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How to Get the Most from a Writing Conference

“How to Get the Most from a Writing Conference” by Joan Y. Edwards

There might be a conference going on in the next few months. This might help you. This blog has before the conference and during the conference.  There’s a follow-up post: After the Conference: 13 Ways to Optimize Your Learning.

I revamped my earlier blog post about this topic. I divided into before the conference and at the conference.

These are ideas I used to help me get the most out of writing conferences I have attended. I attended the SCBWI-Carolinas Fall Conferences 2004-2010. In April 2010, I went to the Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In July 2010, I went to the Oregon Coast Children’s Book Writers Workshop. Whether you’re attending a one or two-day conference or one that lasts longer, you can take action to  make sure you get learn as much as possible. I hope that by reading my blog post or attending a conference, you’ll learn a writing skill or technique to inspire you to believe in yourself as a writer and never give up.

Before the Conference

1. What skill do you most want to improve? Make sure you attend that workshop.

2. Visit the webpages of at least three of the presenters that interest you. Check out their books at the library or on www.Amazon.com.

3. If you have specific questions for presenters, write them down and ask them at the conference.

4. Get business cards printed: www.VistaPrint.com, www.Gotprint.com, www.BCEofNC.com

5. Get bookmarks printed: www.VistaPrint.com, www.Gotprint.com, www.BCEofNC.com

6. Buy a new 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.

7. Buy two pens that write just the way you like a pen to write. Put them in your pocketbook to take with you.

8. Write a pitch for three of your manuscripts. 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 the pitches with you to the conference. Put one copy in a folder. Put another copy in your pocketbook. 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 ____________________________________.

9. Take comfortable clothing to wear in your favorite colors to keep your spirits high. Take a sweater or blazer, in case the air conditioning makes the conference room too cool for your inner thermostat. If you’re hot, you can take off the blazer. Jeans, a shirt, and a blazer are good work attire for writers. Linda Rohrbough says that you want the editors to think you just left your computer to meet with them.

At the Conference

1. Hand out business cards with your name, address, phone number, email address, website and/or blog. 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?”

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

“How do you find time to write?”

“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. Hold your head high, look the editor/agent in the eye, and tell them your pitch like he/she is your best friend.

4. 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.

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

6. Get plenty of sleep.

7. Eat as healthy as possible during the conference, fruits, vegetables, and proteins. This will make you alert and help you focus.

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

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

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

11. 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

Thank you for reading my blog. Sign up for an email subscription from the “Sign me up” block from the top of the left hand column. It would be great to hear from you in a comment below.

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Flip Flap Floodle on Amazon.com

Copyright 2010 Joan Y. Edwards. All rights reserved.


4 Responses

  1. Joan,

    This blog is so very thorough and helpful. Thank you! Happy upcoming birthday to your blog. We have all grown over the year thanks to your helpful information. We should all celebrate.

    Linda A.


    • Dear Linda, I’m glad you liked my revamped blog. I think it’s better organized than the earlier one. How uplifting for you to say that all my readers have grown over the year because of my helpful information. How sweet. You say the nicest things in wonderful ways. Have a pleasant evening.

      Hop right to it

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


  2. Great post, Joan!

    I’m glad I finally got to meet you at fall conference. You are such an encourager. : )


    • Dear Laura, Thanks for stopping by. It was fun getting to meet you, too. Perhaps next time we’ll have more time to talk. Thank you for the compliment about being an encourager. Good luck with your writing!

      Hop right to it

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


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