Do Your Homework

As you prepare for the upcoming conference you probably have lots of questions. One of those questions may be: how do I prepare for a conference? The answer: Do Your Homework.

At a conference a few years ago, I spoke with a first timer who bragged about having read a book by each author attending the conference. How clever, I thought, I wished I’d had the forethought to do the same. Later, she confessed that in some cases she only read the first two or three chapters of a book. Even then she was far ahead of my own pre-conference homework.

You may not have time or the money to read a book by each member of the faculty, maybe not even two whole chapters. But you should make time to read websites and blogs by each faculty member. If you have a library at your disposal, at least read a few pages of their books. At least then you have some frame of reference when selecting sessions to attend or the person best suited to critique your manuscript.

We’re writers; that’s what we tell ourselves as we pour over the tenth revision of our roman a clef. One thing writers do is research. We research things so we sound like we know what we’re talking about, even when we don’t. If you’ve never been to Pocatello, Idaho, you’ll have to research it before you can credibly write a scene that takes place there.

Treat your conference experience the same way. While you make your plans for the conference also take a few minutes and look over the list of faculty members. On the conference page click on each name and you’ll find some basic background information. For more details, visit the websites and blogs of our faculty members. And of course, there is always Facebook and Twitter. You can learn a lot about faculty members from their social networking presence on the web.

This post is titled “Do Your Homework” that’s what you have to do, your homework. Write down your questions, all the crazy and not-so crazy things you’ve always wanted to ask an editor, agent or published author. If you come prepared, you’ll be less likely to forget to ask that one thing you most want to know.

Find out what books the authors have available, you may want to purchase these for the book signing we have on Saturday afternoon. Review agency websites to see what books an agent sold and decide how closely it may match your own genre of manuscript.

Research the faculty members, you don’t need to know their favorite colors or how they eat their eggs, but you should know what genres they write in or what genres they represent. If you do nothing else I’ve suggested, at least find out the names of the books the authors have written and the name of the firm where the editors and agents work.

Also, work on that elevator pitch. If you can get it down to less than a minute, you’ll be ready when someone asks, “What are you writing?” If the past is any example, you’ll get to answer that question a lot over the weekend. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll get to answer that question for the editor or agent of your dreams.

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