Monday, September 10, 2007

Writers' Conference Tool Kit (What to Bring)

Friends I met at My first Writer's Conference. Washington DC. 2006.

So, first we had the Top 10 Things NOT to do at a Children's Writers' Conference. Now, by popular demand, and based on the last two (AKA - also the first two) writer's conferences I have attended, here is the promised list of Things to bring to a Children's writers' conference.
If I had known these things at my first conference I'd definitely have been a lot less nervous! So, with no funny business this time, here they are in order of importance:

TOP 10 Things to Bring to a Children's Writers' conference

1.) You. Awake, and energetic.
So, for you introverts out there -- Yes, I'm one too -- I'm here to tell you, you will need your people-meeting face on for the conference. Networking is what it is all about - no wall-flowering. You will spend much of the day meeting other cool authors, editors and agents, and I have learned that in the publishing world connections or "who you know" can make all the difference.

2.) Comfortable Professionalish Outfit.
Yes, this means whatever clothing makes you feel like a professional author; like a person that other people will want to do business with -- aka to publish you or to want to be in your critique group, etc. NOTE: If you're not comfortable, you won't look professional. Plus you'll be doing a lot of walking. I wouldn't recommend pajamas or formal evening wear. Many people will dress business casual - for some that's more casual than others - some people wear jeans. Be yourself, and remember to layer - conference centers tend to be cold.

3.) Shoulder Tote Bag (or for the men, the manly equivilant:))
There will be a lot of things to collect at the conference - publishers book lists -- and those are heavy -- business cards & books you buy that were written by the presenters, etc. Trust me, two hands will NOT be enough, especially when you're holding coffee too.

4.) Notebook and pen (You'll want to take notes)

5.) A watch.

You'll be changing classes, er, sessions, just like you did in High School. And you don't want to miss anything good, (like Ian Sands' presentation at the upcoming SCBWI Carolinas Conference) by being too long in line at the bathrooms!

6.) A 1-2 Sentence Summary (in your head only) of what your current book is about.
This is because people may ask you, and you want to be able to rattle it off quickly, like a pitch -- not to editors trapped on the elevator, mind you, just to whoever asks. Make it short and theme related. Here's an example Tolkien could have used: "My book, the Lord of the Rings, tells the story of how a young hobbit, with help from an unusual group of friends, chooses to sacrifice his future to save the world from an evil sorceror." Now, Tolkien's pitch could have included "...who controls others through a magic ring," but generally shorter is better.

7.) Business Cards
These should contain whatever contact info. you want strangers, editors, agents, and fellow
writers to have about you -- email, phone, name, what writing organizations you are a member of, etc. You can get business cards cheap online -- search "business cards," or make your own on the computer. Cards are not a conference requirement, but they do make it easier to market yourself to new folks you meet. Make the card reflect who you are.

8.) Cash + Checkbook or credit card.
Coffee, books, cool writerly stuff -- these all are optional purchases, but very fun, & significantly less fun with no money.

9.) Knowledge of the Presenters
This really should have been earlier on the list! It's a good idea to check the websites of the presenters -- or their publishing houses if it's an editor -- before the conference, so that you know what they're known for, & what genre's they are interested in. This will save you from embarrassing conversations like the one I saw several writers having at my first conference. The writers were griping about an agent-presenter and an editor-presenter who were apparently late. Alas, it was that very agent and editor they were talking to at that moment, but they didn't know it, because they'd never gone to their websites to see their photos! Embarrassing.

10.) Confidence
Really this should be # 1. If you don't believe you're a writer, a sellable writer, with a truly great book -- well then, my dear, no-one else will believe it either. So, be confident. You're great! Act like you know it.


Anonymous said...

Great list! Thank you for posting this. I have been to a few writing conferences, but never really "knew" what to bring.

elysabeth said...

Cool list of what to bring to a conference. It is always hard to judge from conference to conference. Sometimes you aren't given information about the presenters other than what they are presenting. Sometimes you have difficulty finding much about anything. The conference website should be very navigatable to me in order to make a decision about shelling out my hard earned money to attend a conference.

There are some events I won't forego because of a poorly designed website and not enough informtion out there, but I also reserve myself to attend only the conferences I feel I will get the best information to help better myself. Thanks for posting this list. I look forward to possibly meeting you at the SCBWI Carolinas Fall Conference - in Charlotte, NC - E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad, 50-state, mystery, trivia series
STATE OF WILDERNESS, now available
STATE OF QUARRIES, now available
STATE OF RESERVATIONS, coming April/May 2010
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