Pre-Conference Jitters (Or: A Type A’s Guide to Preparing for a Writing Conference)

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been debating about whether or not to go to a writing conference—and if you’re completely ready for one. Well, I finally bit the bullet and signed up for the San Francisco Writer’s Conference this year. “Shy demeanor be damned,” I thought as I hit the “apply” button. “I’ll make it work.”

Eventually I came to curse this elusive adventurous side of mine. “Am I ready? Will I know anyone? Will I babble incoherently? Will I regress into my habit of swearing like a sailor on shore leave?”

But research has helped me prepare for what I know will be a fantastic experience—for knowledge,  if nothing else. So, how does one prepare for a conference? Here’s a checklist to consider:

  • 1 finished (yes, finished, and hopefully edited) manuscript
  • A query or 1-page synopsis of your book
  • A short pitch you can memorize and recite on command
  • Copies of your first page or chapter
  • Business cards
  • A professional approach and friendly smile

Okay, so now that you have the above items, what else do you need to complete your Conference Quest? Here are a couple of tips:

  • Researching the agents beforehand will help decide who to talk and pitch your work to, and make you look more knowledgeable
  • Getting out of your comfort zone can lead to talking to writers just like you and getting valuable feedback
  • Agents and editors are people too; don’t harass, bully, pressure, or stalk them, however much you feel like you’ve written the next Great American Novel

With these in my Satchel of Courage, I know I’ll be able to make the most of the experience and enjoy a weekend being surrounded by people just like me: lovers of the written word.

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