Thursday, June 12, 2014

Writers Conference Preparedness

I had a smashing time at my first writers conference last weekend! 

Part of the reason for that is in the preparation. 

In this post I've compiled some tips I gleaned from online and from my recent personal experience for your convenience. (This post is for anyone who is wondering what I wondered before I went.) :)

First, let me say, if you've never considered attending a writers conference, consider it. The thrill and sense of community, not to mention motivational speeches and workshops on craft, are enough to produce a long-lasting writing wave at the very least, and will provide you with tools for continued success.

With my first writer's conference fresh in mind, I give you 3 things that helped me. 
What to Pack. 
What to Know. 
What to Do. 

--If anyone has anything to add to this list, please, for the sake of all writers everywhere, list it in the comments below. :)

To Pack:
  • folder
  • one-sheet with your info, hook, blurb, and writing credits
  • notebook and a pen that writes (usually these are provided at registration)
  • just enough clothes (hauling unnecessary luggage is no fun), but bring a sweater since conference rooms can be cold
  • an empty bag for the books you will buy
  • earplugs and sleeping mask (if you have a roomie)
  • Poo-Pourri toilet spray (self explanatory) -- Inexpensive DIY recipe here.
  • letter-size envelope to keep others' business cards in
  • business cards
  • blank slips of paper for getting info from those who don't have biz cards
  • camera
  • granola bar or your favorite energy snack
  • tissues (you never know)
  • comfortable shoes -- you'll do a lot of walking
  • conference schedule, with desired workshops highlighted and room numbers noted
  • book of short devotionals
  • a sense of humor (carefully remove the chip from your shoulder and leave it at home)
  • a smile -- it can do wonders to make YOU feel better and others around you
  • moxie

To Know:
  • Know Your Expectations. Make a list of what you want to get out of the conference. For example: Pitch to agent, Meet new authors, Learn more about writing historicals, Get so-and-so to sign his/her book.
  • Know which workshops or agent/editor appointments you want to attend ahead of time. 
  • Know what you will say when you meet someone new: "What do you write?" "What kind of book do you love to edit?" "What kind of writers do you like to represent?" 
  • Know that your plans can change for the better. (I never intended to pitch anything last weekend, but the opportunity opened, and I now have two requests for more. Yay!)
  • Know that a little courtesy and consideration of others will get you a long way and open even more doors for connection and networking.

To Do:
  • Keep an "After Conference To Do" list.
  • Pray. Pray that you'll meet the right people. That you'll say the right things. That you'll be an encourager.
  • Check around the corner before you ask where the stairs are. (Harken to the voice of experience.) 
  • Be Helpful.
  • Write down any special instructions from an agent or editor you want to submit to, you may forget to in the next three seconds. This may seem elementary, but I'm convinced the human capacity for forgetfulness multiplies by like twelve hundred at a writers conference. :)
  • A digression from the second point, Don't be afraid to ask the "stupid" questions. :) People may laugh, but they were new once, too.
  • Enjoy yourself. 
A conference is a business opportunity, but it's also a time to get away from day-to-day stresses and be a part of that distinct, misunderstood tribe of wonderful, wordy lit-snobs, who still think "the book was better than the movie" and know the pen to be more powerful than a pistol, who thrive on creativity, the smell of new paper, coffee and chocolate. So for a few short days, enjoy being surrounded by writer-kind. :)

My late night after-conference snack. (Oh, yes. Pack snacks.)

Literary Agent Sally Apokedak

Mr. Hayse Boyd, teaching on "How to Research and Write Local History."

Editor Fay Lamb. She gave me a hug when we met!

Published author Elisabeth Jane Kitchens!

My new friend (and fellow pastor's daughter) Heather.
Me, Heather, and my sweet distant cousin and award-winning author Pam Hillman, who I met in person for the first time. You know you're in the South when a writer's conference turns into a family reunion. ;)

Heather, award-winning author Patricia Hickman and me..."Me?""I?"... Oh, whatever

I met "Doris Day!" ;)
The winner of last week's give away, Nancy Kimball's Chasing the Lion, is Heather Day Gilbert. Congrats, Heather!!! :)


  1. "A sense of humor (carefully remove the chip from your shoulder and leave it at home)"--Love that!
    Two requests for more! So awesome!
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Haha, Courtney! I almost left off that item, but I noticed a couple of people there (nobody I knew) who needed the message, lol.

  2. Looks like you had a great time!! Congrats on the requests, too!

  3. Hi, Tina! I did, so much! Thank you!

  4. Me, Heather, and my sweet distant cousin and award-winning author Pam Hillman, who I met in person for the first time. You know you're in the South when a writer's conference turns into a family reunion. ;)

    ROFLOL!! So true!

    It was SO much fun to meet you, too, Natalie. I just wish we had more time to get to know each other. That's the only problem with conferences. I want to spend a couple of hours talking to each person there, getting to know them personally, and with workshops, signings, meals, it's just not possible. :( We'll just have to get together again!

    1. Haha! I know what you mean! It was just so busy!

      Yes, we'll definitely have to get together again! :))

  5. Wonderful post, Natalie. Chock full of useful information. I'm printing this one out for future reference. I used to go to lots of conferences but haven't in years. It's time to get back into the groove.

    1. Hi, CP! I'm so glad this post encouraged you!!! Hope you have a wonderful time at those future conferences!!!


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