Conference Tips: It’s Okay to be Nervous

conference room

Going to a writers conference is a big commitment. It takes time off of work, money, a ton of preparation and courage, but conferences are wonderful tools to help writers to connect with other writers, find agents/editors, learn more about the writing craft and to get inspired to either finish or start a novel! In the past, I’ve posted about how fear can keep you from writing. Today, I’d like to write a post on having the courage to take the first step in taking your writing from a hobby to a profession.

It seems so long ago because so much has happened since, but March 2015 was the first time I ever attended a writers conference and I cannot tell you how nervous I felt! Doubts flew through my head: I’m a poser. These men and women have so much more experience than me and I think I can write? I just finished my novel…I’ve never pitched to an agent before! What am I doing sitting at a table full of seasoned authors? If I duck away now, I can escape before it even starts and before I embarrass myself silly!

Just remember when you walk into the conference for the first time, mistakes are a part of growing! And yes, while I did embarrass myself once or twice, it was okay because I didn’t allow it to paralyze me. As a newbie, of course, I was going to make a writing faux pas…or two or three when speaking with other writers, agents and editors, but the important thing is to learn from the mistake and move on and hopefully not commit the same mistake twice.

Moments of Courage:

Sitting at the tables. Okay, I know it sounds simple, but I have to admit that I did skip out on my first meal because gulp at conferences you dine at round tables and must choose which region to sit with, which agent, which editor, which famous authors, which people that have been writing longer than you’ve been alive, etc. In summary, it’s SCARY folks, especially for an introvert.

Push of courage: When (not if haha) you are tempted to bolt, remind yourself of the pros and sit down. The people at the table are probably just as nervous and you should help one another feel more at ease by chatting and if they aren’t nervous, chances are that they are veteran conference goers and you should pick their brain! Briefly share your story and your genre, but be sure to listen to one another and give everyone at the table a chance to speak and practice their elevator pitches. I cannot tell you how many sweet women have helped me through Mt. Hermon and then ACFW. I have made some great friends and contacts through sharing a meal together!

Going to classes. This one I was a hairsbreadth less nervous about, but still, it can take a little push to get yourself through the door where you sit in a classroom full of people and might for the first time, say that you are a writer, not that you write, but that YOU are a writer 🙂

Push of courage: You never stop learning. These conferences offer classes with seasoned authors that you would normally not be able to attend, so make yourself go and find out what makes them successful, absorb their lecture, ask questions and get refreshed and encouraged.

Meeting with Agents/Editors. Whew. This one made me soooo nervous…it still makes me nervous to think about meeting with editors!!! The best way to prepare yourself is to be sure to research each agent/editor ahead of time, practice your elevator pitch (again, the mealtime is a great way to practice with other writers and get their feedback) and have your one-sheet and proposal printed and ready.

Push of courage: While scary, it also is thrilling. You have worked extremely hard to complete your work (manuscript, proposal, one-sheet, etc.) in time for the conference to pitch it to editors, so don’t let nerves, which are inevitable, stop you from meeting with them. Pitching is difficult, but after a day or two, you start to get the swing of it! It just takes a lot of practice and, of course, courage 🙂

For me, my profession really began in ernest when I finished my Victorian novel and I made the decision to attend a writers conference and take that first big financial step of not just saying that I write, but saying that I am a writer. After attending Mt. Hermon in March 2015, I signed with my agent in July 2015 and signed with my first publishing house, Barbour, a year later! The writing business takes a lot of time and a lot of courage, but I’m thankful that I didn’t listen to those doubts and I want to encourage you to not allow fear to keep you from pursuing your dreams!

Happy Writing!

For a post on creating an elevator pitch, click here.

For a post on writing a proposal, click here.

For a post on the elements of a one-sheet, click here.

For a post on the most common fears in writing a novel and how to fight them off, click here.



About Grace Hitchcock

Grace Hitchcock's first novella, The Widow of St. Charles Avenue, released in Barbour Publishing’s The Second Chance Brides Collection August 2017. Her second novella will release in Barbour Publishing’s The Southern Belle Brides Collection in 2018. She has a Masters in Creative Writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in History. Grace is a Louisiana Southerner living in Colorado with her husband, Dakota, and newborn son.

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