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  • Writer's pictureShelly Powell

Lessons Learned from a Writers' Conference

I just attended a wonderful writers' conference at a local university. In some ways, it was like going to my first job interview. In other ways, it was like attending class, but surprisingly, it was mostly like hanging out with friends. Everyone was so nice and helpful!

I got to listen to author J. Scott Savage share some of his experiences and thoughts about writing. One of the keynote speakers was an agent who spent time helping us understand pitching. I also got to speak with editors and representatives from publishers, so overall it was a very informative and encouraging experience. I don't want to spend a lot of time here trying to summarize things they shared (you can already find that kind of info on the internet), but instead I'll share some personal insights I walked away with that afternoon.

First, don't be nervous. Or am I the only one who ever gets nervous? Ha ha, doubt it. I saw some pretty nervous writers at the conference, and I could totally understand where they were coming from. We were there to talk about stuff we've written, which can be a very vulnerable thing to do! But everyone was so kind and encouraging. I loved the reminder that these writers, agents, and publishers are real people who wanted to help aspiring writers.

Second, going to these conferences is worth the practice. Honestly, I hadn't prepared much by way of pitching my book. I just knew that I loved it and I knew the good things others had said about it, so I pitched those ideas first. As I kept pitching my book, I got some great feedback that helped my pitch get better by the end of the day. I learned things that never would have occurred to me without the input of these professionals.

Third, these guys know what it means to fail, so learn from them! They know what it means to succeed too, but it was a process getting there. Often when I hear authors speak, they mention the hundred or so rejection letters they got before they finally had an offer. So often, we only see the' accomplishments, forgetting that there was sweat and struggle along the way. Failures are not advertised, but failures come with lessons and provide fertilizer for later success. I'm reminded that all experiences, good and bad, can help us harness and refine our skills.

Fourth, there were prizes. Maybe it sounds silly, but I knew I was going to win something. I did. Do you want to know what super cool thing I won? A preview of the first few chapters of the second book in Brandon Mull's Dragonwatch series!!! How cool is that? I'm a Fablehaven fan for sure! The preview book came with a disclaimer that it could still be edited or changed, but I don't care. Both my husband and I have already devoured it and are eager for more. The only downside is that we were left hanging! The adventure hits hard and fast. I love Kendra, Seth, and the Tiny Hero, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

So ya, I'm planning on going to the conference next year.


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