Understanding Conference Lingo

“I’ve decided to register for the conference,” one of the members of my chapter announced at our last meeting.

“Really? What changed your mind?” I asked.

It turns out that she misunderstood a major selling point of our conference, our faculty. Those of us who have participated in the SCWW conference for several years know that the term faculty refers to the agents, editors, authors, and poets that teach the workshops at our conference. This new member thought that faculty meant members of the SCWW organization teaching workshops! Once she realized the difference she got excited about the conference.

Wow!

This made me wonder about other terms that we toss around. This blog has done a great job on explaining pitches, so that’s one area that I don’t think needs explanation, but I thought of a few others. So, I’m going to try and scrape away the jargon and shed light on two other areas.

Proctors: When you register for the conference, one of the questions you’re asked is would you like to proctor. If you don’t know what that means, you probably left the box blank.

I attended my first SCWW conference in 2007, and I agreed to proctor one session. That means that I made sure that the faculty member (remember that’s our agents, editors, authors, and poets) had everything they needed in the workshop room. If a projector didn’t work or the temperature was uncomfortable, I knew who to contact to fix it. The best part of this opportunity is that you meet the faculty member and introduce them at the beginning of the workshop.

Hello? It’s an opportunity to meet someone on faculty in a service capacity. Now don’t let that word “service” throw you. This is one of the BEST ways to connect with a faculty member. If you give them what they need without promoting yourself to them, they often will ask to help you!

That’s what happened to me in 2007. My faculty member had a bad cold and was losing her voice. I knew that she liked hot tea, so I planned a Starbuck’s run (there’s one in the Hilton lobby) prior to her class, had a pack of tissues on hand, and offered her some homeopathic allergy medication. It helped and she found that she could keep her voice strong enough to get through the day. She tracked me down later and gave me her card. Her words to me? “You helped me, so I want to help you.” And she has.

So, if you did not indicate an interest in proctoring (introducing the faculty, making sure the room is set up and comfortable, etc.), you can still contact the conference chair or co-chair to see if they need more proctors.

Slush Fest: We make a big deal about these every year, but if you’ve never attended one, you might not grasp the benefits. Slush Fests are sessions set up by genre and taught by an agent and an editor who represent that genre. Participants bring up to 2 pages of their manuscript on transparency sheets, and the faculty places them on an overhead projector and evaluates the work. This is done anonymously, so no one else knows that your work is onscreen.

There are limits to how many works will be evaluated in a session, but whether yours is or not, you can still learn valuable information. It’s a rare opportunity to eavesdrop on an agent or editor while they get their first look at someone’s manuscript. Imagine the tips you can pick up!

So, I’ve defined 3 terms: faculty, proctor, and slush fests. Let me know if there are other terms that you find confusing, and I’ll see if I can make things clearer for you.

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