June 11, 2014

How To Pack For A Writer's Conference {The Four Important 'Don't Forget Them' Things}

How To Pack For A Writers Conference - SelfBinding Retrospect by Alanna Rusnak
Writing is a private affair. It's a locked-in-a-closet, introspective exercise most often engaged in by textbook introverts who dream in colour, compose better than they speak, and birth their darlings upon pages only to weep over their death-by-edit later.

To take the writing creature and plop her down in a crowd of like-minded beings is to invite anxiety and excitement and fear and hope and a whole plethora of other emotions.

This will be my third writer's conference experience - only my second involving overnight stays - but I have learned a little bit in the area of preparation and will share with you The Four 'Don't Forget Them' Things. {and by four I mean about one hundred, but bear with me}:

Something to wear.

Something to show.

Something to write with.

Something for comfort.

Something to wear: 

Once you have registered for your conference you should receive a package detailing things like schedule and accommodations and yes, how to dress.  Mine states 'Business Casual' to which I say, "phhhhhttttttt!"

Of course, this should be self-explanatory but, because I lack corporate confidence*, for me it is not. I googled 'Business Casual'. Once again, "phhhhhhtttttttttt!"  Not that I have anything against it. It's just not who I am {remember?} I wear jeans to work.  I try to picture myself in a pants suit and all I feel is sad.

My advice to you? Pack the clothing you feel comfortable in - that you feel your best self in. Whether you actually believe it or not, giving off an air of confidence will do wonders when you're sitting in your meetings with editors and agents.

At my last conference I had a meeting with an agent {a darling southern gentleman in a ten-gallon hat} and I asked his advice on making myself attractive to an agent. After complimenting me on my firm handshake he said, "I must say, you've already made yourself quite attractive!" Guess what I was wearing?  Jeans! He said nothing about wearing a blazer.

Pack nice clothes that can be mixed and matched into various comfortable outfits. And layers - you might be moving between buildings and rooms, from air-conditioning to outdoors to non-air-conditioned spaces {hooray for cardigans!}

Be sensible with your shoes. In a continuing class last year I sat beside a beautiful editor in three inch heels.  She looked amazing and put together and so professional but all I could think was, 'her poor, poor feet!'  {I recently needed shoes for a wedding I was singing at and I spent so long perusing the shelves, pulling off gorgeous heels, trying them on and feeling like a child playing dress-up, all the while knowing there was no way I could handle them. I got darling grey flats instead - and the brown and orange flowery pair in the photo above! love them! That's the kind of classy I am!}

Something to show: 

Two conferences I've attended without business cards. How lame! If you take nothing else in the way of self-promotion, take business cards. I will admit that I do feel a little bit silly at the idea of handing them out - like I'm some self-important chump out to boast my own wares BUT everybody else will be doing it and people will ask for it and you don't want to be like me last time: "Ummmm, I didn't even think of that..."  {I had my cards printed through Vista Print and was very pleased with how they turned out.}

Bring samples of your writing. Each conference will offer different things. I have prepared a piece from my current project, Some Melodious Sonnet, for a blue-pencil editing session {yikes!} and a few pieces to share during the Night Owl readings which is ABSOLUTELY TERRIFYING {if you're as awkward and shy as I am} but I think it's an invaluable exercise.

Have your pitch ready. There will be many opportunities to share what you're working on. Share it confidently {gulp!} Remember that you've been dedicating much of your time to this endeavor and it's okay for the passion you feel for your project to shine through! Be ready to share it with editors, agents, publishers, and other writers.

Bring a one-sheet. If you want. I labored over this for my last conference and I didn't hand out a single one. I think this could be a valuable tool if you have already established yourself in the field of writing. If you're more like me and all you can say is 'well, I write and blog and I'm working on some stuff...' maybe leave it for another time.

Something to write with: 

I am an old-fashioned soul when it comes to taking notes. I love the scratching of the pen, the frantic scribbling of great thought and the turning of filled pages. I will arrive at the conference center with a large spiral notebook and an arsenal of pens and pencils. I will also bring my laptop and/or tablet for possible blogging or writing during down-time, and my cell phone so I can keep in touch with the people I love and maybe {hopefully} get a photo or two with one of my writing idols {ack! Ted Dekker!} - which means I must remember all the various charging cords and a bag to carry them all in.

Something for comfort: 

Accommodation options were varied for the conference I am attending and I opted for the cheapest choice - a dorm room to which I supply my own linens. There is no way you're going to catch me spending two nights wrapped up in a sleeping bag so I will be bringing sheets, a blanket, a pillow and comfy pajamas!

I am also bringing along my travel mug. My registration fee included coffee breaks and, because I like to sip my hot drinks slowly, I bring my mug so I can take it with me to workshops and classes.


On top of all these things mentioned, I will also bring cash for the book tables and a few Ted books that I can hopefully have him sign {fingers crossed!}

So here I go, off on the big adventure, hopefully returning fully motivated and inspired to carry on and keep pursuing this crazy, crazy dream!

* corporate |ˈkôrp(ə)rət| confidence |ˈkänfədəns; -fəˌdens|
one who navigates a professional field with self-assurance and poise

corporate |ˈkôrp(ə)rət| dingbat |ˈdi ng ˌbat|
1. one who navigates a professional field with awkward small-talk and self-deprecating 'humor' while wearing flip-flops and jeans.   2. me

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  1. :) My list includes home made presents for friends, iPhone, charger, laptop. Clothes? I guess. Do I really need? Oh yeah! I guess I do. Clothes, then. Camera.

    1. Ha! Yes, please - bring clothes!!! ;) and I love that you're bringing presents for your friends - what a kind and thoughtful thing to do (and here I am wondering about shoes) See you there!

  2. I'm still jealous

  3. ConstanceJune 11, 2014

    Have fun!!!

  4. I am sorry I am going to miss it. Just know I thought you were brilliant the first time I met you and was intimidated my your insane talent. All you need to do is bring that and the rest will fall into place! Have fun!

    1. You are way too kind! And you're really not going? I just assumed you would be there :( I'm looking forward to actually meeting your dear friend, Margaret - I'm quite excited about taking her workshop! You'll be missed!!!


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