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Gah!! DON’T Do That!!

May 2, 2012

In honor of my upcoming appearance at the LDStorymakers Conference this weekend, I have put together my very own personal list of top 10 writers’ conference don’ts.

(cue drumroll)

10. DON’T be scared!

9. DON’T apologize for telling me about your book. Or asking me questions. That’s why I am there.

8. It should go without saying, but DON’T pitch me your book in the bathroom.

7. DON’T forget to compliment my cute outfits.

6.  DON’T forget that I’m just a person. A person who loves books. (This one makes me want to break out into Barbra Streisand’s People, people who need people (which, how could you possibly be intimidated by me after I just admitted that??))

5. DON’T be afraid to just come up and introduce yourself.

4. DON’T forget to laugh at my jokes.

3. DON’T speak to me before I’ve had my morning coffee.

2. DON’T speak to me before I’ve had my morning coffee.

Yeah, that one bore repeating.

Hmm, this list was actually harder than I thought. Probably a DO list would be easier, but whatever.

I feel like everyone is always all don’t do this and don’t do that. But really, the biggest thing I could think of is to try not to be nervous.

There’s very little that you could do at a conference that would be so catastrophic. So I think that my number 1 piece of advice would be this:

1. DON’T worry so much about the DON’Ts and just go DO.*

*I’m not really sure what that means but it sounded appropriately inspirational for the end of my list. Of course I thought of it after the fact so now I have to go cut out one from my original list.

Tell me your biggest conference fear in the comments. Or best conference horror story!

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27 Comments
  1. I’m really happy you posted this because I am *scheduled* to meet you (twice!) so I’ll just remember that you are funny and I know I am funny and life is fantastic. Don’t forget a sweater – Utah weather is bizarre 🙂

  2. Authorhouse told me it would be next to impossible to help me find a writers conference. I need and desire information on these. From what you just wrote. , I’d prefer one of yours. Can you tell me anything? Thanks and have a fruitful weekend!

  3. I’ve told this story before, but I met my agent in an elevator at a conference. I’d just seen her speak and I was totally tongue-tied so we started talking about my pants. I thought I’d blown it. A few months later, I queried her, reminding her that I was the tall gal from the elevator with the J Jill not-jeans. She remembered and it was a good ice breaker – I’ve seen her use my query letter in talks about querying. Even when you think you’ve blown it, you (probably)haven’t.

    • I’ve read this story from you and love it. It’s not the “perfect” (read: robotic) conversations/pitches that we remember. It’s the ones with real people and real topics that stick out in our minds. Something you can refer back to even months later when I may not remember your name is awesome.

  4. I worry that I’ll babble. That my book won’t sound good because I’m so nervous. I know, I know–don’t be nervous, but come on. 🙂 Talking about your book to a potential agent is a huge deal, it’s hard not to be nervous. Though if I met you, I might not be so nervous. Your personality comes through in your blog posts and you come off as really nice, and funny.

  5. That’s a great list, and you’d think that much of it would go without saying, but alas, you amazing agents just seem to bring out the crazy in some people (or nerves, whatever the case may be). Can’t wait to meet you on Saturday. I’ll be the one who is as tall as Kasie but nearly as cute. Don’t those dimples kill you? 😉 Happy travels and hope you enjoy being in Utah!

  6. True story.

    I went to a pitch meeting with an editor and we hit it off. We joked and chatted about video games and horrible dialog we’d read/seen/heard in them. We spent about 9.5 minutes of our 10 on this stuff. Then I gave the 30 second version of my pitch and he was like – “WAIT, this book is so not for me, but let me introduce you to someone who would like it. Come find me a dinner.”

    One thing led to another and I ended up sitting at his table with a couple of agents. It was fantastic fun – nothing pushy or rushed. In the end, the agent he introduced me to took a full and while it didn’t work out (my timing was off and my book wasn’t ready – worse – I didn’t know at the time), the whole experience taught me something important. Be real, be yourself and take your time. If you do this, an editor will welcome you to sit by them at dinner and you’ll get to pitch your novel to the right agent.

    I’m going to try to reenact this exact scenario this weekend at the conference. 🙂

    Here’s what I really learned. Editors/agents really listen and care in these pitches. They are there to help you. They want you to succeed. They like things other than books (sometimes) and I think I started out the whole thing by telling the editor he had a dazzling shirt. Guess that still works.

    This list is fantastic advice. Thanks, Michelle – and you better believe I’ll introduce myself. I’m looking forward to meeting you.

  7. zenaparks permalink

    Yay for conference season! Thanks for the “don’t” list–I look forward to meeting you at the conference! Hopefully you’ve had your coffee by then 🙂

  8. Don’t say that you aren’t an writer just because you haven’t been published. If you write, you are a writer. Own it and enjoy the magic of meeting with so many others like you.

  9. I’m not ready to pitch yet, but I’m really excited to meet you! Will there be some kind of secret signal or something, so I know when you’ve had your coffee?

  10. aviatrixkim permalink

    My biggest conference fear is acting the fool. I think some of us writers get all worked up about the idea that We Get One Chance to make a first impression, and if we Blow It, doom lies ahead. And so we want to approach you and instantly seem uncrazy and smart and full of fantastic marketable ideas. And in trying so hard to seem all those things, we instead dribble coffee down our chins right as we walk up to you, and then we pitch forward into the cheese danishes.

  11. Too funny! Couldn’t resist RTing this one! 🙂

  12. Wow, Michelle, two inspirational posts in a row. It’s like your gearing up for a conference or something. 🙂 Love this list. And, by the way, I’m totally pitching you my next idea in the bathroom this weekend.

    • Oh no! I wrote ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’. It’s like I’m not even a writer at all! Can I blame this on the 9 kids I had earlier this week?? 9 kid brain. I have to be able to use that excuse for a while. It’s my reward for tending them.

  13. Thanks for your comments everyone. Looking forward to meeting you if you’ll be at Storymaker12. If you’re going elsewhere, remember to have fun! Wait, have fun if you’re going where I’m going too.

  14. *quakes in boots*

    I registered for Storymakers too late to get a pitch session and I don’t think my book is near ready, but I’m trying my best to figure out a 30-second version for conversations. Hopefully I get the nerve up to say hello this weekend!

  15. This is a great list! I was at the Western Washington SCBWI conference recently and actually got up the nerve to talk to several agents and editors … and it didn’t turn out to be scary at all. They were all very nice people. Just get up, walk across the room, smile and say, “Hi, I’m *insert your full name here*!” That’s how it starts. If you can do that, you’re good. 🙂

  16. I love this list, and I’m very excited to meet you in person! I’ll be sure to prepare a slew of well-rehearsed compliments about your outfits. 🙂

  17. Everything Michelle said is/was true – I had her cornered in an elevator with several interesting characters (Jeff Savage, my Frankenstein-esque son, etc.) and she was wonderful, had a very cute outfit, and there was no danger of morning coffee… thank you, Michelle – you talk the talk and walk the walk…

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