Tuesday, May 05, 2015

4 Things Conference Faculty Wish You Knew

Write Canada is around the corner! As the Assistant Director, I had a hand in helping to plan the workshops and approach faculty. What I wanted to create was a really great teaching conference with streams for beginning, intermediate (an often overlooked group at conferences) and the career writers.

Like any other career, you have to keep pushing yourself to try new things and become better to be successful. Conferences are about connecting, learning, and keeping ourselves humble.

Conferences are overwhelming, exhausting, intimidating -- and one of the best things you can do for your career.

I pulled this post out of the vault. Marcy Kennedy is teaching the fiction intensive this year, and I'm teaching a career class on Facebook marketing -- but this is not the first time we've been faculty at a conference and there may be some things as attendees that you're not aware of. We're here to dish.

(1) We can tell a lot about you from a 15 minute appointment.
Marcy: We can make a pretty good educated guess about who is going to be successful and who isn't from just 15 minutes. Some of the factors signaling success:
  • a willingness to learn and work hard
  • questions showing an understanding of the market
  • the ability to tell me what you need my help with (or the acknowledgment you’re just starting out and aren’t even sure what your first step should be)
  • evidence you did your research ahead of time (if you booked an appointment with me randomly, that’s not a good sign)
Lisa: The most enjoyable appointments are with writers who have specific questions or are looking for specific feedback on a piece. When someone slides a manuscript under your nose and says, "What advice can you give me?" That's a big question and it's difficult to be helpful. Instead know your weaknesses, or what market you're writing for -- something we can read for and give helpful feedback on in a short time.

  • Do you understand the market? 
  • Do you know who you're writing for (everyone is not the right answer)
  • Are you willing to accept constructive criticism?

Marcy: Hard work and teachability trump talent every day. If you know what you need my help with, you know your weaknesses. Recognizing them is the first step in fixing them. Know what I write and edit - do a little research. It's hard when people sit down and ask a question about something I don't write -- like poetry.

Lisa: And both of us are very accessible online - and so are most writing conference faculty. Having someone sit down with me and say - 'So, what do you write?' tells me they didn't even take five minutes to look us up on Facebook or our blogs.

I'm not good at remembering faces or names, but I remember conversations. Jog my memory after the conference. If I have time, I'm happy to help those who impressed me.

(2) We don't make money going to conferences.
Marcy: Monetarily, going to conferences is a loss for me. It's time away from work and there are always costs outside of what we're paid for.

Lisa: We know exactly what it feels like to attend your first conference or even your tenth conference. We're there to help and offer advice -- just like at one point someone further ahead on this career path did for us. Professionally, we have little to gain from being faculty so know that any advice we give is sincere and meant to help and not hinder.

(3) Don't take it personally.
Marcy: Faculty members put in long hours preparing for and attending conferences. We take appointments, do working lunches and suppers, informal meetings . . . you get the picture. It's exhausting.

Lisa: Our intention is not to crush your dreams, but help you understand the market and make you a better writer. Be polite even if you disagree.

(4) Conferences are about making connections.
Lisa: Writing can be such a lonely occupation and you need a few people alongside you on the journey or else it can quickly feel, as Stephen King put it, like trying to cross the Atlantic in a bathtub. 

Bring some business cards and swap cards with the people you meet. Look them up on social media, stay in touch. Some of the best connections we've ever made were at conferences and we've maintained many of those connections (which I'm now able to use to help get great faculty to come to Write Canada). These people want to see you succeed and there are many stories of promotional help and writing advice taking place long after a conference meet up is over.

This year's Write Canada is June 11-13 in Toronto (the publishing centre of Canada). You can find out more info at www.thewordguild.com/events/writecanada

You can connect with Marcy Kennedy on Twitter or her blog here.
You can connect with Lisa Hall-Wilson on Facebook or her blog here.


Peter Black said...

Thanks, Lisa and Marcy. I'm sure the points you make will prove helpful for participation in this conference and other writer events, as well. I appreciate your keen grasp on issues and trends in the industry and your willingness to share your insights.~~+~~

Lux G. said...

I'm actually one of those who enjoy attending conferences and seminars. I'm glad I have a friend who goes with me though.

Thanks for these info. They're really helpful.

fudge4ever said...

Wish I could come - I'm attending my nephew's wedding on the other coast - but the advice is good for other conferences as well. Thank you
Pamela Mytroen

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