I'm planning on attending the Big Sur writing workshop, and (as with anything) have been digging online to see the pros and cons. If I were to query the project I bring to Big Sur, (1) should I mention the event to agents? (2) Would they even care? (3) Do you have any tips for events like this?
(3) I have opinions on EVERYTHING!
But let's dig in
(1 and 2)
Attending a writing conference is often a very good use of your resources, both time and money. But it's like many other aspects of becoming a published writer in that it's not something agents consider when they have your query in hand. The first thing they're looking for is "can I sell this?" and second "is this someone I want to work with?"
That you attended any writing conference doesn't really contribute to either of those questions.
The exception is a writing workshop that is application based. Clarion is the best known example. Lots of people want to attend, few are chosen. If you've been selected for Clarion, that's worth mentioning.
(3) Attending a writing conference can do a lot of things for you including getting time with an editor or an agent, and meeting other writers. You'll pick up some good ideas and tips at the panels and workshops and maybe get a chance to ask a question.
If you get time with an editor or agent, bring your written query and ask for feedback. Don't pitch. Ask for help.
Then pay attention to what you hear.
I've had more than one author shut down in cold silence (ie this agent is an idiot but I'm not going to tell her) when I've mentioned their work isn't immediately submitable. When do I get that most often? Word count. For some reason, people who write 250Kword novels all think they are GRRM.
When you go to a panel or workshop, sit in front.
You're more likely to get "picked on" which is GREAT for you cause you're the demo, and it's much more likely the presenter will remember you.
Get the handouts.
Take photos of the slides with your phone.
If the slide is the answer, make sure you note the questions:
SLIDE answer: 120K
Presenter's question: what's the max word count on debut SF novels given you are not GRRM?