get a friend to tape for you.
*Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Often the give-and-take at the end will be the most productive part of a seminar.
*Keep the fact that some of the most beneficial aspects of attending a convention take place outside of seminars or programs. Social settings, whether meals, social hours, or just elbow-rubbing during breaks, offer marvelous opportunities.
*Be persistent but don’t be pushy. In other words, leave no doubt about your eagerness but don’t be a pest. If you have any feel at all for social interaction you will be able to tell the difference.
*Try to establish contact with people who are successful writers, and that doesn’t always mean just the speakers. Ask others how they work, what has worked best for them, and the like. Then you can pick and choose from what you hear in a fashion which suits you personally.
*When talking to editors, agents, or someone you hope can help you, do all you can to exude professionalism. The writing life is, by its very nature, a lonely life. Yet at conferences it is important to shake off tendencies towards being reclusive or a misanthrope. Professionalism involves a lot of things—personal appearance, demeanor, politeness, and even obvious (yet often overlooked) things such as a business card or vita. Think about how you want to present yourself, look folks in the eyes, respect their time, and be ready to cut to the chase without wasting a lot of time. Conventions are meant to be educational, not entertaining, although the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
*Once you return home from a convention, act on opportunities, notes, contacts, and the like promptly. You want to follow up while things are fresh in mind.
*Finally, and I’ve seen enough of this to know it can be a problem, don’t make a fool of yourself by drinking too much, boorish behavior, or, to put it bluntly, being an ass.
Jim Casada is a son of the Smokies, and the region has figured prominently in his work as a freelance writer. He grew up in Bryson City, N. C. and says “a corner of my soul still belongs to the high country. His formal education includes a B. A. in history from King College (Bristol, TN), an M. A. in British history from Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA), and a Ph. D. in British imperial history from Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN). He taught at Winthrop University from 1971-1996 before taking early retirement to devote all his energies to writing. While at Winthrop he rose to the rank of full professor, served two terms as chair of the graduate faculty, was recognized as the institution’s Distinguished Professor in 1983, and won numerous excellence in teaching award.
He is a long-time member of a number of outdoor writers’ groups and has served as president of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association, and the South Carolina Outdoor Press Association. Casada has been honored by all three organizations as recipient of their top service awards. He has won upwards of 150 awards from regional and national organizations for his writing and photography, and has been the recipient of a number of honors including the Federation of Fly Fishers’ Arnold Gingrich Memorial Award for contributions to angling literature, the South Carolina Wildlife Federation’s Harry Hampton Memorial Award, and the National Wild Turkey Federation’s 2007 Communicator of the Year.
Casada is the author of more than a dozen books, the editor of dozens more, and has written forewords, contributed chapters, or provided introductions to more than 100 books. He writes weekly columns for three newspapers and holds masthead positions with several magazines including being Editor-at-Large for Sporting Classics and Turkey & Turkey Hunting. His work has appeared in virtually every major outdoor-related publication and over the course of his career he has had more than 4000 articles published.
His current major projects include completion of A Pursuit of Passion: An Insider’s Guide to Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, editing and compiling a collection of Archibald Rutledge’s stories relating to the Christmas holidays, and research for a biography of Rutledge.