Friday, March 25, 2016

A Newbie's Guide to Preparing for a Writer's Conference

Last year I attended my first writer’s conference. With no clue as what to really expect, I went to more experienced writers for their advice. Their suggestions helped me get the most out of the conference. I learned something new every day, met some great people, and had a ton of fun over the three days. As we are drawing near to the 2016 Write Stuff Writers Conference, I figured it was time to dust off that list and add a few things that I learned on my own. I hope it helps you as much as it did me.

  • Have a list of things you want to achieve and try to check at least one off the list each day.
  • You're all there for the same reason. That gives you something to talk about that's not your work in progress. Don't be a wallflower and don't talk about your book.
  • Do take business cards with current contact info (even if you have to print them up yourself).
  • Bring a netbook computer, laptop or smart phone. You might want to look up information about a presenter or subject and having immediate access to the internet will make it easier.
  • Bring a camera. Take pictures.
  • Bring a recording device. Record what you can.
  • Bring a notebook and five pens.
  • Bring $20 per day earmarked "beer money" or “soda money” (the best stuff happens at the bar)
  • Sign up for a pitch with a potential agent. Even if you're not quite ready, the experience is invaluable.
  • Don't pitch a potential agent while she/he is in the bathroom! That may bring you unwanted visibility.
  • If you are pitching an agent include a photo with your materials.
  • Try to meet three new people who are interesting enough that you want to stay in touch after the conference is over.
  • Find one idea that you can use.
  • Find one idea that you have no idea how to use but it's interesting enough that you want to keep track of it.
  • When you see a group of fellow attendees in the bar, asking "Can I join you?" is a good idea. Usually they'll say "Sure!" Do it.
  • Find somebody who's attended before. Tell them it's your first con and ask what's good to do.
  • When you are ready to get a meal, invite somebody to join you. Eat alone only as a last resort. Breaking bread is one of the oldest forms of hospitality and socialization. Use it.
  • Look at the program to see if there there's somebody on a panel that you admire. Prep a question or two for that person on the topic of that panel. Often the panels have a Q&A session and you can ask it.
  • You're at the con to be with people. Do that. Don't spend the time in your room unless you're (a) sleeping, (b) showering, or (c) you are so burned out that your throat is raw and your eyes won't focus. You can rest when you get home.
  • If you can get a signed copy of a presenter’s book, do it. Even if you don’t read the book it’s a great keepsake.
  • Have fun

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