“CONFESSIONS OF A WRITERS’ CONFERENCE VIRGIN” by Deborah A. Rankine

You’d think being on a writers’ conference organizing committee two years running, I’d have an insider’s edge on how to prepare for a blue-pencil session or a myriad of networking opportunities with potential agents, editors and publishers. A head’s up, if you will, to polish my pitch so seamlessly that industry movers and shakers leapfrog over one another to get to me, their next runaway best-selling author.

Not so much.

Whether you’re a seasoned writers’ conference attendee or first-time-out-of-the-gate, here are some things to consider as you prepare for the 2010 Ontario Writers’ Conference on May 1st, at the stunningly beautiful Deer Creek Golf and Banquet Facility in Ajax, Ontario.

What should you expect from your 2010 Ontario Writers’ Conference experience?

Wearing long sleeves? Roll them up! This is a “working” conference for writers at all stages of their craft. No talking heads here! Whether your writing consists of weekly grocery lists, nightly journaling, or oodles of manuscripts awaiting notice, there’s always something new to learn about the craft of writing. From building believable characters to creating the perfect scene to discovering the best tense for your words, the Ontario Writers’ Conference gives you nine get-working workshops from which you’ll choose three to attend throughout the day. Factor in a publishing panel discussion, a personal fifteen-minute blue pencil session with the editor of your choice (first-come, first-served), the conference’s networking shindig “Festival of Authors” readings and marketplace—hosted in a laid-back coffee-house style—and you’ll be well on your way to honing your unique writer’s voice.

You won’t go hungry! Deer Creek Golf and Banquet Facility’s detail-oriented reputation coupled with meticulous service, spacious meeting rooms and superb cuisine will endear OWC delegates to Deer Creek for years to come. Conference participants will enjoy sumptuous, seasonally charged meals and specially prepared refreshments (as outlined in the conference program) crafted by some of the top chefs in the region.

You’ll be enveloped by kindred spirits. Like-minded thinkers know what it’s like to agonize over a dangling participle, be consumed by a simile, or be wracked by the perfect metaphor.

How can you get the most bang for your buck?

Set your expectations in reality. Remember, in the arts, in general, it takes 10 years to become an overnight success. Use this time wisely. In a blue-pencil session, for example, think in terms of getting invaluable feedback from a professional in the industry. The critique is a gift of his or her time. Use the critique as a jumping-off point to improve your work. Don’t take it personally. This editor, that publisher, wants to publish…you! EVERYTHING they say is meant to help you realize your full potential as a writer.

Learn more about the industry. Take meticulous notes during the industry panel discussions. Publishing is an ever-changing word business, struggling to stay financially viable in a 21st-century techno-world of downloaded freebies and everyone’s-got-an-opinion critiques that could cripple an emerging writer’s ability to earn a living.

Hone your 30-second elevator pitch. Describe what your book is about in 30 seconds or less. Make it a “verbal” page-turner.

Promise yourself you’ll revisit the work you created in the workshops. Mine those nuggets of inspiration and apply them to your work-in-progress or future writerly musings.

Most importantly, have fun! Learning, networking and cementing new friendships with other writers will help pave the way to your publishing success.

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