Writing is a lonely and complicated business. There are ways to keep the enthusiastic fires burning. One of my favorite is attending a conference every year. As an board member of Pennwriters, I attend that conference every year and do what I can to help the organizers. If you're in the Pittsburgh area the third weekend in May this year, please join us. Chuck Sambuchino is our keynote speaker this year. Read his advice about attending a writing conference.
Is Pittsburgh outside your comfortable travel zone, there are conferences everywhere. Check out IWSG's conference page. Pick the month you can attend and find something in your area. But there's more to picking a conference that it being a convenient location.
Picking a conference.
*First, find a conference that is within your budget. Some one day affairs can cost less than $100 dollars and other large weekend conferences may be priced in access of $1,000.
*Make sure the conference has offerings to fit your needs. Do you need basic writing craft advice? Do you need workshops on promotion and the use of social media?
*Will there be a opportunities for you to pitch your work to agents and editors?
*Will you get something in return for your investment?
Once you're at your conference, what things shouldn't you do?
*Don't just hang out with the people you already know. Sit with strangers at meals. Talk to people between workshops.
*Don't drink too much. The bar can be a great place to network, but be careful.
*Don't go to the conference expecting to be a perfect time. There will be blips and some disappointments.
*Don't go over your budget. It's tempting to buy lots of books at the book sale or spend a little extra at the bar, but you'll regret it later
Do this at your conference.
*Do have fun. Yes, it's related to your work and career, but you love writing.
*Do know what you want to get out of the experience and look over the schedule so you can plan ahead.
*If it's your first time at a conference, especially a big one, attend the orientation session they'll probably offer.
*Be flexible. You should make a plan but don't be afraid to alter it if you decide you want to change things up once things get underway. Don't get upset if s workshop gets canceled or a presenter doesn't show up. It happens a lot.
*Dress comfortably but still be professional. Shoes especially need to comfortable. You will walk more and stand more than you expect.
*Do carry business cards. You'll meet busy people and it's the quickest way to exchange information.
*Network, network, network. Meet people and then make sure you follow up with new friends and opportunities.
*Volunteer. Introduce speakers, help pass out things, take a turn at the information table.
*If they're not too expensive, do the after hours extras. Some are special social events and others are group critique sessions.
*Hangout in the social areas like the lounge and the hospitality suite. You'll get a chance to talk one on one with some of the presenters in those areas.
Have you ever attended a conference? Did you get your money's worth? What would be your top reason for attending a conference?