It’s almost time for Writer’s Digest Conference, and oh my GOODNESS am I bursting with excitement! One week from now, I’ll be in New York City for this amazing literary conference that’s put on every year by Writer’s Digest magazine. And it’s going to be so much fun!
It doesn’t matter that this will be my fourth time at WDC. The thrill of learning more about the craft and business of writing, connecting with writers, reuniting with editor colleagues and my fellow staff writers at DIY MFA, and spending a few days in the Big Apple never gets old. (Oh, and N.K. Jemisin, one of my favorite authors, is delivering the opening keynote speech! Yay!) And coming from an introvert, that says a lot.
At the same time, though, I remember how I felt before my first writing conference. Yes, I was excited, but I was also super-nervous. Which sessions should I attend? Would I eat meals by myself? What if I became drained from all of the socializing? How would I remember my favorite bits of advice?
Maybe you too have dealt with these worries before your first writing conference. That’s totally understandable. Events like these can be overwhelming, especially when you don’t know what to expect. But with some preparation, you can calm your nerves and make the most out of one of the greatest learning experiences of your writing career.
So while they’re fresh in my mind, let me share my top five tips for navigating writing conferences with confidence and composure.
#1: Choose your sessions in advance – and be flexible.
It’s always a good idea to check out the conference schedule before the event begins. That way, you can see which topics will be presented and by whom, and then decide which ones you’ll target. No set strategy for this exists. Instead, choose your sessions based on your current writing struggles, future plans for your work-in-progress (self-publishing, querying literary agents, etc.), or subjects that resonate with you.
And if you change your mind about attending a session? Or if your first choice is filled to capacity? No worries! You can always attend a different session or use the extra time to explore the sponsor tables, visit the restroom, or chill out in a quiet spot.
#2: Take care of yourself.
Writing conferences are draining, period. You’ll likely go to bed later than usual because of all the activity and adrenaline. And despite the lunch breaks and proffered snacks, you’ll probably get hungry or thirsty as each day goes along.
So don’t feel obligated to push yourself if you’re tired. Go back to your hotel room to rest, or find a coffee shop or bookstore nearby where you can relax for a bit. Also, make sure to bring your favorite portable snacks and a bottle or refillable thermos of water (or other beverage). Your body will thank you for the nourishment between sessions.
#3: Take notes.
The first time you attend a writing conference, you’ll be absolutely BLOWN AWAY by the amount of information you’ll absorb there. So it’s fruitless to try to store it all in your head. Instead, bring your preferred method of note-taking, whether it’s a notebook and pen or a laptop. And don’t worry about whether you’ll be the only one. Attendees take notes all the time at conferences–and as the event rolls on, you’ll understand why.
#4: Don’t network – connect.
Interacting with other conference attendees is a two-way street. You aren’t there just to meet editors, agents, and other professionals who can help you achieve your writing and publishing goals. You’re also there to meet other writers–and they’ll benefit from this as much as you will.
Be genuine in these connections. Ask questions that show you’re interested in the other person and their work. You’ll make a lasting impression for the right reasons.
#5: Bring business or contact cards.
Chances are you’ll meet people you’ll want to keep in touch with after the conference. But don’t just ask for their business card or contact information. Bring your own cards, too! These should list (at a minimum) your email address, website / blog URL, and a couple keywords about what you write. (Vistaprint and Moo are popular websites for creating business cards.) That way, you’ll have them handy when you decide to swap details with other writers or publishing professionals.
So are YOU going to Writer’s Digest Conference next week? Let me know! I always enjoy meeting writers I connect with online and learning about what they’re working on.
And if you aren’t going? Then follow me on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #WDC19 to catch photos and favorite bits of advice I’ll be sharing throughout the event. That way, you won’t miss out on the fun – and maybe you’ll learn something about writing in the process. (*wink*)
Have you been to writing conferences before? If you have, what other tips would you give to conference first-timers?