I’ve been a professional writer for three years now (I know, you’re thinking, “Three whole years? Please excuse me while I reign in my overwhelming awe.”). In those three years, I’ve had the pleasure of attending three major writer’s conferences along with countless other writing networking events. While not an expert, I’ve learned enough to volunteer a few suggestions for those of you who are planning to attend conferences of your own in the future.
So here they are: 9 Tips For Acing a Writer’s Conference:
- Bring a full pack of minty gum with you, and chew a stick every time you eat or drink something. I cannot tell you how many times someone at a conference has leaned in close to tell me something and repelled me with coffee breath. Don’t let this be you! Be remembered for minty freshness, not halitosis!
- Order business cards and bring them with you. Include the following information on your business cards: Name, genre, email, website, and any and all social media outlets you use. I go home from conferences with stacks of business cards and try to make new online friends with my recent acquaintances only to find I only have an email address to go on. Join Twitter, make writer friends there. Trust me, we’re everywhere on Twitter, and we’re pretty darn friendly!
- Enjoy the company of fellow writers, but remember that this is still a quasi-professional affair. Even though we writers are a decidedly mixed bag of sartorial selections when it comes to writer’s conferences (I saw a guy in sweatpants at the conference in New York, sitting next to a guy in a nice suit), do put in an effort. At the very least, it’ll make you feel fancier which can only contribute to your seeming like an accomplished writer destined for great things.
- Bring a notepad and a pen you don’t mind writing tons of notes with. You’ll kick yourself for not bringing writing materials with me because you better believe you’re going to hear something you simply must write down.
- When you get home, send emails to all your newfound friends and encourage them to keep in touch. Writing is a lot more fun with friends, and what’s the point of going to a conference if you’re not going to keep the magic going once you get home?
- Don’t approach everyone as a potential provider of something you want. Be polite, engage with other people as human beings, and enjoy!
- Work on your pitch before you leave your house. If you think you’ll have time to write your pitch once you get there, you’ll find yourself feverishly scrawling notes between sessions, stressing out because your pitch isn’t done yet and you wish it was.
- Once you have your pitch done, practice it on everyone. Get feedback, tweak it, and keep practicing it until you know it so well that you can say it without having to think about it too much. A little preparation goes a long way toward peace of mind at a writer’s conference.
- If you go out for drinks after conference events, take aspirin before you go to bed. The number of hungover writers I chatted up at the ThrillerFest conference was higher than you’d think. If you’re going to party, do it smart. You still have to function in the morning.
That’s all the ones I can think of. Fellow writers and conference survivors, anything to add?
I’m writing this from the airport shuttle. It’s early, the driver made me throw my coffee away before I had a chance to drink it, and I’m pretty sure I stepped in sidewalk pee this morning, but I’m grinning.
I’m grinning because I pitched to eight agents yesterday, and all but one of them said they want to read my book. Now, reading my book is in no way a guarantee they’ll love it and want to sign me, but man it’s a good start. It’s the whole reason I came to New York! Well, that and the pizza.
All vacations must eventually end, and mine ends today. I can say with perfect honesty that I made the absolute best of this trip, both fun-wise and work-wise.
Lucky for me, I have a friend in New York who is a good sport and shows me all the touristy stuff whenever I come out here. He makes sure I don’t get lost on the subway and get to see cool things.
Last night, we celebrated seven solid yeses by strolling Littles Italy and China. He joked that Little Italy should be called Tiny Italy at this point, and he’s not wrong. It’s a single block! Very cool nonetheless.
We ate dinner at a meatball restaurant, where we indicated our menu selections by doodling on laminated menus with dry erase markers. It was a schtick that really worked for me, plus the meatballs were super tasty.
Oh! And I tried an Old Fashioned. It’s terrific. Try one.
As for what’s next, home and then emailing my book to the kind agents and hoping they say yes. If I turn purple it’s because I’m holding my breath, stay tuned!
I’m sure at this point my trip out to Manhattan for a writers conference sounds more like a vacation than a working trip. In some ways, it is. For now. The first three days are recreational, the work starts tomorrow.
I’m so happy I scheduled the trip this way, though. I’ve had a chance to (mostly) get over my jet lag, and I’m crossing oodles of items off my bucket list.
For example, I haggled today. A lot. I’ve always been too shy to try it but not today. I haggled with two street vendors and a bike rental guy. I’m a haggling machine!
I also rode a bike through Central Park. Like a boss.
I navigated the subway on my own, scouted out a location for one of my books, saw Trump Tower and Carnegie Hall, and last but not least, got yelled at by a mentally ill homeless guy.
I think I can safely say I’m getting a genuine New York experience, here.
Tomorrow is the first day of the conference proper, which means I’ll be locked away learning and networking for about twelve hours straight. Thursday is the big pitch day. I’m ready. I think. I hope.
So that’s why I’m glad I scheduled it this way. I’m roaming, learning, trying new things, and charging up my Erika batteries so I can kick ass at the conference.
Wish me luck.
Today was the FBI seminar part of the conference and it exceeded each and every expectation I had for it. The agents were informative, helpful, and surprisingly funny, and to prove it I took twelve pages of meticulous notes. I may never be able to write again but it was worth it.
Now I’m sitting in the shade at a pretty little park next to one of those stunning fountains you always expect to see in some fancy European place. Like maybe Versailles.
New York is freaking HOT this time of year, and HUMID. I took the subway this morning and almost combusted. If it’s hot outside, it’s freaking sweltering in the subway AND you’re pressed in from all sides by an army of strangers. Unreal.
Despite this, people are wearing pants. Jeans, suits, slacks, yoga pants. Pants everywhere and no one has passed out in front of me yet. When they said New Yorkers are tough, I had no idea they meant inflammable.
I walked the Brooklyn Bridge a minute ago and saw the title of this post scrawled across the railing. I liked it, and decided to share. I punctuated mine correctly, though, unlike the graffiti philosopher.
As for me, I’m quite flammable. Seattle in no way prepared me for this heat. But don’t cry for me, I’m grabbing drinks with a friend soon and have a free day to myself tomorrow and a dinner date with my aunt and uncle.
Life is really good, you guys.
After much flying and busing and walking, I’m happily posting this from my hotel room. Some notes from my trip so far:
-I almost missed my flight despite being two hours early because I mixed up the gates and had to run across the airport all cliche-like. I made it just before they closed the gate. Whew!
-Newark is really pretty. All lush and green and dotted with lots of old industrial stuff that makes for some great contrast.
-I saw a police horse today and I really wanted to pet him.
-The Roosevelt Hotel is gorgeous. Google the lobby, absolutely breathtaking.
-Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m starving and the city is calling to me. Huzzah!!!