10 Ways to Be Awkward at a Writers Conference

My young adult kids overuse the word awkward. As in… they say it a lot. Everything’s awkward, apparently. As a writing conference attendee, and now as faculty, I have learned the true meaning of the word. While the vast majority of folks who attend writing conferences belie the meaning of awkward, there are a few who embody it. In my benevolence, I offer you 10 ways to be awkward — in hopes that you’ll avoid them.

1. Stalk. Follow editors and agents around. Hog their attention. Know too much personal information about them. As my kids say, “creep on them.”

2. Play the God-card. Tell an editor, “God gave me these words; therefore, they are not to be changed. Ever.” Or better yet, “God told me two things: write this book, and when it’s written, it will be a NYT bestseller.”

3. Choose not to learn the industry. Have no business cards (except maybe some index cards with your name scrawled across); ask what a proposal is; spend your time NOT going to workshops, but doing #1.

4. Aggrandize yourself. Tell everyone you’re the next Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, and honestly mean it. Bring an entourage to assure others of your importance.

5. Get noticeably angry when you experience rejection. Throw your pen. Call the agent a name. Huff and puff. (Or more mildly: decide that one rejection means you should quit altogether.)

6. Avoid others writers because they’re your competition. Choose not to realize that those people are actually your best allies in the journey. Stay aloof and unapproachable.

7. Have no strategy for the conference or what you’ll do after it’s over. At the conference, meet with children’s editors even though you write prairie romances. When you leave, have no action points.

8. Don’t follow up. If an editor or agent expresses an interest in your project, neglect sending the project. Ever. Surely they couldn’t mean they wanted to look at it, right?

9. Try to hog the meetings. Steal other people’s slots for one-on-one meetings with industry professionals. Monopolize the conversation at meals with in-depth pitches of your project. Barge in on others’ conversations in the hallway. But don’t capitalize on casual moments that naturally lend themselves to discussion of your book.

10. Forget that editors and agents are people too, and actually enjoy relationship.

So there you have it. No more awkwardneses!

Have you ever been awkward at a conference? What did you learn? What is the most awkward thing you’ve seen at a conference?

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