Have you ever been surprised by what you’ve learned at a conference? A couple of my meetings I’ve had over the years surprised me. To wit:
A few years ago, I interviewed a novelist at a fifteen-minute appointment. I read through her summary, and realized that the theological position of the story wouldn’t fit with most CBA houses. I made several suggestions on how to bring the story in line.
Her eyes widened. “I can’t do that.”
“Well, then I don’t think your writing is a good fit for the Christian market. I think you should try the secular market.”
I braced myself for an argument, but instead, the tension left her face. “I had a feeling. Thank you.” Her step showed a noticeable bounce as she exited.
So even though the conference wasn’t a success as far as finding a publisher or agent, she was successful in firming up her place in publishing. I would count this as time well spent.
Agent or Editor?
At another conference, a sweet young thing came to her appointment with me, saying she had nothing to pitch. She wanted to find out what it’s like to be a literary agent.
I was happy to share my thoughts with her.
After I concluded, I asked, “So, do you think you’d like to be an agent?”
She shook her head. “No. It’s too much business. I want to play with words.”
I couldn’t put up a good argument that agents primarily play with words all day. The way we play with words is quite different than the way a full-time editor or writer plays with words. Sweet Young Thing and I ended the appointment with (I think) both of us feeling we had accomplished much.
Sometimes, you really do need to know what you don’t know. A conference can be part of the process of finding out.
What is the most surprising discovery you have made at a conference?
Has going to a conference caused you to alter your career path?