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Six Steps to Prepare for a Writer’s Conference

Part three of a three-part series on how to maximize your conference experience

Here are the last two steps for preparing for the Willamette Writers Conference or any writer’s conference.

Step Five: Polish your professionalism
The most important aspect of attending a writer’s conference is to present yourself as a professional. Being a professional writer has nothing to do with how much or how little you’ve published or how much money you’ve made as a writer. A professional writer is one who writes regularly and attends writer’s conferences! If you do everything described in steps one through four and have your business cards in hand, your research completed, and your pitch polished – you’ll be taken seriously by fellow writers, speakers, authors, agents, and editors.

Now complete the package with a professional look. Pick out three business casual outfits for the conference and have them pressed and ready to go a few days before hand. And if you are traveling to the conference, bring something that doesn’t need ironing. Conference days are long and the last thing you want to be doing is pressing when you could be practicing your pitch or getting your beauty sleep. Although it’s nice to look like a “creative,” going to the extreme will only distract the person you’re talking to and pull attention away from your pitch and you as a person. I find one outstanding accessory can add that creative touch to any outfit. Dress light as it will probably be a hot day, but bring a sweater or jacket in case the air conditioning is blasting.

Step Six: Pulling it all together

Here’s some odds and ends to help make your conference experience a great one.

Bring your materials
Remember I mentioned that some of the workshops will read the first pages of your manuscripts, or hear a pitch. Have those double-spaced and professionally formatted; and print out a couple copies of each. You may also want to bring the first five pages of your manuscript to show to a prospective critique partner. A simple exchange of pages can tell you instantly whether you’ll be a good fit.

If you are taking advantage of the free Manuscript ER (see my previous post) and I highly recommend you do, then bring printed copies of your opening pages, query letter, synopsis, or any part of your manuscript you are struggling with.

What you don’t need to bring is your entire manuscript. Never foist a hardcopy of your book at an agent or editor. Most are traveling a distance and don’t want to be saddled with a stack of manuscripts to schlep back to the office. If an agent/editor is interested in seeing your work, you’ll receive a business card and/or instructions on how to submit.

Notice for the Bulletin Board
If you’re looking for other writers to form a critique group, the bulletin board is a great place to connect. It’s usually in the main lobby of the Sheraton. It’s not too big, so best to keep your notice to the size of a 3 x 5” index card.

Tote bag
The conference doesn’t supply tote bags so you’ll want to bring something lightweight for carrying your conference materials.

Your laptop, netbook, or pad and paper
This is a personal choice. I brought my netbook last year and will again. It’s light, has hours of battery life, and fits in my tote bag. I can’t read my own handwriting, so taking notes is a waste of time for me unless I have my computer. If you need to plug in your device, outlets are usually available in the back of the room. Just remember to mute the sound on your computer before you leave home. Another benefit to bringing a computer is that many of the workshops have impromptu writing exercises. I find it faster and easier to write and edit on the keyboard than in a notebook. To each his own. Just be prepared in the style that suits you.

The conference offers a full breakfast, lunch, plenty of caffeine during the day along with water and juice and some type of satisfying and fattening yummy in the afternoon. So no need to pack any snacks, but if you have dietary restrictions and can’t eat those afternoon fresh-baked goodies, you might want to bring your own snack. The conference offers gluten-free and vegetarian meal options, but you must specify those options when you register.

Check back in a few days for “What to do when you arrive at the conference” and the advantages of arriving on Thursday night.

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