Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Science of Tissue Paper and Ice Cream

Headed for the Big CON.
Big Con=Big Conference, not the Con of Man, not "the thing you're wasting money on". Not judging the way you spend your money. Not judging the Con. Not judging you. Got it?

The Big CON in my world is RWA Nationals.

It's costing me hearth and home to attend. I don't even want to think about what else I could have done with the money, things that would have been more lasting. Ooops. Just thought about them. Crap.

Moving along.

Let's say you're going to Nationals too. My packing advice will work for any conference, but we'll just use this one as an example.

While you're packing that outfit for the perfect pitch you're going to throw down the gullet of the agent or editor on your wish list of victims, imagine yourself not pitching well. Go ahead. Oh, for Pete's sake, just try it.

Imagine finding absolutely no one important (to your career) on the elevator with you ALL WEEK.

Imagine only other writers at your tables, in your restaurants, and in your lobbies. No chance to pitch, no elbows to rub, no faces to match those VIPs you've been stalking on line, nor anyone running around with a shark's head (Janet Reid).

Imagine the only agents and editors you see are on the panels you attend. Your pitch appointments go well, but no one gushed over you, or offered to sign you on the spot.

The clothing choices are fantastic, but no one notices them but you. Everyone else is a little too preoccupied with what they themselves are wearing . And you see seven people wearing the same pair of earrings, three have the same sandals, and the one woman who owns a copy of your dress sits at your table on Awards night.

Decide now, while packing those clothes, what attitude you're going to pack along with them, in between each outfit, like a layer of tissue paper.

Why are you going to this CON? Looking to be discovered? Looking for a way to push yourself into the line of sight of someone with the power to help your career? Are you going to impress your friends, family, or local chapter members? Are you out of your mind?

Do amazing things happen to some people at conferences? Sure. Have you had great experiences in pitch appointments before? Probably. Are you going because you are serious about your career and want to be in the right place at the right time, just in case? Of course.

But this is the attitude I'm packing.

Of course it's a lot of money. I believe I'm worth an indulgence like this.
What am I indulging in?
I'm going to go somewhere, for five days, where I can talk with people around me, about the activity in my life that I find most rewarding.
I won't have to explain why I write, or why I would want to invest so many hours into something that may never pay off in actual money.
I won't have to listen to (too many) jokes about sex scenes.
I won't have to explain the publishing industry, or what the difference is between an agent and an editor.
I won't have to listen to anyone ask why it's taking so long to hear back from those people who were considering my book.

Everyone attending will be in one of four boats:
PAN (Published)
Or Industry professional

I can relate to anyone in any of the four boats. I could walk into the lobby, join a random group of women in the midst of their conversation and feel perfectly at home. You could gather any six writers and put them around a lunch table and they could happily talk for hours.

The point, Newanda, is that writers conferences are for writers. While the industry professionals are certainly the cherries on top, it's more a chance to eat ice cream with like minds and know that we are not alone. And if you've never been to a BIG CON, you really don't understand the magic of meeting a perfect stranger and knowing, in another life, you'd be absolutely soul-deep friends.

We're like scientists, really.

In their daily lives, scientist teach science from the bottom up. But scientists getting together with other scientists is what gives our civilization hope. They don't discuss basics; they stand on the pinacles of what they know and they push each other to look beyond, to stretch, to move past the tools...and create.

So there is my tissue paper, the attitude I'm packing. I'm going for all the possibilities of elbow rubbing, sure. But if nothing happens there, I won't be kicking myself for having attended. The real reason I'm going is for the ice cream and the inspiration I'll get from my fellow writers. THAT plan cannot fail.

So don't kill yourself memorizing each little word of your pitch. Don't waste an hour deciding on those perfectly unique earrings, and plan for a fun time. Dye, wax, tan, and get nails, but know that you're doing it all for you.