In two short weeks, the 12th annual Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference is being held at the YMCA of the Rockies, in beautiful Estes Park. Although I am a conference veteran from my youth ministry days, this will be my first one devoted to the craft of writing. As the newest ACFW member that blogs here, I’m going to assume that other newbie writers might need some conference preparation tips too. Here’s what I’ve learned from my own experiences, lessons taught at the writer’s groups I’m in, friendly advice, and a few helpful websites:

BEFORE

PLAN AHEAD

1. Study the Conference Brochure. Identify What you most need to learn, then choose workshops that provide it. Learn something new.

2. Know who the faculty are. There will be professional writers, mentors, Agents, and Editors there. If you happen to sit next to one of them at a meal, or land a coveted appointment with one of them, it would be nice if you knew their name.

3. Find out what is required to make appointments with your chosen professional, and make your requests early. Prepare a list of questions to ask editors, agents, and/or writers -things you want answered before you return home.

4. Create a 30 second pitch for your book/article/screenplay idea and practice it. Try writing your idea in 20 words or less. Your time will be limited during your meeting, and you’ll be prepared to answer the most popular question of your conference stay, “What do you write?”

5. Prepare professional looking proposals, one sheets, and queries, and have copies available if an agent or editor requests them.

PACK

1. Comfortable clothing and shoes – the level of professional attire depends on the standards of the conference you’re attending. Dress in layers for varying room temperatures. Check the weather ahead of time and bring an umbrella, snow boots, or whatever else is needed for your trip.

2. A sturdy tote bag to hold the following:

  • Laptop and/or paper and pens – you decide what works for you.
  • Business Cards – make sure ALL of your information is current.
  • Bible & Journal
  • Thank you notes for follow up after your appointments
  • Water Bottle, mints, and snacks
  • Camera
  • Money for the conference book store. You know you’ll want to buy stuff! 🙂
  • An extra tote or room in your suitcase for the stuff you buy.
  • Labeled folders, manila envelopes, or even an expandable file. Possible labels might include:
  1. Contacts – To hold business cards/brochures of people you meet.
  2. Expenses – Receipts for tax deductions like meal expenses, transportation, CD’s or books to improve your craft, etc.
  3. Proposals, Queries, One Sheets – self explanatory, and it looks good when you’re organized.
  4. Workshop Notes/Handouts – Even for those you don’t attend so you’ll have them if you buy the CD or mp3.

A little organization before you leave will save you lots of time and hassle while you’re there AND after you return home!

DURING

1. Prepare for little sleep, your creative energy will be high, but pace yourself. Unplug if you need some quiet time to reflect and relax, or just need to escape for a nap.

2. Don’t be shy. Meet as many people as possible and ask questions. Everyone has something to share and there will be those who are new or attending alone and they’re feeling awkward too. Practice active listening and don’t monopolize the conversation, but speak up when it is your turn to do so. Remember that you have something to share too.

3. Talk to the professionals. They are there to help you grow as a writer. Ask your questions and write down any thoughts or ideas they share that you might forget.

4. Remember to collect and file business cards, handouts, receipts, etc. These will be very important to you after the conference ends.

AFTER

1. Give yourself a few days/week to regroup. You may find yourself in “conference overload” and need time to process all that you learned. Keep your notes and ideas handy!

2. Send thank you notes to the people you had appointments with, your roommates, and anyone else you need to acknowledge that made your conference a memorable experience.

3. Take what you learned and apply it to your writing. WRITE. RE-WRITE. SUBMIT. REPEAT.

4. FOLLOW UP! If an agent or editor requested your work, send it to them within 30 days, or even 2 weeks. The sooner the better. It’s amazing how many people don’t follow through with this step. Don’t let fear hold you back!

5. Stay connected to the writers you meet. You’re adding value to other people. Who knows your writing trials and triumphs better than other writers?

Above all else, PRAY before, during, and after the conference!

I hope these tips have fanned the flames of excitement as you prepare for an amazing 4 days! Look for me while you’re there. I’ll be the curly redhead with the big smile and the dazed look on her face. I’m kidding…sort of.

My helpful sources:

Megan DiMaria’s Writing Conference Tips

Lessons from my friend, Michele Cushatt

The Words For The Journey Blog

Preparing to attend a writer’s conference by Julie H. Ferguson
(Used with permission)

The wonderfully creative, mostly organized, and occasionally wacky brain of Niki Nowell

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