How to Make the Most of Your Conference Experience

By April McGowan

The amazing Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference is just around the corner. If you’re like me, you’re researching speakers, agents, and editors and trying to decide whom to pitch to, what to pack, and what to wear!

Here are some plans I’ve put into practice to make the most of my conference experience.

Pray: Pray for OCW leadership, pray for the mentors, teachers, speakers, and other attendees. Pray for open doors and clear direction. Pray for wisdom. Pray for encouragement—and pray about whom you can encourage while there.

Prepare: Practice your pitch (be able to sum up your book or article in one enticing sentence). Dress the part—be comfortable, but remember editors and agents are looking for business partners. Have your one sheets, business cards, and bookmarks (if applicable) at the ready.

Network: Don’t limit yourself to chatting with people you already know. Meet others; share a smile; bless someone with an encouraging word; or offer to pray for someone who looks nervous. Read name badges to find others from your area, and swap social media information (remember those business cards?) so you don’t lose contact. Agents and editors host tables, and you’ll be encouraged to sit at a different table for each meal. Introduce yourself to the table host and the others at the table, share about your writing, and (with permission) pick their brains for information. Remember to give others an opportunity to share too. Every one of those professionals has been right where you are—so they know how you feel. They want to help. Let them.

Stay Even: There are a lot of possibilities at conference—ones of great highs and maybe some lows. Instead of putting all your expectations onto one particular conversation, or those golden mini-submission envelopes, how about placing your dreams into the capable hands of the Father and trusting Him to guide you to where He wants you to be? You might get awesome news in those envelopes or at those meetings—or you may be waylaid. Either way, nothing is wasted when you are writing for the Lord. Keep going and take those next steps—whether it’s a rewrite or a new focus. Also, be sure to eat healthily, stay hydrated, grab a nap, read a book, write vignettes, or sit on the deck overlooking the river.

Look for the Unexpected: Before I was published, I submitted and met with many editors and agents. They gave me great feedback, which I applied to my writing, but I was becoming discouraged. I’d made it past the “gatekeepers” several times, but my novel had yet to find a home. Instead of giving up, I changed my game plan and followed the list above. During one meal, I pitched to Roseanna White from WhiteFire Publishing, and she asked me to submit. That novel wasn’t accepted, but I asked if they would consider another novel. She said YES, and this time they accepted it. That novel, Jasmine, went on to be nominated for the Carol Award for debut novel. You never know when an opportunity will present itself—keep your eyes open.

Have Fun: Visit with other writers (we are your people!). Buy a friend a cup of coffee (I like cold brew . . . just saying!). Participate in a Nite Owl session. Take time to laugh. Be silly. Sing. Trust me, others will join in—I’ve seen it happen—and it’s amazing.

So, dear attendee, how can you make the most out of this conference? Pray, prepare, network, stay even, look for the unexpected, and make sure to have fun!

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April McGowan

April McGowan loves writing “Healing Fiction,” books that don’t just entertain but connect on a deeper level with the brokenness we all live with and don’t often talk about. She writes stories of hope, courage, and inspiration. She has published two novels, Jasmine and Macy. Her latest novel, Hold the Light, will release in this month. In 2014, April was named the OCW Writer of Promise. April is the OCW Publicity Coordinator. She really does believe that OCW is the best writing organization out there. She’s also mentoring at the OCW Summer Conference and loves to encourage other writers. Make sure you take the time to chat with her!  www.aprilmcgowan.com

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