There's a lot to be said for writing conferences, and I've learned a lot about them over the last two and a half years. In that time, I've attended two different conferences two times each, though I'm hitting another one early next month. They've become an essential part of who I'm becoming as a writer--and not just because of all the awesome stuff I learned.
|Me pretending I know stuff at LTUE XXX with|
Nathan Shumate, Michael Brent Collings, Michael Collings, and Jenn Johansson
I stole this pic from Donna Weaver
- Wear comfortable shoes, ‘cause you’re gonna be walking. A lot.
- Wardrobe is business casual as a default, though I’ve seen bestselling authors wearing jeans and t-shirts to them. You might want to dress up a tad more if you’re doing a pitch session, though I wouldn’t wear a suit or an uncomfortable skirt. That would just be weird.
- Business cards are essential. They should include your email address, your blog address, your twitter ID, and any other contact info you might want to give a perfect stranger who may soon become your best friend. A picture of you will help your new friends remember whose card they picked up. A short description of who you are (“YA Writer”) helps, too. If you have a book you’re pitching, agents like it when you put a short blurb on the back. Finally, carry the business cards behind your name tag in the name tag holder. That way they’re always at your fingertips.
- A shoulder bag is more convenient than a rolling bag. Take it from the girl who did it backward for 3 out of the last 4 conferences. There be crowds, folks. Don’t trip people.
- Laptops (or, if you’re cooler than I am, tablet computers) are really good to have. Not only can you take faster notes without cramping your hand, but you can settle down and write your own book whenever inspiration strikes. Also bring paper, though, for when your battery dies. At the conferences I’ve gone to, less than 20% (totally random, made-up number) bring their laptops, so if you don’t want to, you won’t feel out of place.
- Networking is key: that’s half the reason you’re there. Meet the presenters. Introduce yourself to the table at lunch. Ask questions in the classes. Sit at the front of the room. If you’re naturally shy, find a friend who isn’t, who can drag you around with them. Remember that writers are generally very nice people—and if they’re at a writer’s conference, they usually expect to meet people. They won’t mind.
- Parties after-hours can be the best way to get to know your fellow conference-goers… but keep in mind that you’ll also need to be able to function the next day. Know your limits and get enough sleep.
- Examine the schedule as soon as you know it and map out which classes you want to attend. If you don’t know where you’re going next, chances are the one you want will be full when you get there. If the schedule is available online before the conference, check it out: many times there will be a query help class that requires you to have a copy of our query on hand or a simulated slush pile that you'll want your first page for. Don’t be caught without one and miss out on valuable, personalized advice.
- If the conference solicits volunteers, raise your hand. Early and often. There is no better way to meet established authors than fetching their water and making sure they have everything they need for their presentation. Being behind-the-scenes at a conference is even more fun than attending.
- Ignore anything on the above list that might limit your ability to enjoy the experience. There is absolutely no reason to stress over a writer’s conference. Have fun, learn all you can, and steep in the motivation until you get all pruny.
So do you attend conferences? Any tips I missed that you want to share?