In our last post, GLVWG president Tori Bond interviewed Conference Chair Kathryn Craft about this year's Write Stuff conference. Read on for the rest of that interview, including comments from Co-Chair Tammy Burke. All three of these women are pictured at the end of this post—please come up to any one of them at the conference if you have any questions, or just to say hello!
Tori Bond: What advice do you have for first-time attendees?
Kathryn Craft: Plan ahead. Once you get on site time will seem to fly. You might want to print up simple business cards to cement introductions (some people write their project title or a brief synopsis on the back).
If you want to pitch a project, research the agents and editors who will be present to find out if they have published any similar projects—they'll be impressed that you went to this length—then choose the right one to pitch to. Practice your pitch at home (what else are dogs for?), because you have only 10 minutes to tell about the project, yourself, and any marketing ideas you might have.
Writing a 100-word flash piece to enter into our contest is a great exercise in concise writing, and it's fun! Spend some time with the conference schedule at our website and decide which sessions you'll attend. Then, use every spare conference moment you've freed up with this preparation to browse the giveaway table, talk to other writers and publishing professionals, and read the flash entries--because once you're at the conference, the "write stuff" will be there, everywhere you turn.
Tori: What are some of the most common comments received from past conferees?
Kathryn: How organized the event is, how stimulating, how friendly everyone was, how they can't wait to get back to their computers and start writing, and how the dishes didn't get cleared from the tables fast enough. (Just keeping it honest.)
Tori: What is your favorite part of the conference?
Kathryn: This may sound foolishly sentimental, but for those who know me, at least I am remaining true to character: my favorite moment is early the first day of the conference, at breakfast, when the GLVWG members start filtering into the room. I am well aware that since the last conference each of them has dealt with the rejection, frustration, idea-scrapping, and confidence restoration issues common to all writers, but today they are spit-shined and showing their best game face. They have come back to this conference better writers than they were the year before. In their faces I see the very definition of hope. They help me believe. And they make volunteering for this conference a meaningful and highly rewarding experience.
Tori Bond: As conference co-chair, you were responsible for inviting agents and editors to this year’s conference. What opportunities do the conferees have to interact with these professionals?
Tammy Burke: Agents and editors are people first and foremost and if you approach them as human beings, they are likely to talk with you. One of the agents/editors I talked to last year was in the lunch line. We talked about what genres her agency represents and why she decided to become an agent in the first place. A friend and I spoke with another over drinks at the end of the day about different techniques writers use to tell their stories such as ‘seeing internal movies’ but we also chatted about universal truths and quantum physics. A third talked with me and others about business plans and how writers need to promote their own work.
So I would say the opportunities that the conferees have are really what they make of them. Yes, you’ll have the opportunity to sign up for an appointment to pitch your idea with one of them but that doesn’t mean you can’t speak with the rest and find out more about the wonderful world of writing, business side and all.
Tori: What tips do you have for the conferees when talking with agents and editors about their publishing projects?
Tammy: Here are five tips. There are more tips about pitching at our conference website.
Tip one: Have a pitch developed that has a strong hook, in fact, have a 30-second pitch, a two-minute pitch, and then perhaps a five-minute pitch. You will have ten minutes when it comes to the appointment and who knows how long you’ll get to talk with an agent or editor in the lunch line, at Friday night’s reception or in the hallway between classes. Also, try to think of reasonable and logical questions that they could ask you and have an idea of how you’ll respond. Of course, no one has a crystal ball to anticipate everything but prepare as best as you can.
Tip two: Relax. Anticipation and excitement can help you express the passion you have in your work while you are presenting but you don’t want that nervous quaver in your voice. Breathe.
Tip three: Do not bring your whole manuscript for the appointment. You can bring your business cards and your pitch. You could bring your synopsis also, if you have it, but it’s generally a good idea to ask the agent or editor if he or she wants it before you hand it over.
Tip four: Dress comfortably but nice.
Tip five: Smile. And have fun with it.
Tori: What is your favorite part of The Write Stuff conference?
Tammy: This year’s Write Stuff conference will be the second one that I’ve attended but it will not be the last. I am utterly hooked. What is my favorite part of the conference? That’s like asking what part of the sky I like best. I suppose it would have to be the opportunity to talk with other writers, agents and editors; of being able to spend hours with people “who get it” instead of getting those blank stares from non-writing friends and family when I talk about my writing projects; of being with other people who share that same excitement and enjoyment for writing. It is so wonderful to talk to people who understand the concept of these adult invisible friends i.e. characters you’re currently writing about; who understand that pendulum between “this is great” to “this stinks” and it may be the same writing just a different day. I am looking forward to interacting and learning with everyone. The people, that’s my favorite part.