Monday, May 9, 2011

Prep Work: A Conference Newbie Primer Pt 1

I'm a crappy outliner. I also, as you may have gathered from my empanada recipe, do not hold following directions in high regard. But, because I'm downright contradictory, I faithfully believe in extensive prep. Weird, right?

So here's how I'm prepping for the Pennwriter's Conference that starts this Friday.

Blurb/Pitch/Elevator Pitch
I don't have one. I know what my book is about but I don't know how to tell others in a concise way that doesn't put them to sleep or make me sound like an idiot. In talking with my crit group I realized that it's more than not knowing what to say. When I boil it down to it's essentials, my book sounds stupid, like the most improbably asinine story ever told. No one else agrees with me, and I see their point. When I hear other about other people's books/WIP I have the opposite reaction - they all sound really good, marketable and original.

So while repeating the mantra  that my book isn't the only one in the universe that sucks, I have gleaned the following, thanks to Ramona DeFelice Long, one of the conference's great workshop leaders.

"Alexandra, everyone fears the elevator pitch, and it's really not necessary. Just condense what your story is about (theme) and what happens in it (action) into a few concise sentences. "My story is a (genre) set in (place) with a (character) who must (conflict) after (inciting incident)." Something like that. Write it down on an index card and bring it with you for reassurance. It's just silly for grown-ups to get all out of whack when talking about their work, or to try to spout memorized sentences like it's performance art. I'm sure you love your work, so be honest and enthusiastic about it and you'll be fine."

I'll be honest the line about 'It's just silly for grown-ups to get all out of whack when talking about their work..." stung a bit, but it probably stung because a) I don't feel like a grown up and b) it's true, it is silly.

Business Cards
Some people may think this is over kill, and maybe it is. I don't know if I'll use the cards my husband designed for me and got from Vista Print cheap, but I'd hate to be in a situation where I wanted/needed one and didn't have one. These are pre-blog so I'm getting little transparent labels at Staples today and printing the blog URL, so it's on the back of the card. It can't hurt.

Tomorrow: Reviewing the schedule and planning a strategy, plus how not to drink too much because I'm nervous (advice welcome!)


  1. Good luck at the conference! And I think the business cards are a great idea. I recently went to a conference and I didn't have them. I felt like a bum having to write my email address on little slips of paper that are easily lost.

  2. Hey Anna, thanks for the good wishes. Sounds like despite not having cards you made some good connections. What's your advice for striking up conversations?

  3. I met one person because we were both hiding behind a fern trying not to be noticed. True story! I think another great way is by going up to people after they give a presentation (after a panel, for example) and asking them a thoughtful question or to say that you thought they gave a great presentation. This also works if you're about to go to lunch. Nobody knows anyone at a conference and everyone is looking for someone to eat with. I look forward to your posts throughout the week!

  4. I liked the advice. Keeping it simple make sense. I'm also toying with business cards though I feel a little awkward handing out a card that says: Libby Heily Writer. Hmmm...

  5. libby, I know how you feel - coming out and saying (in print no less!) that you're a writer is an act of faith my biggest naysayer has a problem with - that naysayer is me, of course. I'm riddled with insecurities, which is why I went and got the business cards done quickly, before I could change my mind. now that it's done, I don't feel silly (mostly) I feel empowered.
    Better stop now before I start "I am woman hear me ROAR!'

  6. Like you, I was pretty fried after the A-Z Challenge, and just got back to posting. Good thing I checked out your blog today! I have the RWA conference coming up at the end of June, and your posts will definitely come in handy.


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