In the Writing World, Little Fish Have Ears

I just returned from mentoring at my third conference this summer. I love/hate conferences–swimming in a sea of writers and authors all trying to impress. When you’re a new writer, i.e. lowest on the food chain, you’re pressured to attend them–everyone knows it’s the key to meeting that agent or editor. And conferences are a wealth of valuable experience, contacts and content.
Writing Tip for Today: After you’ve attended conferences several times, or you finally publish, you stop being plankton and evolve into a fish. A little fish, but a fish. At the conference I attended this week, I connected with a number of little fish. We had our own school of the little fish. And our biggest challenge was getting noticed while the really BIG fish patrolled the conference waters, creating a splash.
If you’re plankton or a little minnow, be careful how you approach the Big Fish. Hints:

  • Don’t Outwear Your Welcome. Three-day old fish stinks and so do conferees who shove their synopses into the Big Fish’s face. Over-aggressive networking is going to leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth–even that whale of a famous author. Sign up for appointments and in general don’t be pushy. Preface any meeting with, “Do you have a minute?” And then keep it to a minute.
  • Stay in School. Even well-published midlist authors can still learn. The writing craft takes years to master. Take as many classes or workshops from your favorite Big Fish as possible.
  • Don’t be Fish Food. I’ve been to so many conferences where writers pounce on the Big Fish during meals. Although I realize this is a great opportunity to network, stay aware of the agent/editor/author’s last big bite of lunch. And then give that poor Big Fish time to chew!
  • Swim Upstream, but Remember the Minnow Pool. As you make your way up the writer’s food chain, you may eventually become a Big Fish yourself. I don’t know about writer karma, but if you treat others as you wish to be treated, you are more likely to become one of those big cuddly fish who keep their babies safe in their mouths, instead of ruling the writing ocean like a Great White, swallowing whole all the fish in the sea.

Who’s your favorite Big Fish Author?

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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