All good things come to an end. It was a happy/sad occasion when our conference coordinator, Darrah Whitaker said those final words, “Well, folks, that’s it. The conference is over.” It was time to say goodbye, hugs all around and head for the parking garage.
For me, it was a simple five mile drive down the road and two right turns to my driveway. For others, it would be a complicated set of airline stops, or maybe very long drives to other states or even countries. We had a few participants from Canada. From the feedback I heard, everyone left satisfied, or at least happy they attended. I’ll probably hear more about what was said on the critique forms in the coming weeks.
As for myself, outside of a disastrous personal matter which put a bit of a damper on the whole proceedings, this was one of the best conferences ever. Of course, I say that every year because they all are, but this one was not a bad one, it was as great if not at least one of the better ones. As for the biggies, let’s start with the agents.
As I told you before in a past article, I left it right until the last moment to look at the faculty to decide if I even was going to pitch. Since I write in multiple genres, I at least had a variety of them to look for. I also didn’t bother months ago because I knew that the faculty list could be fluid and last minute changes, based on past experience, could change. To my great surprise and pleasure, our conference organizers came up with an outstanding list of agents that covered a wide variety of genres. As a result, I had a shopping list!
I won’t name the agents, but as a result, I went through a mad rush going over my old query letters. I whipped them into shape over the next week leading up to the conference even right until Thursday evening, the first day but the day before pitch sessions started. I decided to pitch my fantasy, my icky bug (horror) and my adventure/thriller. The result? Over the two pitch days, Friday and Saturday, I sat down with four agents and got four hits. Not bad at all. Three genres were represented and I got hits for each. That alone made the weekend.
With any conference, for me, pitching isn’t the only reason I attend. In fact, as you may note above, the pitching was a last moment thing and not the primary reason I wanted to attend, though it did end up being a huge chunk of icing on the cake. I really attended to be part of it all, to help out and to network. I wanted to see faces and talk to people, hear their stories and tell mine, learn what they were doing and see if they were doing something I could use. Maybe attend a few classes I haven’t done before. Just be a part of it. It’s my Woodstock, to coin a term that clearly dates me!
As usual, I helped set up the front desk and worked the receipt book for selling raffle tickets and other stuff. I also at least partially changed door signs on the classroom, though Denice Whitmore, another one of our members and a volunteer beat me to it most of the time. She was also a key figure in keeping order at the door and desk when Jo Wilkins, the club president and I were elsewhere. Seeing as I was also a full paid attendee, I did wander off from the desk, especially later Friday and Saturday so Denice was left guarding things.
I attended a few classroom sessions and garnered a bit of useful information. Most of the classes I’ve done before so there wasn’t much for me in that way. However, I could hear plenty of applause at the end of each session and laughter through the doors as well as see smiling faces as people left the rooms, so the faculty seemed to be doing their jobs, for the most part.
One of the best parts was circulating, talking not only to the participants, but the agents. I did both. I picked agents brains, learning what they looked for, how they worked, and what their pet peeves were. I also found out a lot about that during the first-page reads, conducted at the end of Friday’s lunch and dinner. They were great ways to pick up what agents look for in manuscripts and why they would keep reading or reject them.
I’d bump into people with our telltale conference name badge in the hallways, sitting at the tables, or maybe at the donut shop on the other side of the casino and talk to them. Complete strangers bonded together by this conference. Ask them how they were doing, what they write, where they came in from. I met a lot of first time writers, a few with already self-published books looking to go mainstream, some that have written several manuscripts looking for a first time agent and so on. Quite a variety. Met people from Calgary and Vancouver Canada, Minnesota, Arizona, Four Corners, New Mexico, New York, you name it.
I also have a favorite table in the main ballroom, the Virginia City room. Since I worked at the main desk most of the time and didn’t attend many of the classes, I was usually early to the dinners. I always sat at that table just to see who would sit down. It was never the same. Someone new to talk to including once Friday with four agents clustered at my table. Not bad!
The one consistent bit of feedback I heard from those that have been to other conferences is that we have one of the best there is because it is small and relaxed. It’s not a madhouse like some of the bigger ones in Ellay or New Yawk City. I’ve never been to one of those and have no desire to go to one, but after hearing how those are conducted from people that have been to them, I agree. We have a great conference and if you ever get a chance to attend, do so. I highly recommend it. I’m already planning for next year.