#10: Workshops, seminars, conferences – OH MY! Spend your time and money wisely.

Author opportunities abound. Never, ever, underestimate the power of networking! Nothing beats a positive face-to-face encounter.

 Level 1: Day-long WORKSHOPS are often free and staffed by local writers. These are wonderful chances to meet local published authors and hear from those in the trenches about what authoring/publishing is like. Your local writers group will help you find these – or they run them!

Level 2: In addition to hearing from authors, weekend SEMINARS add more in-depth training. Look for broad, craft-based opportunities as well as specific genre-based ones. Read the agendas online to be sure they’ll cover areas you need help in. Look for speakers you’ve heard of – or should hear of! Many will offer opportunities to have your work critiqued by published authors.

Level 3: Multiple-day CONFERENCES offer training, plus they mix aspiring authors with editors and agents looking for new talent. National genre-specific author groups have conferences every year and they are well worth the time and money. Really. And don’t forget that there might be income tax advantages! More about that later.

Whatever level you’re at, be sure to follow professional conference etiquette. I have heard – and cringed at – all of the following. So please don’t ask:

  • Questions that need their own session to answer. “How do I get an agent? How do I write a query?” You sign up for THOSE sessions!
  • Questions that only pertain to YOUR work. “Well, in my book… Is it ever okay to…” Ask these questions afterwards, and ask them one-on-one. It’s easiest to remember that every rule can be broken… but only if you’re amazing when you do it.
  • Questions that are self-explanatory. “How do I set up a Facebook page?” Um… Go to Facebook.com and follow the directions.
  • Questions (or comments) that show a resistance to the speaker’s point. An author in a panel explained that her publisher required her to have Facebook and MySpace pages. One woman raised her hand and said, “When I think of MySpace, I think of pedophiles.” *sigh* So inappropriate in so many ways I don’t know where to start. Do not be that person!
  • Don’t wear a costume if you’re unpublished and want to be taken seriously. No faerie wings, either. Dress age-appropriately in business casual. You’re at work, remember?

BTW: It’s fine to attend gatherings that are above your current competency level! What you see and hear will widen your awareness. Go with an open mind, meet people, and soak up any wisdom that comes your way. You won’t regret it, I promise!

Do a Google Search: *insert genre* Writers Conference – and see what pops up! Also consider:

http://www.ces.sdsu.edu/writers/

http://www.rwanational.org/cs/conferences_and_events

See you there!

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