Archives for category: Wisdom

This weekend I attended the Atlanta Writers Conference at the Airport Westin. This conference is very basic in its layout, and if you sign up for the right events, you can get some really great industry feedback. I’ve attended AWC twice so far, and I’ve found that the most worthwhile events are the mixer, the query letter critique, and the pitch sessions.

The mixer is free with your registration for any other conference event, and the agents and editors are obligated to attend. For the cheapest access to the mixer, attendees can sign up for a 30.00 Q&A panel and pay the required Atlanta Writer Club fee, which is 40.00. That would get you into the mixer for 70.00. Yes, for just 70.00 you can spend 3 hours nursing a martini while mingling with 6-8 industry professionals. I’ve made more contacts, and I’ve gotten more requests at this informal event than I have at any other formal pitch event that I’ve attended. Not to mention, I’ve met some of my best writer friends at this mixer.

Another great event is the query letter critique. For 50.00, participants get feedback on their query letter, and at the end of the session, you can always ask your industry professional if s/he would like you to email them your revised query letter. If s/he says “yes,” then you’ve just tacked a successful pitch onto your critique. Way to kill two birds with one stone. Also, when I attended the query letter critique, there were two industry professionals present, which doubled my chances of getting a request.

Lastly, the pitch sessions can be helpful. I had a mixed experience with this event, as the written instructions didn’t match up with what the industry professional was expecting. The person who pitched after me had the same experience, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many others did as well. I’m guessing there was a miscommunication in the written instructions that we’d received. It’s really unfortunate to be in a situation like this, as it can sour the tone for everyone. Even so, the feedback from the pitch sessions is generally helpful.

On the flip side, I’ve talked with conference attendees who’ve expressed feeling disrespected or misinformed by their industry professionals during the pitch events. I’d imagine that this happens a lot at conferences everywhere. Think about it: A handful of weary, travel-worn agents and editors are in constant contact with droves of aspiring writers. Someone is bound to get cranky. It is unfortunate when feelings get hurt, and in my opinion, disrespect of any kind is inexcusable. But who am I?

There are some events at this conference that could benefit from improvement, namely the workshops. I usually pay for these because the titles sound enticing, but I have yet to be impressed by any of the speakers or the content.

I have never attended the manuscript critique, which is the most expensive event, at 150.00. I have nothing to say about this event as of yet.

I also have yet to attend the Q&A panels, but I’ve talked with other attendees who have said that the panels are helpful.

A word of advice to writers who are planning to attend an AWC event. You will maximize your time there if you research the industry professionals beforehand. Chances are that of the 6-8 editors and agents who attend, only 1-2 will be acquiring projects in your genre. I highly recommend studying their Twitter pages, bios, and any other relevant information you can find. Know thy audience, right?

Whether I’ve over-enthusiastically latched on to the first person I met in grade school, or rigorously tried to follow in the footsteps of the writers I love, I’m guilty of having ridden a coattail or two in my life. Coattail riding is helpful, especially when you’re new to something, but too much riding can prevent you from finding your own way, in life and in your career. At some point, you’ve got to spread your own wings, or as some would say, cut the umbilical cord.

Below are 5 signs to help you identify coattail riding in your life. If you see yourself exhibiting any of these signs, then I encourage you to take steps to shedding the training wheels…like right now.

1) You mimic your friend/colleague’s every move. When I first became a full-time writer, I made friends with a published author, and I tried to find out everything I could about how she got to where she was in her career. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of information gathering. In fact if you’re an aspiring anything, I highly encourage that you talk to successful people in your field, to find out more about their journey. However, such information gathering can morph into coattail riding if you strive to do everything in the same way that you’re friend did. It’s fine to borrow wisdom and principles from others, but avoid using someone else’s journey as a blueprint for yours.

For instance, one principle that I learned from my writer friend is that it’s important to attend writing conferences. And while I may attend some of the same conference that she goes to, I also attend others that interest me. Now my friend and I have doubled the information between us. I can tell her about my conferences, and she can tell me about hers.

2) You drop your successful friend’s name into conversations and emails whenever you can. I am guilty as charged here. As an undergrad, I studied under a relatively famous poet, whom will go unnamed. I used this professor’s name every time that I could, hoping to dazzle my way to literary popularity. But I’ve come to realize that at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how well your famous friends or teachers write. You will be judged by how well you write. Plus, you might scare off your other friends if you keep name dropping. Either, they’ll feel intimidated by your prestige, or they’ll think you’re arrogant. A few of your buddies might be awestruck by the names you drop, but if you keep at it, you might be left with an entourage, rather than a solid group of friends.

3) You feed into your friend’s love of flattery. Chances are that the friend whose footsteps you’re following, or whose name you keep dropping, will be flattered by your attention. You may be tempted to feed this person’s love of flattery. Don’t do it. You’ll become his/her entourage then, and you and this friend will never develop a balanced relationship.

4) Your successful friend sees you as a charity case. On the other hand, the person you admire might see you as needy. You tirelessly leach information, and your friend doesn’t find this flattering at all. In fact, it’s bordering on pathetic. She hates to see you in this way and continues to meet with you out of pity. Again, your relationship is imbalanced.

5) You feel like you have nothing valuable to offer to others. At this point, your coattail riding is so bad that you see yourself as a charity case. You grow bitter about your lowly position at the bottom of the ladder, and you doubt that you have anything valuable to offer to others. Reality: You may be lower on the totem pole than others, but your experiences are unique–different from anyone else’s. In that sense, you have an infinitude of information to offer. Even if you can’t express yourself as eloquently as your successful friend does, or if you have nothing to offer her career-wise, your experiences are valuable in some other way.

For example, your life might provide interesting writing material for your friend, or your quirky obsession with gourmet tea might add depth and richness to your conversations.

Remember, relationships are rarely all business. Someone has to keep things interesting, and that someone can be you. Just let go of those coattails and take flight in your own special way.