Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Becoming a Writer:The Education Piece

Last year I was privileged to attend the Write-to-Publish Conference in Wheaton, IL. While there, I met a kindred spirit in Cindy Huff. Cindy is the President of the Aurora Illinois Chapter of Word Weavers. I have asked Cindy to contribute her insights on the value of attending a writer’s conference. So as you read this, I am once again attending the Write-to-Publish conference. I hope you are having as great a day as I am!

Meet Cindy Huff
Cindy Huff has been writing since she was a teenager. She has been published in a variety of publications such as Standard, Bread for Children, and Today’s Christian, Children’s Bible Hour, Splickety Magazine, and Christian Communicator and is a columnist for the Aurora Beacon News. Cindy has completed her first novel and continues to add to her short story collection. She is a regular contributor to Examiner.com Cindy is a Bible teacher at Hope Fellowship Church of Aurora, Illinois. Her teaching and drama gifts extend to women’s conferences both in the US and the Philippines. She is member of the Christian Writer’s Guild and President of the Aurora Illinois Chapter of Word Weavers. Check out her writer’s blog Writer’s Patchwork at www.jubileewriter.wordpress.com . Or visit with her on face book www.facebook.com/cindy.e.huff 

From Cindy:
Is attending a writers’ conference on your calendar for this year? If you are a serious writer, it should be. The expense can be declared on your taxes under education. You never stop honing your craft and learning new skills as a writer. Best Selling Author Jerry B Jenkins still attends workshops and classes learning from other established authors.

Meeting Agents and Acquisition Editors
The best place to meet Agents and Acquisition Editors is at a conference.  You can take an appointment time to meet them. No, you can’t just walk up to an agent and ask them to represent you. Don’t confess to an Acquisition Editor “I feel the Holy Spirit telling me your publishing house is the one to publish my book.”
 The key is to have a manuscript to pitch. Discuss your story ideas and see if there is an interest. Practice pitching your story in one or two sentences. Be prepared to answer further questions or adding to your pitch. Otherwise you will waste your appointment rambling on and on. Most appointments are 15 minutes or less. Even if they like your story, they are probably going to ask you to email them your proposal. It is imperative that you follow each ones guidelines in submitting your work.  Meeting their requirements precisely still does not guarantee you a spot as their client. If your writing is not up to standard, the agent or editor will probably pass on your work.

But all is not lost.
At the next conference, after you have improved your manuscript, you can pitch to them again. Developing friendship with these people can open opportunities to be heard in the future. Don’t close a door because they didn’t snatch you up right away. Very few writers ever gain an agent or publishing contract at their first conference. Most conferences limit each participant to two or maybe three appointments. Choose wisely. Be sure to read the information provided in your conference packet explaining what each agent or publisher is presently looking for. Research their websites to be sure you are pitching to people who are interested in your genre or topic. Have a list of those you wish to meet with in order of preference.  Sometimes additional appointment slots open up, giving you a chance to see someone whose schedule was previously filled.

Workshops and Classes
Attending the workshops is a wonderful way to improve your writing knowledge. Each year I review the workshop and class offerings, choosing some I have never attended or a subject taught by someone I have never studied under before. It is always interesting to see a new take on an old subject. I love writing fiction, but taking a class on article writing reminded me there were other publishing doors for me to open. I have a friend who spends more time trying to squeeze in extra appointments to pitch his stuff than actually attending workshops. Because most agent and publisher appointments often run during workshops, you will have to leave your class for your appointment. You want to try to miss as little of those classes and workshops as possible. The knowledge you gain will take your writing to a new level, making your appointments with agents and publishers more successful in the future. Not all the classes are on writing. Courses are offered on social media, the business of writing and speech making. Critiquing workshops can help a writer see how to make his manuscripts better.

Best Part of the Conference
The best take-away from a conference is the friends and connections I make. The first year I might pitch to an agent or publisher, and the next year they remember me. We become friends even if they never sign me. A fellow writer told me that those friendships lead to a recommendation to another agent. And another mentioned when an acquisition editor he befriended changed publishing houses she remembered his manuscript and it fit her present needs. Friends may have connection for job leads. Talking to other attendees over lunch is very encouraging because other writers get you. A casual conversation with a magazine editor helped me to see that my short story was a perfect fit for his publication. And another woman mentioned the kind of article she really wanted and had not received. I went home and wrote that article. Both pieces were published.  Many of these writers, agents and authors are on my face book page, and the information they pass along—whether a helpful article, writing contest or new publishing company—is information I would not have access to if I had not attended the conference.

What was the best thing that happened to you at a conference?

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