Saturday, October 20, 2012

Writing Conference Checklist

Pen checkmark three boxes            Writing Conference Checklist 

There are a ton of writing conferences this fall through next spring. Since I've attended a couple conferences myself, the International Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference in New York City in January 2011 and the Backspace Writer's Conference in New York City in May 2011, I thought I'd share some thoughts and help you along in making a checklist.

First, if you are planning on attending a writing conference, I highly suggest partaking in any intensives or pitches that are offered. You might as well make the most of the experience (and trip if you are traveling) and putting yourself in direct contact with agents and editors is the best way to do that! Now, here are lists of things to consider or add to your to-do list. Some of them may seem like common sense, but my intent is not to insult anyone's intelligence, but simply to remind. 

Writing Conference Checklist

* Business cards. They don't have to be expensive or even color - they just have to have your information. Some agents/editors could ask for them, but I've given out more to other authors. Make sure to include your blog information along with the usual stuff.

* Dress "business casual" or nicer. I'm of the "better over dressed than under" philosophy. You want to come across as professional, dressing as such will only help your effort. Most agents/editors I've seen at these conferences are in business casual dress (slacks, nice top/button up) to business (suits/dresses). Also, you often act like you dress. 

* Bring supplies - notebook, several pens, and maybe your lap top. I've taken notes from every panel, keynote speaker, or breakout session I've attended. Most people use a note pad and pen, but some prefer their laptop. If you are in a workshop that required writing, you'll, of course, need your lap top.

* Paper copies of query and/or sample pages. Most intensives, workshops, critiques, and pitches with require that you a certain number of printed queries, sample pages, etc. Always take extras! Even if you're not signed up for any kind of intensives (etc.), still take a few paper query letters if you have a completed polished manuscript.

* Personal items: Kleenex, gum, water, Tylenol/Advil, feminine products. Yes, common sense, but you don't want to miss out on an awesome panel of agents/editors/authors because your nose was triggered by someone wearing too much perfume. Same for searching down Tylenol because of a headache.

* Cell phone on vibrate or silenced. Make sure to have your cell in case of emergency, but also so you can text your significant other or BFF when you get a request or tweet your critique partners to make them jealous.

* Dress in layers. The climate in conference rooms and ballrooms, where conferences and small groups are hosted, is a crap shoot. No matter the temperature outside, you never know what the temp inside will be. 

* Shoes. Yes, you'll be sitting for much of the day(s) so you can wear those crazy cute new shoes, but remember: it's a long day! You could also make friends with other attendees who decide to go out for lunch which may require some walking. (Yep, this happened to me.) Often conferences have a time for mingling or a party where you'll be standing for longer amounts of time. Just be mindful of your shoe choice. 

* Books for signing. Unless you want to buy the new release of the author(s) signing at the conference, bring a book from home. I forgot my copy of The Giver by Lois Lowry at home so I bought another at the conference for her to sign for my son. There's nothing wrong with having two copies of a great novel, but I did already have the one at home I wanted signed.

* Bring your outgoing side and positive attitude. Yes, you need to be able to talk to agents/editors in smaller groups/breakout sessions, but you also need to talk to the writers around you! You never know what it could lead to. Several ladies I met at Backspace are now critique partners. One person, who attended Backspace but I didn't meet there - I met her through others who met her at Backspace - is now, not only a critique partner, but also one of my closest, dearest friends. 

Pointers for Traveling to a Writing Conference

* Arrange transportation options to and from airport to hotel. Some hotels in smaller cities will provide a shuttle to and from the airport for a small fee or tip, but if going to NYC you have several options: Shuttle that stops at several hotels, driving service, or cab are the most often used. I'd research all the options and choose depending on your budget and the level of convenience you want. Note: Thought a driving service may seem convenient, it's not always so. Mine was 20 minutes late picking me up from the hotel. Also, when arriving at LaGuardia, especially late at night, there can be a VERY long line to catch a cab. 

* Double check your flight before leaving for the airport - even if you checked in the night before. Sometimes there are issues that won't even register before you leave for the airport but it.

* Print directions/location of the conference and/or breakout sessions before you leave. Check the exact location of where you need to go the next morning for check-in after you settle into your room. I learned this lesson from my first conference when I was running a little late. (My flight was delayed a day, then hours, then changed courses due to inclement weather. By the time I got to the hotel - my very first time in NYC - I'd been up since 4am and got to my hotel room at 10:30pm. The next morning was rough.)

* Pack clothes appropriate to where you are traveling. For example, if you are traveling to a conference held in Omaha, NE (where I'm from) you'll be driving everywhere you go. You don't need to worry about weather as much. BUT if you are visiting NYC, you may need shoes/boots/outerwear appropriate for walking long distances. Those of us who are not used to doing that *raises hand* need to remember this while packing!  --If you have questions about such, you can email me and I can give further suggestions. This country mouse has learned a lot about visiting the big city! : ) tonyakuper @ gmail  -- 

On Saturday, November 3rd, just a few days into National Novel Writing Month, I'll post a long list of writing conferences held November through next summer!

Do you have anything to add to these conference checklists? Do you have any questions for those of us on this blog who have attended writing conferences?

1 comment:

  1. What a great post, thank you! Going to my first conference soon and this is so helpful!