Tag Archives: Writers’ conference

How to Attend a Writers Conference; Part II: Before, During, and After 


On Tuesday, ARHtistic License posted suggestions on how to choose a writers conference to attend.

Now that you’ve registered for the conference of your dreams, what’s next?

people gathering inside white building

Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com


  • Research the presenters. Some may have written books about the craft of writing, and/or some may be excellent speakers. Find out about the people running critique sessions. Are they published authors? Social media influencers? Are the agents and editors interested in the kinds of things you write? Who is the organizer of the event? Note the people you would like to meet.
  • Plan which presentations and events to attend. Often, there are many more you’re interested in than you could possibly work into your schedule. It’s alright to have a backup choice for each time slot just in case you know after five minutes that a class or workshop is not what you anticipated.
  • If you’re pitching a book, first of all, finish the manuscript. At least have a coherent, well-edited draft done, even if you suspect it needs more work.
  • Memorize your pitch. Know what comparable titles exist. (For example, one of my children’s books is similar to The Lion King—if Simba were his own worst enemy, no evil uncles involved.)


What to bring with you.

  • It used to be that you needed to bring copies of your manuscript. Now, most agents and editors don’t want to carry all that paper, so they’ll ask you to email it to them.
  • A way to snap pictures: either your phone or your camera. You may want to post on social media and have illustrations for a blog post about the conference. (Selfies with your favorite authors!)
  • Pens and notebook. You’ll want to take lots of notes, and especially write down contact info of agents and editors who are interested in your work and other writers who are interested in being a critique partner or a collaborator. Ideas flow like crazy at conferences—story ideas, marketing strategies, ways to improve—don’t think you’ll remember them all. Write down everything you hear and every epiphany you have.
  • Laptop and/or flash drive containing your manuscripts (optional). Some people prefer to take notes on their computers or on their phones. Or maybe someone asks you for an old-school hard copy and you don’t have one—you can run to an office-supply store and get one printed out.
  • Your prescription meds, plus any emergency meds you might need, like OTC painkillers, antidiarrheals, sleep meds, throat lozenges, or allergy pills.
  • Nutritious snacks, like apples or nuts. A water bottle you can refill as needed.
  • Clothes, mostly comfortable, “professional casual,” but maybe one or two nice things for meeting with important personages. Sometimes dinners or parties have a dress code.Books 2
  • A pre-determined sum of money or a credit card with your own spending limit, so you can buy a few well-chosen souvenirs, and books by some of your new favorite authors.
  • Your business card. You can print these out yourself, on blank perforated business card forms you can buy at the office supply store and separate after printing. Your card should reflect your brand with a logo or a photo of you, and include your preferred method of contact (email or phone number or snail mail address), the kind of writing you do, titles of published books, awards won, and the web addresses of your website, blog, and social media pages. (All that needs to fit on a 3.5 x 2 inch card. If it won’t, prioritize.)

Getting the most out of the conference.

  • Introduce yourself to other people you meet, and make intelligent conversation. Be kind to everyone. That’s a good policy in general, but at a writers conference even more so—you never know if the awkward woman you’re sitting next to is the beloved auntie of the agent you want to impress.
  • Ask questions. Of presenters, of agents, of other attendees. You’re there to learn.
  • Plan in advance which activities you want to take part in, but make room for serendipity. A chance conversation with another attendee can put you on a path you didn’t anticipate.
  • Go with the flow. If the person you came to see is a no-show, pick someone else. If things don’t go as you’d planned, look for those proverbial lemons and squeeze them.
  • Follow your body cues. If you’re exhausted, it might be a good idea to go back to your room for a quick nap.
  • If you have a 15 minute meeting, watch the clock. At 15 minutes, stand up, smile, thank the agent for her time and tell her you look forward to speaking with her again soon. She will appreciate your respect for her schedule and put your name in the maybe column instead of the not-in-a-million-years column.
writing notes idea class

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After the conference.

  • Follow up. If an agent or editor asked to see your first three chapters, send them. As unbelievable as it seems, many writers neglect to take this step. You can’t get your baby published if you don’t send it in! The money you spent going to the conference is a significant investment in your career. You wouldn’t take out a mortgage and never move into your new house, would you? (By the way, if you didn’t follow up on a conference request in the past, I’m giving you an assignment: Locate that agent or editor and send in that manuscript this week. I’ll be checking.)
  • Reread your notes. Share what you learned with your writing friends. Write a blog post or a guest post or a magazine article about the conference.
  • Rewrite something in your files, improving it based on what you know now. Then submit it.
  • Write something new based on a brainstorm from the conference, and send it out.

A writers conference is a valuable experience for the growing writer. It’s an investment in your career, your professional development, and especially important if you don’t have a college degree in creative writing. Try to attend at least one small conference a year, and save up for some big ones every few years. Then put into practice what you’ve learned.

Now it’s your turn. Share some of your conference experiences in the comments below.

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How to Attend a Writers Conference; Part I: Choosing a Conference


All over our country (indeed, all over the world) writers, agents, editors, and publishers come together periodically to share information, encourage one another, make connections, and discover the next literary star. If you write (or if you dream of writing), conferences can be an important aspect of your professional development.

brown wooden triangular tables and gray rolling chairs inside room

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Why to go to a writers conference:

  • To learn the craft
  • To see presentations by authors you admire
  • To hear about trends in publishing
  • To pitch your work to an agent or editor
  • To network with other writers

The first conference I ever attended was put on by American Christian Writers near my home.  It was an excellent opportunity for a beginning writer to quickly learn important information about the writing life. Over the decades I’ve gone to small local conferences and writers workshops as well as large national ones, such as the Mount Hermon Christian writers conference; Desert Nights, Rising Stars writers conference at Arizona State University; and the legendary Maui Writers Conference (now defunct). As many as I’ve attended, I’ve always learned something new, or been reminded of things I’d forgotten, or come away with new ideas and excitement about writing.

