Tips For Attending A Writing Conference

by Marinka on October 17, 2011

Later this week I will be attending the first ever writing conference sponsored by BlogHer and Penguin in NYC.

Obviously I am excited! This is a stepping stone to a literary career and I expect to come out of it with a few agents, a bidding war and a Pulitzer Prize in Yet Unwritten Works.

Here are some of the tricks that I’m planning to use at the conference. Feel free to borrow them as well!

1. Don’t overthink your “elevator pitch.” Traditionally an elevator pitch is a few to-the-point and memorable sentences about your proposed book that will wow the literary agent/publisher that you are talking to in a few minutes.

Why not kill a few birds with the same stone by pulling the emergency brake on the elevator thereby trapping yourself with your target in that metal coffin? Now that you’re safely encased mid-air, you will have your hostage’s complete attention and can explain in detail all your ideas without the pesky inconvenience of time constraints. And no need to worry about being memorable!

2. Make sure to refer to your proposal as your manifesto. It has that certain fringe effect that the publishing community really goes for!

3. Mention that you don’t like to be hampered by spelling and grammar rules. It worked for e.e.cummings and it’s just a matter of time before it makes a comeback! Ride that wave.

4. Hint that others have plagiarized your work. This works especially well if the others are writers like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and Charles Dickens. Go big or go home.

5. Be confident. This is not the time to be a shrinking violet. When speaking to an agent or an editor, say things like “you are very fortunate to have an audience with me.”

6. If someone asks you what books you enjoy reading, say, “I love my own writing and am constantly inspired by it.”

7. Do not make eye contact. Writers are recluses and you have to act the part.

8. Do not shower. Writers are recluses without hot water and you have to smell the part.

9. Mention that you are good friends with famous writers. If pressed for names, hint that you and Thomas Pynchon often go clubbing together in the Meatpacking District.

10. When introduced to published writers, say “never heard of you.” They will appreciate it because it will make them feel like regular people.

11. At the cocktail reception on Thursday night, drink as much as possible. This will guarantee that you will look and feel your best!

12. Make an impression. Asking “so where’s the publishing world’s casting couch, because I need to lay down!” is a fine throwaway line.

13. Refer to yourself in the third person. This can also be filed under General Life Advice.

14. If someone expresses an interest in your work, show your business savvy. A simple, whoa there, Salieri will let everyone know that you’ve got their number. Make sure to carry a cease and desist letter with you just in case. Have the letter copyrighted.

15. If you are working on a memoir about growing up in the former Soviet Union, work in a mention that you’re happy to take some of that poetic license you keep hearing so much about and work in a sub-plot of gender reassignment or whatever else is trending that week.

Good luck! See you at the conference. Or at the National Book Awards.

One year ago ...

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

October 17, 2011 at 7:19 am

I fancy myself a bit of a list expert and rate this one : “laminate and display”. Must say I have been dedicating a lot of time and effort to #3 and in this day and age it goes unnoticed by humans. Phones and iPads. However still care about our typos. Like right now, my phone is doing flips over the word typo.
May I suggest a candy bar to go with the lift plan. Some cavity causing treats will never go amiss in a life threatening situation.


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes October 17, 2011 at 7:25 am

I could add: if someone asks you about the sales figures for your book tell them that such mundane stuff doesn’t interest you, you have enriched the world with your wisdom and witt and that is all that matters.


October 17, 2011 at 8:43 am

I was supposed to be there, Marinka.

I’m so sad I can’t go at this time.

I would’ve been beaming to see you and would’ve done the whole list of don’ts: beginning with: GRIN LIKE AN IDIOT WHEN YOU MEET SOMEONE WHO BLOGS THAT YOU REALLY, REALLY LIKE…followed by: TELL THAT PERSON OVER AND OVER “I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU.”

Yeah, ’tis best that I stay home with my manila folder full of essays.

Till next time.

GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!! I HOPE I HOPE something good and surprising comes of it.

Ask if they’ve read your blog. B/C if they’ve read your blog: it’s as good as a solid handshake done deal.

You kick ass here.


October 17, 2011 at 9:11 am

What about:
Catch the eye. If you have a cat, wear him/her on your shoulder. It lets people know you have personality.


October 17, 2011 at 10:53 am



annie October 17, 2011 at 10:22 am

I can see you’re going to be a HUGE success!! Don’t forget us.


October 17, 2011 at 10:39 am

Don’t forget big warm hugs and juicy kisses! Let those agents and editors know they’re appreciated.


Avitable October 17, 2011 at 10:40 am

Avitable thinks you’ve got the right idea.


Rita Arens October 17, 2011 at 10:52 am

I have nothing to add as you’ve so clearly already pegged it. See you soon!


October 17, 2011 at 10:53 am

Love this list.

Also, try speaking in rhymes. It works most times.


October 17, 2011 at 12:14 pm

One point that announces you as an amateur is your advice to trap the victim/agent in the elevator. That is such an old gimmick, exactly the way James Joyce nabbed his first publisher. Modern times require modern means. My method of choice is this: I intend to tweet the agent while she is sitting on the toilet in the women’s room, asking her — in the tweet — if she would read my material…. but, and this is important, before she has a chance to answer me, I slip the manuscript under the bathroom stall until it reaches her, announcing out loud that my iPhone just ran out of juice, so I assumed she would respond “Or course I want to read it! Send it over ASAP.”


Miss Britt
October 17, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I plan on drinking a lot on Thursday night because everyone loves me best drunk!

That’s how I got my first baby, so I figure it should work for my first book deal.


October 17, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Ilana is wondering why she never thought of elevator sabotage. Ilana thinks that is an amazing way to fully showcase everything that is wonderful about her new vampire zombie unicorn trilogy.


October 17, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Yeah, you laugh. I actually wrote “The Stand” in utero (though it was called “Good Versus Evil in a Post-AIDS World”)
and I’ve had some very contentious emails with King ever since.


the mama bird diaries
October 17, 2011 at 11:20 pm

“If someone asks you what books you enjoy reading, say, “I love my own writing and am constantly inspired by it.”” LOVE THIS.


elizabeth-flourish in progress
October 19, 2011 at 2:47 pm

I’ve printed this list out for the next writers conference I attend. I’m going to put in extra commitment to number 8. I bet it’ll give me a real edge. Have a wonderful time this weekend!!


October 19, 2011 at 7:26 pm

My comment here is simply a reflection of my desire to someday be included in the dedication page of your best selling novel. (You know, like buying ad space on your blog but even BIGGER!)


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