How to Get the Most Out of Your Next Writing Conference


Since the SCBWI-Carolinas Conference is coming up this weekend, I thought I would share what has helped me get the most out of writing conferences I have attended.  I attended the SCBWI-Carolinas Fall Conferences every year since 2004.  This spring I went to the Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  This summer I went to the Oregon Coast Children’s Book Writers Workshop. Whether your writing conference is one day, two days, three days, or more you can make plans to get the most out of it. By reading my blog, I hope it will help you get the most out of your next writing conference. Perhaps you will learn a skill or technique that will inspire you believe in yourself as a writer and never give up on your writing.

What skill are you most wanting to improve? Make sure you attend that workshop.

1. Hand out business cards with your name, address, phone number, website and/or blog, and email address.  If you don’t have any business cards, type up the information on your computer, print them out, cut them out, and hand them out to as many people as it seems comfortable to you, then add 10 more.

2. Do you feel lonely and out of touch with people? Plan to talk to at least 3 people who sit beside you in a workshop at the conference.  Exchange names, email addresses, and business cards with everyone with whom you talk. Here are possible questions to start your conversation:

“What are you writing?”

“How do you find time to write?”

“Are you in writing group? Is it online or face-to-face?”

“Do you write best in the morning or at night?”

3a. If you happen to meet an agent or editor in the elevator or at lunch, remember he/she is human, just like you. Ask one of these questions or one of your own:

“What is your favorite project right now?”

“How do you know when a book is right for you?”

“What’s your advice for writers?”

3b. After you ask your question of an editor or agent, there’s a great possibility that you’ll be asked, “What kind of writing do you do?” This is a perfect lead in for your pitch.  Read my blog: “How to Entice an Editor/Agent with a Pitch (Logline). You can print out your pitches on 3×5 cards, 4×6 inch cards, or plain 8.5 x 11 printing paper. Carry them with you. Practice giving your pitch in front of a mirror. Use eye contact.

Pitch Part 1 (Regular Pitch or Logline 1)
My name is ______________________. (Meeting a real agent or editor can do strange things to your speaking ability.)
My genre for this book is _______________________________. My word count is _______________________________________.
This is a story about________________________________(Hero) who is ___________________________________(Flaw)
Whose goal (Life Changing Event) is ____________________________________________________________
Opposed by ______________________________________________________________________________(Opponent)
and helped by __________________________________________________________________________________ (Ally)
in the battle between _____________________________________________________________________________________ and __________________________________.

Pitch Part 2 (Log Line 2 – Linda Rohrbough’s invention that she shared at Pike’s Peak Writer’s Convention in 2010)
Linda Rohrbough says to add a second log line to further pull the editor/agents into your book.

Tell the character who changes and how they change (the character arc).

Pitch Part 3

The universal theme answers the question: What did the main character learn from striving for this goal? What did the main character learn from his struggle, his journey to reach this goal? ______________________________________. The Universal theme of this story is ____________________________________ )

4. Take a spiral notebook with a bright colorful design or a composition book with a black and white cover. This way all of your notes are in one place. You can put it in front of your computer when you get home and transfer your handwritten notes to your computer. You can add information from handouts by scanning them into your computer, or by typing what you want to remember from the handouts.

5. If your laptop has a good battery life, you can take your laptop and take notes on it. Then when you get home, you can edit your notes and add information from your handouts.

6. Wear comfortable clothing. Take a sweater or blazer, in case the air conditioning makes the conference room too cool for your inner thermostat.  Jeans and a shirt and a blazer are good work attire for writers. If you’re hot, you can take off the blazer.

7. Take a short walk for exercise in between sessions.

8. Get plenty of sleep.

9. Eat fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.

10. Enjoy yourself and learn as much as you can.

11. Write a litany of things for which you are thankful each morning before you begin your day.

12. Thank the presenters and the organizers for what you like about the conference. Make suggestions for change to make it more beneficial to writers.

13. Lucky 13. If you find a book that inspires you at the workshop, buy it if the price meets your budget. If not, wait until you get home and order it from the library or check to see if there’s an inexpensive used copy you can buy from Amazon or other source.

Below are articles with other ideas for gleaning the most out of a writing conference:

1. Kristen Lamb, “Getting the Most Out of Writing Conferences:” http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/getting-the-most-out-of-writing-conferences/

2. Yvonne Russell, “Getting the Most out of a Writers’ Conference:” http://www.growyourwritingbusiness.com/?p=47

3. Margo L. Dill, “Writers Conferences: Five Reasons Why You Should Go NOW, and How to Get the Most for Your Money:” http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/13-FE-MargoDill.html

4. Marita Littauer, “Four Keys for Writers Conference Success:” http://www.right-writing.com/conference-keys.html

Please share your comments, questions, and/or resources below. I’d love to hear from you.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please sign up for an email subscription from the “Sign me up” block from the top of the left hand column. The 50th person to subscribe from the left will receive a free paperback copy of Flip Flap Floodle or a 1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer.

Joan Y. Edwards, Author/Illustrator
http://www.joanyedwards.com/FlipFlapFloodle.htm
Flip Flap Floodle on Amazon.com

Copyright © 2010 Joan Y. Edwards. All rights reserved.

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6 Responses

  1. Joan,

    You’ve posted lots of tips on getting the most from a conference. I like the idea of going with a need in mind and taking workshops to enhance that skill. I look forward to reading the links here at a later time.

    See you soon for the conference!

    Linda A.

    • Dear Linda, Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I’m glad the idea of picking out a skill to work on and taking workshops to enhance that skill helped you.

      Hop right to it

      Write – Draw – Explore – Dream – Research – Check out the lily pads available for you Don’t Give Up – http://www.joanyedwards.com Joan Y. Edwards

  2. Joan,

    Do you think even unpublished writers should hand out business cards?

    • Dear Sharon, Yes, I do think it’s a great idea for even unpublished writers to hand out business cards. Even unpublished writers are professional writers by choice. I believe it’s a way to show your belief in yourself, and a way for others to network with you. It gave me a sense of pride to do so before I was published. Go for it! Thanks for stopping by and asking a question. It helps make my blog more interesting.

      Have a Flip Flap Floodle Day!

      Joan Y. Edwards Flip on my website: http://www.joanyedwards.com/FlipFlapFloodle.htm Flip at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Flip-Flap-Floodle-Joan-Edwards/dp/1594572852/ Facebook Author Page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Joan-Y-Edwards-Author/111310278911077

  3. Thanks, Joan. Appreciated all the info about pitches. Good blog! see you at the conference. But… I’d be careful about starting too much of a conversation in an elevator with an agent. He/she might feel a little trapped! Just a thought.

    • Dear Carol, Thanks for saying it was a good blog and you appreciated all the information about pitches. If an agent asks you in the elevator about your writing, they feel comfortable with you and truly want to know. However, you have to do what you feel comfortable doing. If a writer pounds an agent in the elevator about their writing without being asked about it, then that’s not polite or good. Having respect for the agent and respect for yourself is a good plan. Just charming chit-chat about their favorite project, their advice for writers, or talking about their favorite classic books, or even the weather will work. You’ll know what’s the right approach for you. Do something good for yourself today! I look forward to seeing you at the conference.

      Hop right to it

      Write – Draw – Explore – Dream – Research – Check out the lily pads available for you Don’t Give Up – Keep on going! You have what it takes. Joan Y. Edwards

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