Conference Corner: Preparing for BlogHer Writers '11

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BlogHer Writers '11Attending a conference is a big investment in yourself, and you want to make the most of it. You've purchased your conference registration, and taken time off of work to boost your personal work, your future. Now that you've squared away the toughest of the logistics (and bookmarked some fun places to go when you're in town), here are a few homework assignments you might consider doing in advance to get the most out of BlogHer Writers '11.

Research the sessions and the speakers. Check out the descriptions for the sessions.  You may know right away which topics are the ones for you. If not, follow the links for the speakers and see what they've been up to and written lately.  Find out what area the editors are working in, what books they've edited: what genre, what authors? Who's doing work most like the work you're doing, and who do you think you stand to learn the most from?

Read some of their books! This is a writers' conference, and you'll have the chance to listen to all sorts of writers talking about how they approach both the craft and the business of writing. Read what the authors have written, so you can ask more pointed questions and get more focused guidance.  Plus: it will be fun!  If you don't have time to read before you leave, be sure to have at least one BlogHer Writers speaker's book in your bag when you get on the train or plane to head to New York.

Brainstorm a list of your personal and professional goals for the conference. What handful of questions do you most need answered ? Make sure you know them, and ask when you can either at the panels, the keynotes, or the small group mentoring session. Do you want to meet other writers? What sort of ongoing peer network would be the most helpful to you? What would you need to do in order to make that a few steps closer to happening? Do you want to make a connection with an editor or an agent? Go back to what you've learned about who's coming, and commit to following up and introducing yourself to who you'd like to meet.

Practice your elevator pitch.  At BlogHer Writers you'll have many opportunities to describe your book project, where you are in the process of thinking it out, or what you're looking for at this point in your writing career. How would you describe your latest project in a short, Twitter-length statement? How about if you had 140 words rather than 140 characters? The better able you are to describe where you are and articulate what you need, the more likely you'll be to forge great peer networks, and get the valuable advice you need from the small mentoring group after lunch.

Prepare focused questions for your Mentoring session! Come prepared for group mentoring with a one-minute overview of your project/concept/book (i.e. your "elevator pitch") and one or two focused, specific questions or challenges related to it. Each attendee will have the opportunity to ask at least one question. As with any "master class," you can expect to learn as much from the other attendees, their experiences, and the mentor's answers to their questions, as you will learn from working on your own question.

These are just a few ideas. How would you prepare to get the most from this conference?

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