As an author, I research personality traits and emotions so my characters will come across as realistic, especially when they’re thrown into the new situations that normally kick off an adventure. Normally they’ll experience a modicum of fear. Fear is a funny thing. It can make us laugh, cry, and render us quiet. When we’re in new situations, like attending a conference for the first time, it’s both exciting and nerve-wracking. Maybe you’re someone who loves the newness of adventure, who just takes those butterflies in your stomach and uses them to go full-force and take on the challenge! If that’s you, please write a book. I need to know your secret.
But you might be feeling a bit apprehensive. Concerned with how you’ll fit in, how in the world you’ll talk with people, with whether you’ll meet the right people — your people. Will they like you? Will they accept you? What if you’re not published enough, or haven’t written the right stuff? Those feelings can even bother those of us who have been to conferences before.
So if you’re attending Realm Makers for the first time and you’re nervous, here are some things to keep in mind:
You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take. – Wayne Gretzky
Hockey and writing have a few similarities. Very, very few. But when you have the chance to do something, take full advantage of it and embrace it, even if you’re not sure you’ll succeed. I struggle with not wanting to fail, which can be crippling for a writer. But unfortunately for me, trial and error is a constant in this career.
You’re paying for your experience at this conference, so you should get the most you can out of it, right? If you have the opportunity to talk with a mentor or an editor, prepare your one sheet, your synopsis, whatever the editor is asking for, and then go for it. You might be tempted to hold back this time, and maybe tell yourself you’ll pitch something next year. If you’re nervous, that’s okay. It’s a natural response, but don’t let it control you. No one will ridicule you for pitching a historical drama about a velociraptor whose life dream is to become a ballerina and perform for Napoleon. We might smile. But you should probably expect it with a premise like that.
If you’re going to pitch, do your research on that editor or publisher. If you’re excited to meet new friends, mentally prepare some questions to ask people you meet– ask about their favorite genre, what they’re hoping to get from Realm Makers, and who their favorite instructor at the conference has been. If you want to talk with the instructors, research them, too.
Bring books along that you’d like to get signed. Bring something fun (or unique) to wear to the costume banquet. I’ll be sporting a silly t-shirt and jeans. And if you’re coming for the classes, make sure you’ve got your preferred writing utensils — and don’t be afraid to bring more than you need. Two Realm Makers ago, my laptop croaked in the middle of the best marketing session I’d ever attended. Don’t get caught without a backup notebook and pen! Sometimes the basics are worth it to keep around.
I know, sometimes it’s easier said than done, right? But if you want to get the most from any new situation, it’s best to embrace it. If you have some roommates who already know each other, that’s okay. They probably didn’t know each other at one point. Ask when they’re grabbing dinner, or find them when you’re choosing a seat. Don’t limit yourself to only hanging out with the first people you meet. We’re a very diverse crew, and other newbies as well as “veterans” love to chat about fandoms, theories, and writing processes. Wear your nametag. Find others who have similar genres that they write in, or find someone who writes something you’ve never heard about and ask them about it.
Some of my favorite friends I’ve met have been because of going to conferences. I met the Crosshair Press team at a writing workshop in Colorado, because my mom (yes, my mom), pushed me to talk with new people.
Don’t be like me. Don’t wait for your mom to tell you to go play with the other kids when you’re 20-something. Because then you get to write about it for the internet to see. And it’s humbling, to say the least.
If nothing else, I can give you a tip for starting a conversation at Realm Makers. It probably won’t work everywhere else. All you have to do is take a breath, walk up to someone, and say, “Hi. Do you prefer Star Wars or Star Trek?” and hold on.
May the Force be with you.