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Amber Miller Asks: What do you do during down-time at a writing conference?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

All right, so you’ve been following this blog for nearly 3 weeks now. Or perhaps you haven’t, but you were interested in learning more about conferences in preparation for attending one. You might have even thought you heard it all up to now. How to pitch, how to plan, how to prepare, how to get over your nerves, making the most of appointments, the spiritual benefits of attending, etc.

But what about what to do when you’re not doing anything? I know, I know. You’re probably thinking there won’t be any time like that. But, trust me. As a veteran conference attendee and even one who has helped plan some, I can promise you there *will* be down time. And no, it won’t only be when you’re catching those few winks at night. It might not be much, and you might have to be paying close attention to notice it when it happens. Still, it’ll be there.

So, what do you do when it comes?

Well, some will say you should take a walk, or visit the prayer room if attending ACFW, go for a swim or take a nap. Those are all excellent options, and I’d like to add one more. Mill about and do some observation. People-watching can be an excellent and stress-free exercise, and you might even find some material for your next story!

You’ll also likely find someone else who might be just as nervous or perhaps feeling as out of place as you at that moment. Perhaps the two of you could meet, introduce yourselves and strike up a conversation. If you go into this down-time with an expectant frame of mind, God can do mighty and wondrous things to put the icing on the cake of your conference experience.

You might encounter an author who writes books you might love to read, but never knew before. You could meet another attendee who is looking for a little reassurance or even just a smile from someone who can relate. You might even bump into an editor or agent whose schedule and table had been full. This time could produce a fantastic opportunity you might not have had if you had been focusing your attention elsewhere and trying to fill every waking moment with something conference-related.

I know how easy it is to get overwhelmed and feel like you have to attend every workshop, every meeting, and be on time or early for every part. But sometimes the best parts of the conference happen outside of the “planned” aspects. That’s usually when the most memorable things happen too!

For example, a great deal of fun takes place in the lobby at all times during the conference. You’ll encounter the rest of the veteran conferees who know the value of capitalizing on down-time, and you might even meet a new friend.

Another suggestion would be to head to the bookstore and browse through the books. Check out the freebie table there as well. Some great deals can be found, or information you’ve been wanting. You could also be standing at one of the tables with a book display only to meet another reader who loves the same books. You might also find someone there who is in need of a friend or kind word. Be aware and alert for ways you can bless someone else even while you’re being blessed by others.

Most importantly, take time to digest everything and make down-time for yourself. Don’t do too much, and don’t kick yourself if you feel you didn’t get the “full” experience. Go with an open mind and an open heart, and you’re sure to come back having received the best that you could receive.

And if you find yourself wandering about during down-time, come fine me. I’ll likely be hanging out in the lobby.


AMBER MILLER is a freelance Web designer and author whose articles and short stories have appeared in local, national, and international publications. Her writing career began as a columnist for her high school and college newspapers. Her first publication in a book appeared in the form of nine contributions (as a single!) to 101 Ways to Romance Your Marriage by Debra White Smith. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Historical Romance Writers. Some of her hobbies include traveling, music, movies, and interacting with other writers. At age three, she learned to read and hasn’t put down books since. Recently married, she lives with her husband and fellow writer, Stuart, in beautiful Colorado Springs. Her first book, Promises, Promises, is currently available from HeartSong Presents. Visit her website to learn more or to contact her:

  1. Thursday, September 4, 2008 11:32 am

    Thanks for the crit, Kaye. I can’t wait to get your helpful comments! And thanks to Tiff for her super advice. Will you be wearing your tiki bird shoes so everyone can find you in the crowd? LOL


  2. Thursday, September 4, 2008 5:20 pm

    LOL! Of course. But again, likely only after supper. We’ll see how my feet are.


  3. Thursday, September 4, 2008 6:38 pm

    I can’t wait to see you there, Tiff. Last year some of the best times I had were in the lobby of the hotel meeting people and watching the world go by.


  4. Thursday, September 4, 2008 6:40 pm

    Down time? Really? We’ll have down time??? Wow…

    Great reminders, Girl:-) Thanks!


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