Conference FAQ – Carrie McCullough

Having been the conference co-chair in 2008 and the conference chair 2009-2011, I received a lot of questions and came up with some of my own. Here’s my Top 10 list of questions a veteran attendee, or a first-time attendee, might have.

Q: What’s the difference between the basic and complete packages?

A: The basic package does not include meals. It’s just the sessions Saturday and Sunday. The complete package includes Friday dinner through Sunday breakfast. Neither package includes the Friday intensive sessions.

Q: What harm is it for me to listen to the speakers Friday and Saturday nights, if I don’t buy a dinner ticket and promise not to eat?

A: If that were an option, who would pay for dinner? In order to receive our meeting space and a great rate, we agree to purchase a specific amount of food. Also, there’s a great atmosphere created by food that allows for warmer conversations with the faculty. There really is something about “breaking bread.”

Q: What’s the difference between a pitch, a critique and a real-time query?

A: A pitch is a 10-minute meeting with an agent or editor. You have five minutes to pitch your manuscript and the faculty member has five minutes to respond, ask questions or request materials. A critique involves you sending a sample (either the first 10 pages or the first 30 pages) by the Sept. 1 deadline. At the conference, you’ll have a 20-minute meeting with the faculty member who will provide feedback and might ask you for more material. Finally, a real-time query involves a 15-minute meeting with a faculty member who will critique your query letter, as though it just landed on his/her desk.

Q: The agents who rep my genre don’t have any appointments left. Why can’t I just see someone else?

A: The conference chair and co-chairs make specific contracts with the faculty members. The majority of the faculty members are quite specific about the genres they will or won’t read. To place something outside of their genres is in conflict with their contracts and just isn’t professional.

Q: I know the conference chair says SCWW is sold out of pitches with my dream agent. Why can’t she just squeeze me in the schedule?

A: As I mentioned in the genre question, the faculty members have specific contracts. As much as the conference planners would like to please all of the attendees, it can’t be done at the cost of compromising contracts.

Q: Why does it cost more to attend the sessions Friday? I have a critique that day and don’t see the harm in sneaking into a session.

A: The intensive sessions Friday are bonus offerings to give writers one-on-one time with professionals. Unlike the sessions Saturday and Sunday, you’ll have a more intimate experience, and the opportunity to ask in-depth questions and receive detailed instruction. It comes at a cost to SCWW. If everyone slipped into sessions Friday, it would be impossible for SCWW to cover their commitments.

  1. Q: I’m registered for the conference, but I really need my spouse/writing partner/ghost writer to take notes for me or attend my critique with me. Is that OK?

A: Everyone who attends a session or appointment time must be registered for the conference. If someone has traveled with you and wants to experience some of the conference, but not attend sessions, you may purchase meal tickets for your guest when you register.

Q: Is it OK to register at the conference?

A: It is, but, if possible, register in advance. The line at the registration desk can get quite long Friday and Saturday mornings. That way we’ll have a name tag and attendee bag waiting for you.

Q: This is my first conference. What should I attend?

A: There’s no formula answer to this. First, it’s a good idea to find sessions that involve your genre. Also, attending a session conducted by your dream agent or an editor at your dream house might help. Finally, consider the intensive sessions offered Friday. These offer an opportunity to really get into some nuts and bolts of writing, polishing your writing, submitting and promoting.

Q: I’m not fromSouth Carolina. Will I stand out like a sore thumb?

A: You’re not alone! Each year, writers travel from all over theUnited States(and oftenCanada) to join us inMyrtle Beach,South Carolina. If you’d like to get to know some of the volunteers and SCWW members, consider joining the SCWW Facebook pages (SCWW and 2012 SCWW Conference). Also, follow SCWW on Twitter(@scwwsecretary) to get updates and feel more like a member of the family.

So, there you have it. Ten frequently asked questions. I remember how overwhelming it felt the first time I attended a conference. However, there’s a lot to be said for taking a deep breath and jumping in the deep end of the publishing world.

If you have more questions, be sure to email or call Ginny Padgett at or Kia Goins at They’re great planners and will be more than happy to walk you through the registration jungle.

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2 Responses to Conference FAQ – Carrie McCullough

  1. Kia says:

    Great points, Carrie. Thanks for sharing these.

  2. Monet says:

    I wish I had read this before attending the conference last year, thank you Carrie.

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