Sunday, July 16, 2006


Vocation or Vacation?

Linda and I are back at our desks this a.m. after spending several whirlwind days in Chicago at the Writers & Editors One-on-One, a limited-attendance annual conference that, as the name suggests, brings writers and editors together to talk magazines, story needs, etc. We loved meeting writers we've only met online, and we thought the conference organizers did a terrific job coordinating 60 or so rowdy attendees' meetings and dinners.

After the event, we shared our observations about writers conferences. OK, we're renegades and all that, but we thought it might be of value to share some rules that do work for us at these events:

  1. Fuzzy Navels are for cruises, not conferences. It can be really easy to confuse a conference in New York, Chicago, or Boston with a vacation: It's not a vacation. It's a business meeting, and a marathon one at that. The rule we follow is No Alcohol. Hey, some people can down a drink or two and everything's fine. Other people have one drink, and let the party begin. That buzz may smooth out your nervousness, but at the cost of impairing your judgment. For us, it's better to confess we're nervous than to wake up the next morning, wondering why our bras are on backwards. (In short: Don't drink and pitch.)

  2. The editors have to impress us. We met a lot of writers who were on the verge of panic before meeting with editors. Of course you want make a great impression and you want them to love your ideas. But you also want to work with an editor who you respect, right? If you're the type of writer who loves a bit of S&M, then skip to the next tip. If you like working with people who respect writers, however, then treat these meetings as an opportunity to figure out, "Is this someone I could work with collaboratively? Would I like them if we worked in an office together? Do they 'get' me? Does their magazine sound writer-friendly?" Sometimes there's simply no "love connection," as my friend Alison likes to say. Listen to your gut. Be picky. Don't be afraid to admit to yourself the relationship isn't a good fit. Focus your energies on an editor and/or magazine where the love is mutual. Which brings us to ...

  3. Editors are humans, too. When you meet them in elevators or sit next to them at dinner, they probably don't want you to pull out a list of story ideas. We saw one writer pitching nonstop at a cocktail party (Editor: "So what do you think of the weather?" Writer: "The weather? That reminds me -- what about a piece on hot air balloons?"). Ask them about their kids or where they grew up or what they think of the current political climate. (Just joking on that last one.) Have a little mercy on them. They may forget you were the kind person who walked with them to dinner, but they will definitely remember the writer who pitched story ideas from a bathroom stall.

  4. Respect others' time. The conference organizers made it clear that everyone has ten minutes with each editor, and when the bell rings, even if you're in the middle of a sentence, you must get up and move on. However, Linda lost two minutes from her first editor meeting because the writer sat there chatting with the editor after the bell rang. In fact she sat there until the organizer went over there and asked her to move on. Every minute you go over your time, another writer loses that minute -- and she paid for the conference, too. If you don't get to finish your conversation with an editor, that's a great excuse to follow up with an e-mail.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?