Recently, I had the opportunity to attend my very first non-romance writers’ conference. That’s not to say that romance writers couldn’t attend, in fact the lovely Elizabeth Michels accompanied me for moral support (I swear I’m not balding. The man behind me is. )
It really just means that the primary focus isn’t writing in the romance genre. And I must say it was very different. Good different, but different. So, today I thought I’d put together a little list of the things I learned while attending the Atlanta Writers’ Conference (AWC).
1. Not all writers spend as much time planning their conference shoe selections as they do their pitch.
I know. Crazy, right? Every conference I’ve been to up until this point has been a combination of worrying over pitching and worrying over my wardrobe. I realize this is mostly due to the fact that RWA hosted conferences are primarily made up of female attendees and this conference was not, but I thought it was worth the mention. I saw all levels of attire while there, and it was kind of a nice break not having to worry too much with it.
2. Being an introvert definitely leaves you at a disadvantage at the mixer events.
Not only am I an introvert, but I am also a big believer in manners and etiquette. It’s hard enough for me to work up the nerve to blindly talk to someone, let alone interrupt a monopolizer pitching their eighth book in a row to the one agent I want to talk to. First off, if you are that person, just…don’t. And second, if you’re like me, you’re going to have to find a way to do this if you want your share of the limelight. For me, a couple glasses of wine helps.
3. Always remember how subjective this industry is, and learn to adapt.
Okay, so this isn’t really something I just learned, but I was reminded of it. I signed up for both an editor critique and an agent pitch from two amazing people. The editor read my query and loved it – said it was perfect and not to change a thing. The agent read my query and spent most of my ten minute pitch session editing it. And here’s the thing – they were both right, just liked things a little different. It reminded me that one size doesn’t necessarily fit all.
4. It’s okay if I can’t write 4 books per year, because no one in my genre is writing 4 books per year.
This one was HUGE for me. I’ve been stressing out because most of my friends with book deals have three or four releases in a year and I’m not sure I could do this, at least not without quitting my job and hiring a taxi driver to get my girls to the gym. However, one of the agents at the conference said to expect a release every twelve to eighteen months – which I can definitely do. Then when I hit it big (because it’s GOING to happen, right??), I can quit my day job, hire a driver, and pump out three a year, if needed. Of course, this is very specific to your genre, so make sure you know what you’re in for.
And the most important thing I learned at the AWC is….
5. Be YOU, Jenna P. Be dark and be serious and be as heavy as you want to be.
That is what I’m good at. That is why I write. That is what makes me get all teary eyed when I’m going through revisions. I try to offset the darkness with quirky characters and happy for now endings, but the subjects I write about are still heavy and the characters are deeply tormented by bad stuff. For a long time now, I’ve been worried it was just too much and thought maybe I should try something new. But then the editor who critiqued my first chapter told me to make sure I didn’t get too light later on in the book.
I seriously could’ve hugged her right there if they wouldn’t have thrown me out. FINALLY! Someone wants me to be darker! And I knew this would NOT be a problem! EVER!
So, all in all, I would say the Atlanta Writers’ Conference was a success in my book. It was very well organized and I loved the smaller, more intimate feel of it. I also love that they hold two of these a year, one in the spring and one in the fall! You should check it out. I will definitely go back, so if you see me don’t be afraid to come up and say hi to the introvert in the corner prepping herself with a couple glasses of wine!