My First Conference

After college graduation in the spring of 2008, amidst kids, church obligations, and life’s little dramas, I tinkered with another manuscript; a family saga. I also studied, because a degree in English didn’t fully prepare me for the vast amount of information needed to launch a career in fiction writing. So my shelves began filling with reference materials on character development, plots, subtext, conflict & suspense, as well as those titles pertaining to the business of writing. And although I’ve never read any Stephen King novels, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Stephen King on Writing.

Once this manuscript had been completed and revised, I realized the work wasn’t shaping into what I’d hoped, so I moved on to yet another novel; this time trying my hand at romance. I called it All Things New and I studied some more. I established office hours for myself and finished the novel in 2011. Finally ready to send it out, I discovered a few more obstacles to my publication goals. I couldn’t find editors that would accept unsolicited manuscripts. A large percent of agents didn’t accept them either. Imagine my delight when I stumbled across Jerry Jenkin’s American Christian Writers group, which offered the opportunity to pitch the novel to agents and editors at a conference in Denver Colorado.

This was it. This was my chance to be discovered. And since I had no idea what to expect, I went into the situation with an incomprehensible peace. At the very least, this was a step forward in my professional career. I registered and studied all their ‘do’s and don’ts’ of attending the conference and mentally prepared to “network.”

I flew into Denver, a truly beautiful city and was shuttled to a luxurious hotel. After a tasty dinner that night, each member had the opportunity to sign up for an appointment with his or her desired agent/editor. This free-for-all scramble could have been a nightmare, but it wasn’t. Members moved about in respective regard without temper tantrums or foul language. The next day I was even more impressed. Conference members extended friendly greetings and were quick to give, as well as receive, business cards. An air of professionalism permeated each workshop.

Then, it was the appointed time to pitch my novel. My first pitch – ever. I practiced at length making it sound as un-practiced as possible. Yet as I calmly sat in front of her, feeling as though I were showing off my firstborn child, she said, “this isn’t a romance,” and went on to say the premise sounded interesting but “you need to learn your genres.” Strangely enough, this wasn’t as discouraging as one would think because the next day I had the opportunity to pitch the novel to an editor who also seemed to like the premise but didn’t think it would fit their readership. Additionally, I was able to discuss the novel with a different editor at dinner. (This is an important part of the conference.) Since agents and editors were hosting the tables at dinnertime, this gave everyone additional time to network as well as discuss their work if asked. Agents and editors were humans too. Courtesy was encouraged and I think for the most part, extended.

And while I didn’t go home with a contract, I went home with knowledge, with some homework (learn my genres), and a certain level of professional confidence. I had survived my first conference and I was on the right track.

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