This weekend I’m heading to my sixth writer’s conference! I can’t wait. I love meeting with writers and learning more about the craft. The best part? Meeting up with my online writer friends in person.
There’s something to be said about a room full of creative minds coming together in a beautiful symphony of new ideas and encouragement!
I’ve chosen my outfits, I’ve confirmed my reservation and now I’m ready to join my fellow creatives!
As I gather my essentials for this writer’s conference, I wanted to share 12 things that will definitely be in my bag this weekend!
As a bonus, I’ll also share three things I won’t be taking!
What’s in my bag?
1. A Notebook
We all have them. Thousands of unused notebooks sitting in our closet or tucked away on a bookshelf. Grab a fresh one. It will be easier to keep your thoughts organized if you have a notebook dedicated to the whole conference. If you’re super creative, make a title cover or leave room to doodle. I like to add tabs to mine to label classes, agents, new contacts, and fresh story ideas.
2. Back-up Battery
You’ll go through long hours of note-taking and capturing photos. No doubt your phone’s battery will need a recharge! Be sure to charge up before you arrive and charge it up again every night!
3. Extra Dose of Vitamin C
After you and a couple of hundred other creative friends’ germs cover the hotel like a London fog, a boost to your immunity couldn’t hurt!
4. Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch is approximately a 60-second explanation of your story. Even if you aren’t formally pitching agents at the writer’s conference, you’ll still want a well-packaged answer when your fellow writers ask you what you’re working on!
5. Business Cards
Are they still a thing? They seem to be! Be sure to have a handful (or more) business cards with you to hand out to all your new contacts.
Helpful hint: When you get a business card of an important contact, take a photo of the back and front, make a conference album on your phone, and tuck it away for later. You can’t imagine the frustration of meeting your dream publisher, only to have lost their email when you return home.
6. Refillable Water Bottle
Most hotels have cold water pitchers throughout the hotel during conferences. Bringing your own water bottle to refill will keep you from having to carry an awkward open cup everywhere and alleviate the need to use space in your luggage for a case of water.
7. Breath Mints
You’ll meet many new people at a writer’s conference. What’s the saying?? You’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression. Most likely you’ll be eating snacks on the run or a quick lunch in between classes, with little time to escape to your room to brush. Throw a couple of mints in your laptop bag until you can make a break from the crowd.
8. Hot Tea and Honey Drops
This might seem odd, especially if you’re not a hot tea drinker, but you’ll thank me for this idea. Morning to night you’ll be meeting friends, talking story, and pitching your ideas, no doubt by the end of the day your throat will be dry and scratchy. Hotel rooms often have a way to heat water, or there’s sometimes hot water available in the foyer. Take time each day to have a quick cup of something to soothe your throat. I prefer hot tea and a honey drop. When time is short, a honey drop suffices.
9. Headache Meds
From overstimulation, to temperature changes, to unusual cleaning products, to the influx of colognes and perfumes, my brain will be on sensory overload. With so much to learn about the craft, I don’t want a pounding headache to hinder my experience.
10. Laptop & Plug
With all those writers under one roof, you’re bound to catch a mega dose of inspiration. So whether you’re an avid note-taker or just want to work on your novel, don’t forget your laptop!
11. Your Own Pillow
Hotel pillows have about as many personalities as my characters, so when it’s time to catch some shuteye, I suggest using something comfy and familiar.
12. Hand Sanitizer & Hand Lotion
This suggestion goes hand-in-hand—and that is not just a fun play on words. From grasping door handles to pushing buttons on an elevator, your prints will blanket the hotel like a nightmare crime scene. Having a pint-size dose of sanitizer will help combat the germs & the lotion will help you from getting dry skin.
Bonus suggestion: What not to bring!
Don’t bring a negative attitude.
While you’ll want to take every class, every lunch, and reserve your perfect pitch time, it’s important to be flexible and maintain a positive attitude. Things come up, classes get changed, lunches get canceled and you’ll leave defeated if you can’t bend with the rhythm. Instead of dwelling on mishaps, look for opportunity.
Don’t bring a ton of paper
At my first conference, I brought several copies of my full manuscripts, one sheet, pitching pages … you name it, if I could print it, I did! The recycle bin received most of the copies. I found out quickly that agents and publishers don’t want to take home a lot of paper. Now when I attend I bring business cards, bookmarks, and a few one sheets. If an agent asks to see your work, they’ll probably ask you to email it!
Don’t Bring Fear
This is a tough obstacle to conquer. If you struggle with fear, I get it. Attending a writer’s conference can intimidate new writers. Not to mention making new contacts and pitching your manuscript. Overcoming fear is often necessary for new experiences. However, every time I step through my fear and try, I’ve always taken something away. I’ve always learned something. So leave your fear and carry with you a can-do mindset!
It’s time to throw the last few items in my bag, then join my friends for a creative weekend!
Fellow Writers—Happy Writing this weekend!
Fellow Creatives—I hope this spurs you to find your creative circle and spend some time with others honing your craft!