When I arrived at the conference grounds, it was immediately apparent to everyone around me that I was a first timer. How do I know that, you ask? When I walked in the front door, I was greeted warmly with: “Hi there, welcome! Is this your first time at the conference?” said in a very knowing way. Apparently it was quite obvious… probably due to my wide, searching eyes that contained a hint of underlying anxiety.
Ah, but there was nothing to worry about. I was directed (escorted, actually) to the registration room, where I waited for only a few minutes before giving my name and picking up my tote bag & materials. Again, as soon as the woman handing the bags out looked at my name and looked at me… “Is this your first time at the conference?”
Hmm. I sensed a running theme.
My first instinct was to take a look at the schedule, figure out where I was supposed to be first and when… which was followed quickly by a second instinct to head to the ‘freebies’ table and obtain as many sample magazines & submission guidelines as possible. Mind you, I actually took a look at what I was picking up, unlike some other individuals at the table who just grabbed as many papers as they could, as fast as they could, and scurried off to who knows where. It was a bit bizarre, but to each their own, I suppose.
The room in which the registration was set up would be used as the bookstore/appointment location for the remainder of the weekend, which made it a very central place to both kill extra time and meet up with others (or casually run into an editor or agent, for that matter). Before coming to the conference, registrants were able to sign up for up to three 15-minute appointments with faculty… but due to my late registration, I simply didn’t feel I was ready to talk to anyone, and I believe I missed the deadline for pre-conference signups anyway. However, when I looked around the registration area, there were sheets posted on the wall for each faculty member that listed which appointment times were booked and which ones were still open. Those who hadn’t yet made appointments were welcome to sign up for their three before 5pm, after which it became a free-for-all to sign up for any additional appointment space.
I still didn’t bother. Who would I talk to? I wasn’t prepared to show my work to anyone, and besides, I didn’t figure it would be relevant for the kinds of publishers/editors/agents at this conference. So, I was off to my first session…
- 1:30pm - Orientation Session for First-Time Attendees
This was pretty much a common sense introduction to being at the conference. Things like “don’t panic if someone doesn’t like your work”, “change continuing classes if it isn’t for you”, “don’t smoke on the conference grounds”, “talk to people, they don’t bite”… things like that. The woman running it (can’t remember her name) really just read off a sheet and covered all the required bases before taking questions from some confused individuals. I assume it was a useful intro for most people… I kind of wished I’d just come later and slept in. Oh well, you’re only a first-timer once.
- 2:15-4:00pm - Continuing Class #1& 2
My choice for the weekend’s continuing class was Writing for Children & Young Adults, run by author Valerie Sherrard. I’ll cover what we discussed and my thoughts about the class in another day’s post, but on the whole, I found this to be a very useful and enjoyable class. I wasn’t entirely certain whether it would be too basic for me when I signed up for it, but I found that I received a lot of helpful advice and information when all was said and done. Valerie was also an excellent session leader – full of warmth and humor, which certainly added to the atmosphere of the class.
- 5:30pm – Dinner!
Here’s something I didn’t expect about the weekend: We were fed very, very well. No one went hungry, and even the coffee breaks were packed with fruit & sweets, which was a nice (& tasty) surprise. At dinner, I sat at Sheila Wray Gregoire‘s table, though a few seats away so I didn’t have a chance to talk with her… but that was alright with me. I talked to the other ladies around me, which was nice as well. More on the social aspect of the conference in another post, but on the whole, everyone was very friendly and open… which is a bit unusual for a bunch of writers, I think, so that was a good surprise. Safety in numbers, perhaps…?
The meals worked as follows: We were all given a sheet that indicated what faculty members would be sitting at which tables for each meal (lunch & dinner… not breakfast though, in case they were too tired to wake up early and eat), and you could choose which table you wanted to sit at according to which faculty member you wanted to chat with/ask questions of/etc. It’s a good way to have a casual ‘appointment’ with a faculty member that you weren’t able to get a 15-minute appointment with otherwise, though you have to keep in mind that a) there are other people at the table, and b) that person probably would like to eat their dinner before you launch into a 20-minute pitch on your latest work. I’m just saying.
- 7:00pm – Plenary Session with Audrey Dorsch: ” ‘Nursing’ a Great Ambition”
The plenary session was a good opportunity to sit down & try to digest the day’s events… or so I thought. Audrey Dorsch was a very entertaining speaker, focusing her talk on her journey from dream conception (she decided to be a nurse instead of a writer) to where she is today (freelance editor). She’s done so much over the course of her career, and I was amazed at how each job seemed to prepare her, in some way, for the next… and to come to that point where she can now pick & choose which jobs to take as a freelance editor, that’s quite the measure of success! I have nothing but respect & admiration for this hard-working woman, and if I can muster up even half the drive and energy to succeed as her, I’ll be happy.
- 8:45pm – Symposium on the Future of the Publishing Industry
The discussion here will provide me with information for several future blog posts, but in general, the symposium was informative, encouraging, surprising, depressing, and hopeful all at the same time. Twelve faculty members were give four minutes each to discuss their views on the future of publishing, and it was amazing how much information (and similarities of opinion) came out of such a fast-moving session.
- 10:15pm – Night Owl “open mike” reading… or not
I went home instead. The second day began with breakfast at 8:30am, and I had an hour drive to get there, so I decided I’d just be on my way. It was probably a good decision.
…and that’s an overview of day one. I’ll do the same for the other two days of the conference, and then we’ll dive into some of the material that was covered in the sessions & that I learned about the writing/publishing industry in general.