BY GUEST WRITER ANE MULLIGAN
President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, she’s worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), business manager, drama director and writer. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). A three-time Genesis finalist, Ane is a published playwright and columnist. She resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband and two very large dogs, and has just returned from the ACFW conference.
Confessions of a Conference Junkie
I’m Ane Mulligan, and I’m a conference junkie. I’ve attended thirteen writing conferences since 2004 and can’t wait to get to number fourteen.
Non-writers look aghast when they hear my conference tally and ask, “Didn’t the first one take?”
They don’t understand. No one but another conferenceholic would. After all, who gets a writer better than another writer? Who else hears voices in their head and has imaginary friends? Okay, yeah, the inmates of some hospitals and little kids — but so do fiction writers. And we fiction writers need each other.
Besides the camaraderie, I always come away from every conference with a golden nugget —something that takes my writing to the next level.
So what are golden nuggets? I’m glad you asked. Assuming you’ve applied what you learned from previous conferences, you may find you’re getting some repeat information when you attend conferences. That’s good confirmation that you’re growing as a writer.
Then right in the middle of a workshop, you get a zinger. One piece of information, one inside secret to great writing that will make your manuscript stand out from the slush pile. That, my friends, is a golden nugget. It can be a small or large writing tip or insight, but it is worth every penny you paid and every hour you spent in a crowded airport.
When we plunk down good money for a conference, it’s tempting to try to be in every class available. At my first one, the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (BRMCWC), I took so many classes filled with good teaching, my head spun. My head spins enough with the characters zipping around in there. I don’t need the overload. Now, I’m careful to schedule time for friends and networking.
There’s another important aspect of conferences. In today’s publishing world, there are few publishers you can cold-query. You need an agent or you attend a conference and get an appointment to pitch. If you missed out with your targeted agent or editor, never fear. Sit with them at lunch and pitch them your book idea over salad. After all, they came to the conference to find the next bestseller.
So hone your elevator pitch. Memorize it so you can recite it in your sleep. Know it so well your kids are rolling their eyes. Get it down cold, so when Ms. Editor asks you to tell her about your book, you don’t freeze.
But one word of caution—well, two really. Never follow an agent or editor into the restroom to pitch. Bad form. And never blow your nose on your one sheet.