How to Put Your Best Foot Forward at Conferences #writing #writer #author @amandajclay


What goes on at writer conferences? Amanda J. Clay is here to give us some tips on how to be fearless!


If you saw me at a conference, you’d likely find me happily working the room, heels and lipstick in place, chatting up a stranger. Would you guess I’m actually hugely introverted?
There’s a misconception about introverted people that we HATE being around people. That’s not true at all! At least not universally true. It simply means that we recharge our life bars from more solitary pursuits, whereas extroverted people find energy from being around other people. I love being around my huge family and all my friends. But after a while, I need to retreat for a little me time. And that’s ok. Being around a lot of people is exhausting for us introverts.
The first time I stood at the mouth of a conference, little notebook in hand with my jotted-down pitch and saw hordes of people in name badges, I was ready to crawl under the cookie table in the fetal position. For a writer who’s used to spending all her time alone inside, conferences are draining. It’s critical to have a game plan when going in so that you don’t get overwhelmed and miss out. No matter what level of your career—from novice dreamer to NYT Best Seller—conferences are bursting with opportunity to connect with people in the industry. After years of attending events all over the country, here’s my advice on how to put your best foot forward and get the very most out of this incredible networking opportunity.
Planning is Key. Make sure you download the conference schedule and have a really solid idea of which workshops you want to attend or which speakers you’d like to see or meet. If you’re pitching, do your research on the prospective agents and editors BEFORE you arrive. Don’t waste your time and their pitching to someone who doesn’t represent your genre! I’ve been there and it’s an awkward confidence killer.
Once you’re there, get a map of the place! Some conference locations are massive. Mark where each workshop is being held, scout out the bathrooms, secure the coffee situation. Trust me, there’s nothing like being a scattered sweaty mess running from place to place to really knock your best foot out from under you. No one wants to meet their potential future editor with smudged mascara and coffee down your dress. The more time you have to get to where you need to be, the more relaxed and confident you’ll be.
Look Professional. Now I’m not saying rock the pencil skirt and Jimmy Choos (unless that’s your thing) but you want to look like you take this business seriously. I see it all the time at conferences where people think that just because we work alone in our PJs that it’s ok to network in ratty clothes without showering. Seriously, it’s not. This is your CAREER. You wouldn’t show up to a regular job interview like that would you? The great thing about being a creative is that we don’t have to conform to one type of dress code, so have fun with it! It’s ok to have a funky style, to be vintage, to be glam, even to be a laid back jeans-and-tee kinda person. Just so long as you look deliberate and put together. Trust me, so many people ignore this advice, you will stand out.
Sustenance. Every conference is different, but many times the schedule is packed and snacks and refreshments aren’t provided. Make sure you plan to either have snacks on hand or in your room. Nobody likes a hangry writer. Be sure keep water with you at all times too. Don’t underestimate how much talking you’re going to be doing—and if you’re anything like me, the only person I’m used to talking to all day is myself. That throat’s gonna get parched.
Down Time. Whether a weekend or a week, conferences are tiring. While I encourage making the most of it and powering through, know that it’s ok to take a break. You just can’t do all the things, all the time. If there’s a block of time where nothing of particular interest is happening, maybe that’s a good time to grab some “me” time—read, write (even better), or just sit and people watch. Whatever helps you regroup. I was recently at Romantic Times in Atlanta and it was SEVEN DAYS. All day, all night. By the final morning I had to force myself out from under the covers. I’d dare even the most extraverted soul to get through that with full energy bars!
Be Fearless. This might be the most important piece of wisdom I can bestow. Conferences are a time to step outside your comfort zone. Talk to a stranger. Ask them about their work. Prepare your elevator pitch and don’t be afraid to share it. Writing is the most supportive community out there and we’re all in this together. Writers LOVE helping other writers. It’s a pay-it-forward kind of world. I was terrified of talking to strangers at first. I was terrified of talking about my work because, nobody cared, right? Wrong. People care. And they will help you if they can. I have met so many incredible people at conferences that have really helped my career along. You never know when a chance encounter will lead to the thing that makes it for you. Or possibly lead to an incredible new friendship. So go talk to the other writer alone at the bar, sit down next to a stranger at lunch. Smile. Be open. Have fun. Be fearless.
About the Author

Amanda J. Clay is a writing YA and Adult fiction from Dallas, TX. A Northern California native, she had a fantastic time studying English and Journalism at Chico State University and then a very serious time slaving away for a Master’s degree in Communications from California State University, Fullerton. When she’s not staring at a computer screen, she spends most of her spare time on some new fitness addiction and plotting world adventures.

Her latest book is the young adult novel, Rebel Song.

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About the Book:

Title: REBEL SONG Author: Amanda J. Clay Publisher: Independent Pages: 370 Genre: YA

Caught on opposite sides of a budding civil war, a rebel leader and a modern day princess fight to save their country from a corrupt Minister General in a fictional Central Europe.

The once prosperous European nation of Arelanda has been plagued with poverty and corruption since the failed rebellion tore it apart. Now, rebels stir again in the capital’s underbelly, vowing to depose the monarchy and overturn the unjust government.

Seventeen-year-old Rogan Elwood, son of a rebel leader executed for treason after the first rebellion, has borne a tainted legacy his entire life. As he is pulled deeper into conflict, Rogan must face his calling in the future of the rebel cause—waging his want for peace against his desire for vengeance. Everything changes when he falls for Elyra—modern, idealistic and determined to bring Arelanda a better future. She also just happens to be next in line to the throne—if the corrupt Minister General doesn’t beat her to it.

Caught in the midst of a budding civil war and surrounded by enemies on every side, Elyra and Rogan must fight to save themselves and their country.

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