I attended the wonderful Christian Author's Guild Conference, Catch the Wave, this last weekend, and I want to share some lessons I learned. Caution: This isn’t a post about editing, but it will help you in meeting with editors. The lessons I learned, are positive ones, taught to me by example.
At this conference, the attendees networked, and I believe they did very well. I met several delightful new friends. Yes, I said friends. I don’t set out to network for business. I want to connect with friends, folks that may or may not be able to help me. Therein is the key. When you attend a conference, 75% of your anxiety can be lifted if you look at networking as helping another.
What can you, someone who paid to attend the conference and to meet with agents and editors, do to help others? Here’s a list of “pay it forwards” for conference attendees, faculty, and staff:
v A prayer. I remember last year at a very big conference, I stopped and prayed for several individuals, and several individuals came alongside me and prayed. Several horrible events occurred to me at that conference (and I was staff), but I wouldn’t trade one minute of the time I spent because along with it came lasting friendships and prayers lifted to a Father in Heaven whose timing is perfect. I’m thankful to Him for those friendships. By the end of the conference, I was rejoicing, laughing, and joking because prayers lifted for me asked for joy and wellness. God delivered.
v A smile. At larger conferences, the intensity level is enough to bring a person to their knees. Offering a genuine smile is like giving a person a pill for relaxation.
v A hug. Wrap your arms around someone who has received bad news about their work in progress. Rejoice by embracing someone in a celebratory hug when they’re dancing around because an editor asked to see a partial or full manuscript. Just keep your arms open wide. There’s nothing like a hug to help a hurting heart or to show enthusiasm for another’s great news.
v A kind word. We never know what other emotions another writer might be bringing with them to the conference. They may be attending the conference having left difficult situations at home. A kind word (and a hug) will minister to that person.
v A recommendation. Yes, editors and agents who sit with you during meals do want to hear about your project. If they ask, give them the abbreviated version. Don’t hog the conversation. Let everyone at the table have a chance to talk to the faculty member at your table. If the conversation goes forward, and you get the opportunity to share a recommendation with the editor or agent regarding the work of another, be sure to do so.
v A helping hand. Have you ever noticed the faculty and staff at a conference? They’re running to meet with people, to get their equipment set up for workshops, to find a bottled water before a presentation, and to complete a myriad of other details. Sometimes, just saying, “What can I do for you?” takes some weight off and allows faculty and staff to breathe. Faculty and staff, when you see an attendee struggling under the weight of the conference, coming alongside that attendee can make all of the difference in the world to that person.
v Truth and the ability to handle the truth. If I’m attending a conference, I want the people who meet with me to grow. After all, they’re my old friends and my new friends. They deserve the truth—given to them in a loving manner. Attendees should brace themselves for some hard truths and realize that the person who brings it truly wants to help. You don’t have to take the advice, but graciously say thank you. At the conference this week, I found everyone gracious and thankful. They may have wanted to smack me, but they were, without exception, wonderful to me and my hard words given to them in love.
There you have it: pay it forward and happy editing.