Guest Post: 5 Tips on Maximizing a Writers’ Conference

Writer’s Digest, a great resource for any writer, recently emailed a newsletter from one of their sponsors. Since the actual text is not available on the Writer’s Digest website, and the email only went out to subscribers, I thought it would be beneficial to re-post the information here. It is valuable advise for any writer planning on attending a conference sometime in the near, or not so near, future.

Planning to attend a writing conference? Read these five tips to ensure an experience you’ll savor long after you’ve left the hotel lobby.

1. Choose sessions you find interesting
It’s no secret you need to know how to write a sparkling query, but you’re intrigued to find out how journaling can release your creative muse. Go for the muse. Hundreds of websites will be waiting at home to tell you how to write a query letter. Whenever you attend a lecture or reading, you never know what you’ll take away. That’s the beauty of being open to whatever information the speaker decides to bring.

2. Resist taking copious notes.
You’ll retain more when you are focused on listening, not rushing to take down every word leaving the speaker’s mouth. If your type-A personality insists, jot down inspiring bullet points you can hang above your desk. If you waste time taking a ton of notes, more likely you’ll miss the most important things being said and lose an opportunity to engage in the moment.

3. Mingle.
Walk around and talk with people between sessions. Find out what other writers are working on and get inspired by their imagination. During meals, sit at a table where you don’t know anyone or, if obligation demands you sit with your friends, invite someone you don’t know to sit at your table too. This is your chance to exchange ideas with other artists, so don’t be shy.

4. Talk less, listen more, and ask concise questions.
Don’t be “that guy” at the conference who is always in the midst of a 20-minute story outline. Don’t worry about impressing people. You’re here to ingest expert knowledge, not disseminate yours.

5. Bring at least one piece of your work.
Most conferences have open mic during the evening hours. Choose short pieces—shoot for 1,000 words in length or something that can be read comfortably in less than five minutes. It should be polished enough for public presentation, but be sure to bring something even if you write it specifically for the conference. Reading your work out loud builds self-confidence and helps transcend the fear of exposure common to so many of us writers.

Above all, remember the conference is the easy part. Writing is the real work that will be waiting when you return home. So enjoy yourself and let the conference energize your creative spirit; it will follow through in your writing.

This guest column was written by Jessica Monday, freelancer and aspiring novelist for the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents blog.


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