Last-Minute Conference Preparation for the Procrastinating Writer

one's brain after PNWA...fried eggs in a panMaybe it seems like just a couple of weeks ago we all celebrated Memorial Day, and then there was the end of Glenn Beck’s gig on Fox, and suddenly the entire United States was embroiled in an epic saga of betrayal and urgency, all the media trained on one subject that terrified even the most stoic among us—the Casey Anthony trial. No wait, the debt ceiling.

In any case, that late-summer conference, booked last spring, is now in two days, and there is still a mess of stuff to accomplish. Here’s the last-minute guide for writers who waited too long to pack their conference bags:

  • Business cards—Whatever one’s corner of the Web is, list it here, as well as other contact information. Genres in which one writes, so agents don’t have to hunt around for it. Consider putting the title of the manuscript on the back of the card, and/or the logline. Bring enough to give to anyone who wants one.
  • A clean first page of the manuscript, and a clean first three chapters—They may be an endangered species, but some publishing professionals still prefer to read on paper. Don’t drag these around the first day of the conference unless you have an agent appointment, and even then, most agents will just want you to email the partial to them. Why the first page? Sometimes there’s a little workshop on openings, so it’s handy to have it printed out already. I try not to rely on the “business center” of my hotel.
  • A well rehearsed elevator pitch—Do not slam people over the head with this, please, for the love of writers and agents everywhere. But if they’re interested, tell them you have a short pitch. If they ask for it, nail it.
  • Comfortable shoes—Seriously, leave the crocs at home. Nobody wants to be that up close and personal with your feet, or sock color preference. But that said, conferences are not the place to break in new footwear. (I found that out the hard way last year.) Check the conference’s Web site to find out what the dress code or expectations are. If it says business casual, think average office job. And if there’s an awards dinner you plan on attending, bring one slightly nicer outfit.
  • Small notebook and copious numbers of pens—Some workshops may be tightly packed, not leaving enough room for a 15- or 17-inch laptop, and it can get tiring to drag several pounds around in an 8-hour day, so I opt for a small notebook where I can jot down the top level of information from each workshop or appointment. Notebooks that have perforated sheets in the back so I can give a few pages away: big plus.
  • Granola bars and non-mushable piece of fruit—If missing lunch or the afternoon break is a possibility, make sure to have something to keep up that all-important energy level. Chances are you worked hard to present the best face at this conference, so don’t flame out because you didn’t like the continental breakfast at 7:40 that morning and only had half a cup of coffee. Do not let anyone talk you into sticking a banana in your bag, under no circumstances. It’s just wrong on so many levels.
  • Mints—The Conference Lord sayeth: let not halitosis be your professional undoing, nor your breath more memorable than your novel. Since I’m a humorist among other things, I try to find funny mints. But not mints that are funnier than me. I have to draw the line somewhere.
  • Read through the program again—highlight the agents, editors, and workshops that are of the most interest to you. Ask around your networks to see who you know in attendance; now’s the time to see if anyone is hosting a meetup or networking hour. More friends aids in one’s success, remember. Not sure if that’s true? Feel free to read the rest of my blog. Okay, maybe I’m not that successful, but darn it, I will be after this conference!

Or the next one, or at least the one after that.

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Categories: popular culture, Writing


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2 Comments on “Last-Minute Conference Preparation for the Procrastinating Writer”

  1. Jesse
    August 2, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    Why is it wrong to take a banana?

    • evmaroon
      August 2, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

      Because they turn black and get smooshed and putrid in the space of like, 3 hours in a vinyl-encased bag. And then there’s the whole, “is that a banana in your bag or do you always smell that way” joke.

      Thank you for asking.

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