By Tena Stetler
Good news is that I recently read Colorado is one of the few states most likely to survive a Zombie Apocalypse. Better news is that it is possible to survive the conference and not become a zombie. First, you want to get as much rest as possible in the weeks leading up to the conference because sleep is a fleeting thing during the conference. There are old friends to catch up with, new friends to connect with, and so many workshops to attend your head will spin.
Second, make sure to pack high protein snacks and drink lots, and I mean lots, of water. If you are from out of town, this is especially important; you’re now residing at over 6,000 feet in elevation. One glass of wine can have quite an effect on you, so suck down that H2O. You can use those frequent bathroom trips to work on your pitch or figure out which workshop to attend next.
Is this your first conference? Take deep breaths and plunge in, but make sure you come up for air and relax from time to time - it can be a bit overwhelming. Download your workshop sheets as early as possible, and review them carefully, so you can plan what you want to attend and check for any conflicts ahead of time. There could be last minute changes, so check the packet you receive at sign in for the up-to-date schedule. If you are pitching, work on that logline and practice talking about your book to everyone that will listen in the weeks prior to the conference. Participating in the Read and Critique? Polish that first page, double-spaced, and have several copies ready (remember to bring them). You won’t remember everything you learn at the conference, but you will remember the friendships you make. Most of all, have a wonderful time, it is a great adventure. One you’ll want to experience year after year.
Remember that editors and agents are all people just like us. They are attending the conference in hopes of finding that new idea and fresh voice that you have perfected in your novel. Don’t let nerves get the best of you. Be creative and use your imagination when conjuring up the agent or editor’s appearance in your mind. But stifle the giggle when you make that pitch or read your page.
For those of us who have attended a few conferences, help out the newbies. You'll recognize them by the glazed eyes, rapid breathing, and panicked expression. I know you still carry memories of your first conference.
Finally, just soak it all in. Too soon it will be all over and your zombie-like characteristics may emerge Sunday night. Until then, do what you can to keep all your parts attached. Have Fun.
About the Author: By day, Tena Stetler is an Office and IT Manager for an electrical contractor. When the sun disappears behind the Majestic Rocky Mountains, she can be found at her computer surrounded by vampires, demons, witches, and other paranormal creatures as she writes Paranormal Romance and Cozy Mysteries. She’s also written articles for a variety of magazines about traveling with pets, and raising and training parrots. She shares her life with her husband, two parrots, a dog, and a 40-year-old box turtle. When not sitting behind a computer, she enjoys hiking, camping, kayaking, and whitewater rafting.
Thank you, Tena! Now, we've got some additional bonus tips for attending conferences. We asked members on our Yahoo! Loop for their advice, and this is some of what we got:
For low-landers with little experience in high altitudes, you need to accept that the hotel is at 6400 ft (well over Denver's "mile high" claims) and the humidity is typically low. As a result, alcohol will pack a double punch because you'll already by partially dehydrated due to the low humidity and the fact that there is less oxygen in the air at altitude. Drink half as much alcohol as you normally would in a comparable social situation. When it's time to go to bed, turn on the hot water in the shower for about 10 minutes and leave the bathroom door open. You'll add some much needed moisture to the room and you'll find it easier to get to sleep.
~Laura Hayden-- who faces this same problem each year, dealing with the altitude
DRINK WATER!!! Drink at least 3 bottles of water from the time you wake until you go to bed for the first two days you are in Colorado (more if your bladder can handle it). If you drink any alcohol....drink more water.
TAKE IT EASY. Don't plan on a 10 mile hike your first day here, and don't play 18 holes of golf. A friend of mine played 18 holes the first day he was here and spent the next 3 days in bed. A nice easy walk on a flat surface (like cruising around the conference) is great. Breath the mountain air....it is amazing!
DRINK MORE WATER! Really! :-)
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of fun!
I can't wait to meet everyone!!
Drink water for three or four days BEFORE you come. Then keep it up. It's all about hemoglobin...
"What do YOU write?"
You can even approach people you've never met!
