The ONLY Conference Guide you’ll ever need!
Hello Mixed-Up Filers!!
Hope all of you are doing well since we last spoke only sixty-six days ago. I know I usually come here and say that I didn’t know what to write about, but this time is different. This time was easy. With the L.A. Conference right around the corner, I figured what better thing to do, than give all of you the benefit of my experience and present:
The ONLY Conference Guide You’ll Ever Need! (Cue thunderous applause)
So, you’re going to SCBWI L.A. and you don’t know what to do. You’re afraid of standing out in a bad way or perhaps even worse, getting lost in the shuffle entirely. Well, never fear, because whether it’s your first, second or even twentieth time going, these tried-and-true methods will ensure that you will get the most out of your conference-going experience. So, without further ad, we first start with:
The Arrival: You get to the hotel and are immediately intimidated. After all, it’s a large place and it can feel just a little overwhelming, especially if you’re there alone. So, what do you do? Well the first thing is, you need to get there early. I mean, really, really early. The first day of this year’s conference is Friday, August 1st. But, if you get there on that day, it’s already too late. You’ve lost and wasted a ton of money. Today’s conference-goers are savvy. They know all the tricks of the trade. My suggestion to you, is to get there maybe Wednesday, July 30th, or just to be on the safe side, maybe even the weekend before.
Why, you ask? Well, conference-goers are notoriously territorial and you need to carve out the best spots for yourself. Somewhere to see and be seen, if you know what I mean. Some prime locations are next to the bathrooms, near the water-coolers and around the snacks-table. You know, the heavily populated, big-time, foot-traffic areas. This is the way for you to get maximum exposure. But be forewarned, just because you get there first, doesn’t mean you get to keep it. You might just have to defend it. This is not for the weak-of-heart.
Preparation: You want to be feared and admired when you go. The proper attire can mean everything. War-paint is a must. Project an image that you are not to be messed with. Scaring other writers away is half the battle. Better to avoid a confrontation when you can. Newer conference-goers will cower before you, but by the same token, you need to know that the veterans might make you prove yourself. Don’t worry, this is a rite-of-passage. They’re not just going to back away from some new kid on the block. That’s a sign of conference weakness and they’ll lose respect forever. So, be prepared for…
The battles: Gone are the days of violent physical duels. Not since the incident of ‘96. I’m not going to get into exactly what happened that day, it’s too grotesque for a family site such as this one, but the grizzly facts were that it involved a quill pen, a dozen EMT workers and a moose. It wasn’t pretty. Nowadays, we have literary throwdowns. That’s why they tell you to bring your first pages from your manuscripts. A conference battle is a wondrous thing to behold. Many have gone down in conference lore and passed down through the generations. Who doesn’t remember that day back in aught-two, when Taylor vs. Morales went at it? Two behemoths at the top of their game. The way it works is this; you enter a ring surrounded by a blood-thirsty mob. And as everyone knows, there is nobody on earth more inclined to violence than a writer. You each read your pages and while the winner gets prizes and accolades, the loser is relegated to the Siberia of the conference: Hanging with the technical writers who are trying to dabble in Children’s lit. Oh, and one word of advice: NEVER get into a battle with a poet. Nobody ever knows what they mean and it’s so subjective, that even the worst poetry may touch someone in some weird way, that’ll leave you scratching your head at just how it was that you lost. Trust me, I speak from experience.
On making an impression: You’re going to a conference and you want to leave an impression. They give you those little nametags, but you feel like it’s not enough. You’re right. It’s not. You need to make your mark! Go in there Flavor Flav-style. Wear your name in a giant amulet or even a clock around your neck. Bonus points if it lights up and even more for sporting the gold-tooth grill as well. Remember, this isn’t the time to blend into the woodwork or risk being confused with Edna from Dubuque. You need to make sure that people remember exactly who you are.
On sitting in workshops: You are going to be in different classes learning from experienced pros. Occasionally, in these classes, there’s a chance that you’re going to be called on to read your work. Here’s what you do. Before class begins, you go in at the very last moment and survey the room. Now, this will be difficult, because you’re going by your gut here, but try to pick out the weakest ones, perhaps even a few innocent questions to each person asking how many conferences they’ve been to. After you’ve made your decision, sit down next to them. And once they read, you quickly thrust up your hand to go next. It’ll only make your work sound better by comparison.
On meeting Agents or Editors: Agents and editors will be at the conference, just dying to meet new talent such as yourself. And remember, they are just regular people like you and me. Just regular people who have the fate of your career in their hands. So, conference organizers expect you to treat them accordingly. So, never, under ANY circumstances, make eye contact unless being addressed. You must cast your eyes in a downward glance in a display of deference. When meeting them, please make sure to genuflect before them as a sign of respect. You wait for them to end the conversation, not the other way around, even if you have to go to the bathroom. Hold it. And if by some chance, they ask you to accompany them anywhere, make sure you remember to maintain the required five or more paces behind them in a show of subservience. It’s just proper etiquette.
Well, Mixed-Up Filers, I hope this helps. Please make sure to follow all my advice and drop by here and give me your reports when you get back! I wish you all the best of luck and above all else, have fun and treasure the experience!
*** The views and opinions expressed in this piece in no way reflect those of Fromthemixedupfiles.com. Any following of the advice in this post, may or may not get you ejected from the conference and perhaps even get a restraining order issued against you. Proceed at your own risk. ***