I spent last weekend in Dallas (okay, actually Hurst) Texas at the DFW Writers’ Conference. It marked the second time I’ve attended this conference, and I am already looking forward to the third. This is a great event, for so many reasons, and I encourage anyone who calls themselves a writer, or wants to be a writer, to get to a conference (yes, I am biased toward this one). Come on, what are you waiting for? It’s all tax deductible.
So here’s the recap on an amazing weekend:
Last year, I had a late flight into Dallas and did not even get to my hotel until after eight, so I did not get to attend any pre-conference meet-ups. This year, I wanted to have that opportunity, so I booked an earlier flight and managed to get to the hotel by 5 p.m. There was a pre-conference mixer at 7:30. With more than two hours to spare, what did I do?
I went to In N Out Burger (always fabulous) and settled in to watch some playoff hockey. Much to my dismay, my hotel did not have NBCSN. Are you seriously kidding me? It’s playoff hockey! Thankfully, I found a game on CNBC and indulged my hockey addiction a bit before it was time to head next door (as in the neighboring hotel) for the mixer.
This was a time to meet fellow attendees, exchange business cards and talk about what we write. I met a lot of great people, including two writers from Austin (where I went to college) and a fellow Iowan. It’s a small world, indeed. I stayed for a couple hours before heading back to my room unwind and prepare for the next day.
I rarely sleep well in hotels, and Friday night was no exception. I’m sure part of it was conference nerves/excitement, but I don’t think I got more than three hours of sleep. 6 a.m. on Saturday came all too soon. I practiced my pitch in the shower, grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel and headed down the street to the conference center.
The first class I attended was called ‘Breaking Out of the Writer Shell.’ I’m an introvert by nature, as many writers are, and mingling and working a crowd does not come naturally to me. Last year I met one lovely person early in the day and stuck with her for most of the weekend. It meant I didn’t eat lunch alone, but this year I vowed to do better, especially since last year’s buddy wasn’t attending and I had to start over. This session allowed me to talk with new people and relax a little bit and feel more comfortable in the surroundings.
After that, I went to the second half of a panel discussion on the publishing industry. I mainly went because the agent I was consulting with in an hour was on the panel and at least wanted to know what she looked like.
I then had about half an hour to kill before my consultation with said agent, so I decided to check out part of a class on the art of improv. This proved to be a mistake, not because the class wasn’t good, but because it almost caused me to be late for my consultation.
We were told to check in 15 minutes before our agent appointment. When I got there about 20 minutes early, they were already looking for me. I expected to have a few minutes to relax and review my pitch, but they seemed to be quite ahead of schedule and my session started 10 minutes earlier than scheduled.
This threw me off a bit, especially when the agent said I was her first pitch of the day. I froze for a second because I was there for a consultation on an unfinished manuscript rather than to pitch a complete project and I wasn’t sure whether to launch into a prepared pitch (I had one), wait for her to start a conversation, or bumble around like a fool.
I chose the latter (I’m an idiot like that), but thankfully the conversation soon recovered and I was able to get some valuable feedback on a project that—while I think has great potential—has troubled me a bit because of some polarized reaction from my crit group.
The agent was nice, down to earth, and helpful and asked me to send her the MS when it was done. She then said she had a total business card fail and forgot to bring them, so she wrote her contact info on a Post it note, which I stuck to my iPad case. I don’t know whether she asked for the MS because she is actually interested or just to be nice, but either way the positive experience set a good tone for the rest of the day.
After a successful consultation, I headed to another workshop. David Corbett, one of our keynotes, was teaching on the art of creating believable characters. I stayed for thirty minutes of this class and enjoyed it, but then wandered to the next room for Kim Boykin’s class on texture.
I needed this one, as texture and sensory description is something I know I lack in my writing. Kim was charming, and the class was very helpful. I have made a conscious effort over the past year to strengthen my voice and I feel like I have done so, but there is still improvement to be made. Adding texture will help.
Next up was lunch. I didn’t have specific plans to sit with anyone, so I just plopped myself down at a table. Thankfully they were nice, and one of them was also attending the eBook formatting class I was signed up for, so we sat together for that.
Since I have already self published a few books, I wasn’t sure what I would get out of this class, but it was actually quite helpful. If I self publish in the future, I think Russell’s tips will make it easier.
I attended a class on taking idea to story next, which was fun for a pantster like me. I doubt I will ever outline, but this helped set out how much of a plot was needed before successfully flying by the seat of my pants.
My last class of the day was on writing love scenes. I really needed this and learned a lot about when they are necessary, when not, and which words never to use (hint: member and loin, and not all men are generously endowed). This was an excellent session on love scenes and writing in general. Thanks, Roni!
Next up: Two hour break before the cocktail reception. I went to Quick Trip for tacquitos and a six pack of Ziegenbock (no. I did not drink it all in one night) and tried to find a hockey game on the tube. I still didn’t get NBCSN. Imagine that!
At last year’s cocktail reception, I did a lot of ‘Buy a drink, stand in the corner and watch and wait for people to talk to me.’ Oh, and I bought a nice purse (missed the silent auction this time). This year was better. While I doubt I will ever be bold enough to approach an agent, say ‘Can I pitch you’ and jump into my pitch, at least I met new people and engaged all night rather than stand in the corner and watch.
Special thanks to Kristen Lamb for passing me toilet paper! You’re awesome, even if you did almost wind up in Wichita Falls when picking your 3 yr old up at preschool.
After three hours of socializing, I went back to my room. I tried to find a hockey game but still didn’t get NBCSN.
Next: Day Two of DFWCon, including my failure at blogging and queries. But at least my voice improved!