How to choose a writers conference

An online search for writers conferences will turn up thousands of results. The Poets and Writers website maintains a comprehensive database of conferences. Author Erica Verillo also keeps an updated list of writers conferences on her website.

Each conference offers one or more kinds of events: workshops, book signings, critique sessions, publisher roundtables, dinners, keynote speakers, agent panels, pitch opportunities, freelancing seminars, and/or more.

Determine what you want to get out of the conference, and then chose one that matches your needs. For example, if your dream is to write essays for periodicals, don’t go to SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators).

Here are some other important factors to consider:

  • Cost. A small, local, one-day conference might cost as little as $50 for three workshops. A large, national, multiple-day conference will cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Generally, the bigger the conference, the greater the price. Add to that the cost of travel, meals (sometimes included), and lodging, and you’re talking major expenditure. Only you can decide whether it’s worth the investment.
  • Location. A nearby conference can reduce or eliminate the costs of travel and/or lodging. But the conference that features the author, agent, or editor you’d like to work with might be several states away. Maybe you have a friend in that city who’s been inviting you to come for a visit. Maybe it’s in a spot you’ve always wanted to vacation in.
  • Lodging. If you go to a local conference, you have the option of commuting from your own home. If you want to go farther away and can stay with friends, find a way to express your gratitude, whether it’s bringing a gift, taking them out to dinner, or staying an extra day and babysitting their kids so they can have some alone time together. If you must go to a hotel, remember that you are not usually required to stay at the hotel where the conference is; sometimes an alternative is a lot less expensive, but maybe not as convenient. When I went to Maui, I could have had free transportation between the airport and the host hotel; instead, I rented a car and stayed at a nice but less extravagant hotel and saved almost $200. But I also had a Mustang convertible to go to restaurants, stores, the beach, and other places I wanted to see while I was on the island.


  • Presenters. Are you familiar with the authors who are giving talks? Do you admire their work? If agents will be there, do you know the authors they represent? Are they looking for manuscripts like yours? Will editors of your dream publications attend?
  • Classes and workshops. Some conferences offer all-day (or multi-day) tracks in specific genres, so you might be able to sign up for several workshops in the fiction track or the poetry track or the biography track and so on, some with “homework” assignments to be completed during class time or breaks. Be sure they’re offering what you want to learn about. Other conferences offer one-hour classes on many writing topics, such as freelancer bookkeeping, common grammar mistakes, futuristic world building, writing love scenes, or how to conduct an interview. Make sure there are at least as many offerings that interest you as there are sessions, so you don’t have big blocks of time with nothing to do.

Coming Saturday: How to Attend a Writers Conference; Part II: Before, During, and After.

Video of the Week #182: Quick! Pitch that Book!


In Praise of Writers’ Mini-Conferences

In Praise of Writers’ Mini-Conferences

From time to time I hear about one-day writers’ workshops and mini-conferences given in local libraries, churches, and bookstores. I try to go to at least one a year. Even if I think I already know everything that’s going to be discussed, it’s rare that I don’t learn something new.

The Saturday before my hip surgery, Changing Hands Bookstore, an independent bookstore in Phoenix, offered a conference for YA writers. The presenters were local authors (and some are also professional writing instructors) Stephanie Elliot, Abigail Johnson, Bill Konigsburg, Tom Leveen, and Amy Trueblood. I’d met most of these lovely people before and knew how knowledgeable and talented they are.

Some things I never knew that I learned at the conference:

  • On YouTube, there are BookTube channels where people talk about books they’ve read. There are also AuthorTube channels where authors talk about their books, their writing processes, and their publication journeys. Am I the only person who’s been writing for decades who didn’t know that?
  • Comicons offer writers’ workshops. I thought Comicon was an opportunity for comics fans to dress up and nerd out on comic artifacts and superhero actors. Apparently, it’s so much more than that. Who knew?

Content ideas for author newsletters:

  • Writing tips
  • What I’m reading right now, or lists of favorite books or authors
  • Musical inspiration for stories, or writing playlists
  • Short stories using book characters
  • Warning: if your newsletters are nothing but sales pitches, readers will unsubscribe or delete them without reading

Things I knew, but appreciated being reminded:

  • Write a quotable first line. (Don’t worry about this on your first draft, or you’ll never get started. Even the second or third draft is too early—a lot can change. But when you’re getting ready to query, look back at the first sentence. Can you do better?)
  • On the very first page, what’s unique about your story must be apparent. (For example, if your main character is a flea who lives on General George Washington’s horse, that needs to be revealed on page one. The parenthetical notes on the previous hint apply to this one, too.)
  • Is the story happening to the character, or is the character making the story?
  • Add external conflict to make your story a page-turner.
  • All dialogue should have a purpose.
  • If you’ve made up a world with unusual names, a pronunciation guide is a helpful resource for your readers. So is a glossary of terms which might be unfamiliar.
  • Description should flow from the character’s point of view.
  • To help your reader connect to the scene, use your emotional memory. When did I feel as my character feels now?
  • If you’re a pantser (or even if you’re a plotter), write a 10-page story synopsis before you start. It may change, but for some reason, it’s easier to write a story from a synopsis than to write a synopsis from a story…
  • Get to know your local librarians. Many consider regular patrons’ requests when buying books for the library. Many also give priority to local authors. You can call libraries and ask if they have your book. You can also donate copies to the library.

Do you attend small, local writers’ conferences? What’s a good one you’ve been to? Share your experience in the comments below.

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