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Erica Vetsch Helps Us Keep the Wheels Turning After Conference

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

With the ACFW Conference fast approaching, I find myself getting more and more excited. I can’t wait to see friends, to hear the keynote speaker, and to soak up information in the workshops.
But conferences can be a two-edged sword. Last year I had an amazing time and made memories that will be with me for a lifetime. Four non-stop days of talking, breathing, living writing; what author could ask for more?

Then I came home. For four months I floundered, overwhelmed by all I had learned and not knowing how to apply it to my writing. I was a victim of Post-Conference Funk. Here are a few steps I plan to take to ensure I don’t spin my wheels when conference is over this year.

Before conference:

1. Pray. You might think this seems like a no-brainer, but I’m spiritually ADD and need constant reminders of the simplest things. Soak your conference preparations in prayer. Ask God to accomplish His will through you at the conference and not your own. Ask Him to begin preparing you for all that comes after a conference.

2. Prepare. Do your part to be ready. Finish your manuscript. Practice your pitch, research the editors and agents, open your heart and get ready for God to fill it.

3. Plan. Select your workshops and sessions knowing that there is no conference police who will demand you attend every last one of them. I know conferences are expensive and you want to get the most out of the experience, but you also have to plan to pace yourself. Know that you can take a session off to regroup, catch your breath, and recharge your batteries.

While at the conference:

1. Meet people. Connect with people. Swap business cards and email addresses. This will be key later in the year.

2. Take lots of notes. You’re here to learn, so learn! Be open-minded, knowing that not every teaching tip will fit your genre, style, or preference. Try to be as clear as possible on your note-taking so you can go back later and understand what you meant when you filled in that handout.

3. Take a camera and make like Annie Liebowitz. Take photos of your friends and crit partners and workshop teachers. Snap shots of your favorite authors, or better yet, have someone use your camera to get a photo of you with your favorite authors.

After the conference:

1. Realize that a feeling of let-down is normal. Whenever we finish something we’ve been eagerly anticipating, it is normal to feel a little let-down afterwards. If you anticipate it, this let-down feeling won’t bushwhack you and leave you wondering what to do to climb out of it.

2. Remember that you will have to return to your daily routine, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes when we have a ‘mountaintop experience’ like a writer’s conference, once we return to real life, it can be easy to slip into a disgruntled dissatisfaction with our daily grind that makes us snarky and petulant. This kind of attitude stifles creativity and makes our family seriously reconsider whether they want us to ever attend another of those conferences that make us so hard to get along with afterward. Instead, be thankful that you were able to go to a conference, and be grateful for the family and routine that God has given you.

3. Realize that you can’t implement everything you learned in every session or workshop all in the first week after you get home from the conference. Remember when you get home that you will be on information overload. It is okay to put your notes away for awhile and get them out once you are rested and recovered from the conference. (Once you are caught up on the laundry and housework that piled up while you were gone, and once you’ve spent some time with your loved ones who missed you and want to spend time with you.) The notes and handouts will still be there when you’re back in your daily routine.

4. Set realistic goals and strive to meet them. If you received a request for a proposal or full manuscript, make that a priority. Tidy up that manuscript and get it sent out. Don’t miss this golden opportunity that you worked so hard for. Then, once our manuscript is on its way, get back into your word count goals and write every day. Don’t let yourself be stopped by doubts and insecurities which seem to flourish after a conference. You’ve basked in the teaching of some of the industry’s best authors, and the temptation will be to compare your work with theirs, or your WIP with the ‘ideal’ way of writing presented in the classes. The temptation will loom large to change everything about your style, voice, and storyline. But remember, not everything said in the workshops will be helpful to you. Weigh each suggestion or tip against what has worked for you in the past. Consider your motive for making changes before you go in and hack up your manuscript. If you’re trying something just because Star Author said so in her workshop, then wait and mull over that item a bit longer. Seek the advice of your critique partners, try making a small change and running it by them instead of rewriting your entire manuscript then finding out it doesn’t work for you.

5. Pace yourself and refresh your memories of the good times you had. When you are down, pull out your pictures of the conference and remember those good feelings. Get out those business cards and email addresses you collected and use them. Visit blogs, leave comments, send emails to people you met at the conference and keep those relationships you began there alive. If you don’t belong to a critique group, a conference is a great way to find those most precious creatures. The friendships you make at the conference can be some of the sweetest of your writing career; people who ‘get’ writing, who will celebrate your successes, and who will prop you up through the down times.

6. Purchase the conference recordings. Use these recorded workshops to refresh your memory. Recapture some of the excitement of the conference by listening to classes you might have missed. If you think you can’t afford to buy the entire series by yourself, consult your critique partners. Perhaps you can pool your resources and rotate the recordings amongst yourselves as the year unfolds.

I hope these tips help you as you prepare for the before, during, and aftermath of attending a conference. If you see me at the conference, flag me down.

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Erica Vetsch lives with her husband and two children in Rochester, MN. She is a home-school teacher, bookkeeper, and fan of western movies. She belongs to the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Association, the Writer’s View, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, and the Minnesota Historical Society. Erica is a three-time Genesis Contest finalist. She has recently completed her seventh novel. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Calvary Bible College and has been a librarian and high school history teacher. You can visit Erica at www.onthewritepath.blogspot.com

6 Comments
  1. Wednesday, September 3, 2008 10:07 am

    Purchasing conference recordings is a great idea. There’s just no way to take it all in, even in the sessions you actually attend. *s*

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  2. Jess permalink
    Wednesday, September 3, 2008 10:27 am

    I think my favorite one is number 3 in After the Conference.

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  3. Wednesday, September 3, 2008 1:00 pm

    Erica, this is excellent advice! I’ve been working so hard to prepare that I hadn’t thought about the aftermath yet, even though last year I did experience a bit of the post-conference blues.

    Great reminder and great insight. Thanks!

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  4. Wednesday, September 3, 2008 2:18 pm

    I’ve certainly experienced this before, but never knew it’s name–Post-Conference Funk! LOL Thanks for all the tips, Erica for before, during, and after conference. Hope to see you there!

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  5. Thursday, September 4, 2008 6:25 am

    Great advice Erica. For the last two years I’ve enjoyed the ACFW conference, but learned the hard way not to overdo it because I became tired and overstressed. Now I just go and have fun, learn as much as I can, and really ask God to give me what I need from this conference to make me a better writer.
    Keep up the good work. And I would love to meet you at the conference.
    Janice

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  6. Thursday, September 4, 2008 2:47 pm

    The thing I dread the most is the after-conference let down, but that’s just the pessimist in me. Or it’s just from looking forward to the conference for 51 weeks out of the year!

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