Come with open ears and open mind. You might hear three different speakers say three different things about anything from how to publish to how to develop your ideas to how to create characters or worlds or sentences. All of them have something to teach, even if it is only that every writer is different and every career is different. Somewhere there will be a spark that's just right for you. Real Writers are constantly learning.
Out going people: Don't monologue. Give everyone at your table a chance to talk to that author, agent or editor. Use your outgoing personality to encourage more shy folks to talk about their stories.
Make the most of your conference experience by networking. Don’t simply cling to the familiar. Make it a goal to get to know your fellow writers as well as the industry professionals. You’re attending to learn, to make those contacts, so treat it as business. And have fun.
~Donnell Ann Bell, www.donnellannbell.com
You’ll be surrounded by people with myriad experiences, most good, a few not so much – but even those will be helpful in the long run.
Say Howdy to everyone you see with a STAFF badge. They are all there for YOU. Pick a couple of panel discussions, and you can get the experience of several panelists, and a number of experienced people in the audience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Look for some of the fun stuff. Weapons workshops, pitch practice, etc.
Did I mention Listen?
Oh yeah, this one can’t be said enough --- HYDRATE! And take in the beautiful country surrounding Colorado Springs.
I've been attending and/or teaching at PPWC for 17 years. I have suggestions.
pillow - if you are picky about the one you use
antihistamine - if sleeping is an issue with all the excitement
lotion - dry air in CO
Drink tons of water - especially if you drink - high altitude has knocked some visitors out.
Take social chances. Push through shyness. Stretch those boundaries. Schmooze outside of pitches and workshops...it is when much of the action happens. I've gotten 3 different agents whom I didn't formally pitch to by simply talking casually with them.
Buy the recordings if you have to miss some sessions because of an agent appointment or parallel workshop. Then you can listen to them as you take your long walks.
Bring different lengths of work you'll pitch. Typically they won't take anything from you to lug home, but I know at least one author who was asked for a full at the conference and picked up by that agent before conference was over-literally the agent read the work over the conference.
Put on your smile and allow for a day of rest after the conference. You'll need that rest; the energy at PPWC is so intense, relaxation may be hard to come by.
And say hi to Shannon while there! :)
~Karen Lin, www.karenalbrightlin.com
:: The first time I attended PPWC, I drove out from Kansas City, alone, knowing no one. We writers tend to be loners anyway, but we're MUCH more comfortable with our own kind--other writers. Remember that you're not alone, that others face the same introvert issues you do, and remind yourself that we're ALL in the same boat! The people you'll meet are "just like you." And this particular conference is the friendliest ever.
:: Volunteer. My first break in the "ice" (my personal ice, no one else's) came when I I got up the nerve to talk to Dawn Smit about an idea I had for the annual writing contest, which I'd entered 2-3 times. And as she and I talked, I realized there are other things, some of them little things, that the conference workers could use help with. So I stepped up. I now volunteer every year as a moderator, which I enjoy tremendously. And it feels good to be a contributor in some small way.
:: For meals, sit at tables where you see people--including speakers--that you're interested in talking to. Even if you can't get up the nerve to talk to a famous author directly, there will be people at the table who can and will, and before you know it, you'll just be one of the writers, full of questions, curiosity, and awe!
:: Take lots of notes--and write legibly! Take advantage of every opportunity to meet people and pick their brains. Or buy the conference recordings of the sessions, so you won't lose anything.
:: Relax. enjoy the events, learn everything you can, and remember that you're with friends. I've become convinced that, at least at PPWC, everyone is a friend of everyone else attending.
:: Come back next year. And the year after. And the one after that. From my first bumbling, uncertain conference I made friends, and I'll be attending my 8th? 9th? PPWC this month. And I look forward to seeing the friends that I only see once a year, at this event.
~Marti Verlander, http://www.MarthaGilstrap.com
Finally, J.T. Evans, president of PPW, posted some great conference tips at his blog in the following 2 posts:
Got business cards? Know how to avoid Con Crud? Are you aware of the 3-2-1 Rule? No? J.T. mentions these and more in the above posts.
Thanks for visiting! We'll see you at Pikes Peak Writers Conference 2014!
Compiled By Shannon Lawrence