21 March 2011

A Week in the Trenches: Or, Let's Talk Writing Conferences!

What a response from the trenches last week! I’m glad my little article helped you and I hope this week’s splurge of lessons will help even more!

Saturday I attended The Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville. If you have not been and have the chance to go, you need to be there.

Granted, this was my first writer’s conference, and it’s not even billed as such, but they had a day of such wonderful panel opportunities that I had to pick and choose from their offerings!

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of how the day goes, let me just mention a bit about dress code for these somewhat professional events.

It was a gloriously warm Saturday. Spring was in the air, the birds were chirping, and I wanted nothing more than to put on my hiking gear and hit the trail. However, even though I would have had time to take a jaunty stroll in downtown Charlottesville and window shop, I did realize the importance of what I was doing.
No, I wasn’t going to meet agents. No, I wasn’t pitching my book. However, this place was crawling with agents, authors, editors, and other big-wigs that, while I may not have impressed, I certainly didn’t want to offend. Being a full-time writer is my dream. So, if I’m going to a conference, I definitely want to dress professionally. I’m not saying you have to wear heals or a tie, but definitely looking the part of a professional person will help people take you seriously.

My dress? Teal tank top with a fitted jean jacket over it, khaki pants, brown socks, brown shoes. Not too shabby, but not ballroom material either.

So today I’m going to give you an overview of my day, and then the rest of the week, each day, I’ll give you the lessons I learned in the four panels I attended.

But first, a little history:

The VA Festival of the book is in its 17th year and is the largest writer/reader festival in the state and, most likely, the mid-Atlantic region. It’s a weeklong festival whose programs are, on the whole, free to anyone. (There are a few events you have to pay to go to, but who wouldn’t dish out a little dough to drink wine with Kathy Reichs?)

I got autographed books from Kathryn Erskine, winner of the National Book Award for Mockingbird.
Kathryn actually had blocked off some time to talk to me, which was really wonderful. We’ve been e-mailing since August and I was eager to meet her.

Jenny Gardiner was also there and while she was oozing some pretty icky sick germs, it was nice to get to see her. I e-mail Jenny about four times a year to get her writing updates—she’s always got something being published!—to put in a newsletter I submit to.

Giving away a free book to a teacher is always a way to get mentioned! But, that’s not all she does. I got to chat with L.M. Preston as well. She’s the mastermind behind YA Lit Chat.

The festival is not only for readers, although readers have a lot of reasons for going. There’s a day-long book fair. Authors and publishers set up tables and you can go around and speak to literally hundreds of people with loads of advice about book publishing, self-publishing, agents, editors, etc. Throughout the day, and week, there are author readings, signings, breakfasts, lunches, and panels to attend.

Writers, though, are bound to enjoy the day just as much, if not more, than readers, though. The Festival puts on a “Publishing” day on Saturday, as well, hosting panels for authors on a broad range of topics. There was a lot on the craft of crime writing, but I found some more general panels to be the best. I headed to four of the panels which is what I’ll be talking about the rest of the week.

I strongly suggest going to the VA Festival of the book next year, or to something similar where you live. There’s nothing like mingling and getting together, face-to-face, with other authors!

So, what can you look forward to this week?

Tuesday: What the heck is a platform, anyway? Or, how to promote your book!
Wednesday: What the hell…I mean, heck…is the difference, anyway?
Thursday: Dancing with Your Manuscript.
Friday: An Agent’s Roundtable—What are agents doing in light of the e-book revolution?

So, I’ve gushed over how much this day was worth the hour and a half drive at 7:00 in the morning. But what do you think? Are writing conferences worth the long days, long drives, and money you have to put out?


Charity Tahmaseb said...

Oh, I'm so glad you're doing this! I can't wait to read more.

Joy N. Hensley said...

Thanks, Charity. Tonight's post is up!