Thursday, March 13, 2014

Jenny Proctor Tells You How to Get the Most Out of Your Conference. Don't Listen To Her.

Are you feeling ready for this year’s conference? If you’re taking advice from ALL the right people, you and your critique partner have your matching bedazzled denim jackets ready, you’ve alphabetized your class list and committed to attend every sixth class, and you’ve got your stilettos and garlic flavored breath mints already packed. Those are all very important steps, but there’s one more thing that will make or break your Storymaker experience. Getting the most out of your weekend? It all comes down to ATTITUDE.

I need you to trust me on this one. I know as much about writing conferences as I do about sports analogies. If you want to kick that soccer ball and make a home run? You need to trust my advice.

Here’s the secret: Having a good time at Storymakers isn’t about learning from others. I know, right? Sounds like crazy talk. But seriously. Have you taken a look at the instructor list lately? I mean, Brandon Sanderson has published a lot of books, but what does he REALLY know about writing? His experience can’t be all that different from getting published in a 4th grade poetry anthology, and since you totally managed that when you were 9, I’m pretty sure you know just as much as he does. Even if you don’t, remember, ATTITUDE. Getting far in life, scoring those three pointers on the baseball diamond, it’s all about confidence. No one needs to know you’re making stuff up! I mean, I only had to lie to Melanie Jacobson four times before she asked me to share my wisdom with all of you. And here I am!

My best Storymaker success tips? Plan in advance. Pick your classes ahead of time, and make sure you write down lots of notes. It would probably be best to sit in the front of each class and raise your hand frequently. Maybe just leave it up the ENTIRE time the instructor is talking.( I’ve heard Eddie Schneider in particular really loves this.) You might even just ask if you can take a few minutes to share what you know and then maybe inadvertently (except entirely on purpose) forget to look at the clock and hijack the entire class. Remember, YOU KNOW EVERYTHING. Silly Josie Kilpack. She wasn’t going to say anything useful anyway! The world needs to benefit from YOUR wisdom!

Of course, it isn’t just about classes. Many rooms have microphones—microphones that can be a key part of your path to Storymakers greatness. Grab them at every available opportunity, during meals, during keynote remarks (I’m sorry, Orson, are you using that? I’ll just be a minute) even during the Whitney Awards and LET THE WORLD HEAR YOUR AWESOME.  If microphones aren’t really your thing, you can be just as effective inserting yourself into every conversation possible, particularly those that look private. This is about YOU, remember?

As for agents and editors, remember... they're lucky to be in your presence. You have so much to offer! You wrote poetry in the 4th grade! It’s a big deal for agent Dan Lazar to get to meet you and you should definitely tell him that. Approach as quickly as your stilettos will allow, smile a big garlicky smile, and say with all the confidence and attitude you can muster, “Dan, it’s so nice for you to meet me.”

Editor's note. Jenny is the author of The House at Rose Creek, a Whitney finalist this year in General Fiction. But I mean it: don't listen to Jenny. For other helpful, and okay, not so helpful tips, check out these blog posts too:

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