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Conference Prep—Nerves and Pitching

Monday, August 18, 2008

As we continue the series on getting prepared for a writing conference this week, we’re going to look at two aspects which are diametrically opposed and yet intrinsically linked: nerves and pitching our work.

In 2001, the excitement of attending my first writing conference outweighed any nerves I felt about walking into a totally unfamiliar setting. You see, I’d never heard of such a thing as a writers’ conference before I received the brochure in the mail for the 2001 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers’ Conference. So I didn’t know what to be nervous about. I’d never heard of “pitching” (except when it comes to baseball, which I don’t watch). I had no clue who any of the people on the faculty were (published authors, editors, and agents). I was just excited about the educational aspects of it. So it wasn’t until after I checked in and got settled into my room that the nerves hit.

    I was about to spend four days surrounded by a bunch of people I’d never met.

    I was going to have to walk into a cafeteria full of people I didn’t know and find a place to sit.

    I was about to attend a bunch of sessions with people who’d probably been doing this kind of thing longer than I had.

    What if I didn’t understand what was going on?

    What if I asked questions that made me look stupid?

    What if no one liked me?

    What if I had to eat my meals alone?

    What if I left the conference and no one remembered having met me?

And on and on the insecurities went. Even several years and several conferences later, some of those same nerves would hit me before each conference. Fewer as the years go by, but still, those old insecurities and fears raise their heads (just check out the post from last year’s pre-conference series, “Is This Seat Taken?”).

And that doesn’t even begin to get into how nerve-wracking it is to think about and prepare to pitch your work to an editor or agent.

This week, you’ll be getting some insights and advice from three ladies I highly respect and greatly admire in the industry: Deb Raney, Lynette Sowell, and Ane Mulligan. So I hope you’ll stop by every day, because I know these ladies will have some wonderful things to share that will help you get over those nerves (or at least deal with them) as well as getting ready to pitch your work to the editor and/or agent of your dreams.

  1. Monday, August 18, 2008 7:18 am

    Very cool Kaye! Pitching is the one thing I’ve procrastinating the most on. It scares the bejeebers out of me! I will be anxious to read the posts this week.


  2. Monday, August 18, 2008 9:28 am

    Thanks for the great tips, Kaye. This will be my first writer’s conference, and I coming with my pitch for a novel in hand. So your articles have really helped.


  3. Monday, August 18, 2008 10:24 am

    It’s been quite a few years since I did a pitch (in fact, Kaye, I believe Chip was the last person I made a pitch at… or is that ‘to’? 🙂 Anyway, it was an Oregon Christian Writers conference, many years ago. What I wanted to mention is that I was very blessed to have met several writers in my area (one of which became the OCW conference coordinator), so I didn’t have to attend my first conference on my own. I went on a work scholarship, and had the chance to take a class from a writer I admire, Donna Fletcher Crow. I’ve attended more conferences with OCW since then, but I’ll always remember that wide-eyed feeling of the first one. Another big highlight for me was getting to spend time with Francine Rivers, who was a keynote speaker for OCW one year. 2004, I believe it was.

    And that’s how long it’s been since I attended a conference. I’ve been hunkered down for years now, immersed in the 18C.


  4. Monday, August 18, 2008 11:18 am

    I’ve never been to a writers’ conference, but last year I happened to get free tickets to an important conference in my industry at the last minute. The only person there I would really “know” was my boss, and we’d never met in person before.

    When my boss texted me and said he’d be missing the opening reception because of a delayed flight, I decided not to go. I eventually forced myself to go, though, and met a lot of nice people, despite my fears (and almost turning around and leaving in the first five minutes after seeing an industry celebrity).

    From what I’ve heard, though, most people at these conferences are super friendly (despite the fact that it’s probably outside of their comfort zone) and really excited to be around people who share their passion!

    Wish I could find out for myself, but I have these things called kids. . . .


  5. Monday, August 18, 2008 11:53 am

    When you get nervous around people like me you have to NOT let yourself run to some corner out of the way where you can curl up with a book or your notepad. I’m so good at avoiding people.

    I actually signed up for a Weekend retreat (it’s a much smaller group–still waiting to hear if my application made it before the slots were all filled up) and I specifically did this one over going to NYC in February because it’ll force me to interact with others. I can’t just disappear into a corner. This is such a small retreat that it’s all about time together with others. I’m hoping it helps with my shyness.


  6. Monday, August 18, 2008 11:55 am

    Hello, Kaye! Finally got this comment thing figured out.

    I haven’t been to a writing conference, but I would love to go someday. I can’t wait to read this series to help get ready for when I do!

    Thanks for the great blog! Oh, and for the help the other day…;-)


  7. Monday, August 18, 2008 12:35 pm

    In 2005, I attended the ACFW conference in Nashville–my first ever. Talk about a huge leap outside my comfort zone. Not only did I have to fly alone, but I didn’t know a soul except through e-mail and forum chats. Oy! Prayer kept those nerves away, except when I pitched, and I did well. I didn’t make a fool out of myself. I made some great friends.


  8. Monday, August 18, 2008 3:06 pm

    I hope you know how heavily I’m relying on you to help me with perfecting (dare I say shaping, or even coming up with) a pitch for my WIP. I wish you could take a buddy with you to the editorial meetings so they can talk about your work. Why is it we find it so much easier to talk about our crit partner’s stuff than our own?


  9. Emilie permalink
    Monday, August 18, 2008 5:43 pm

    I was soooo nervous attending my first (and so far only) writing conference in April. For one thing, I didn’t know any local writers at the time, and I was desperately missing my SHU children’s writers. But as I got to talking to people, I realized that I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t been published, who hadn’t been to a conference before, and who didn’t know anyone. And there were always people on the balcony away from the crowd, taking a break to recharge (as introverts must on occasion), and I realized that’s okay too.

    Major lesson: it’s not high school, no one’s judging you, you’ve all come to learn and have fun, so learn and have fun, why don’t you?:)


  10. Monday, August 18, 2008 7:25 pm

    Another great post and another great contest–hope I win! But don’t enter me this week as I am leaving on Thursday morning for a trip with a friend and won’t be back til Saturday late.


  11. Ann permalink
    Monday, August 18, 2008 9:21 pm

    I get to go to ACFW this year for the first time. I’vee been to much smaller, local conferences and learned a lot so figured this one will probably blow me out of the water. (So to speak)

    When I wrote for teh paper I often went to events to cover them and usually felt like someone on the outside looking in. It will sure be fun to be a participant, not an observer.

    That said, I am feeling some nerve twinges about pitching.


  12. Monday, August 18, 2008 10:03 pm

    I remember my first conference four years ago. I was so nervous, and by the final appointment to pitch my project I realized how much more work I needed to do, and I even called the editor by the wrong name. Her eyes just widened and glazed over insync with mine. At that moment I knew I had run the whole conference on “my” energy and not God’s. He is in the details and it’s definitely necessary to prepare, Prepare, PREPARE, but most importantly, give it to God. “The mind of a man plans his ways but the Lord directs his steps.” Amen!!!!

    I look forward to the pointers to come this week. Thanks for doing this, Kaye!


  13. Jess permalink
    Tuesday, August 19, 2008 2:56 pm

    The title “Is This Seat Taken?” describes perfectly my concerns for going to a conference. I liked that article because it didn’t just talk about what conferences cover, but how the social aspect works. I’m much more likely to go to one now.


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