What to Bring to a Writing Conference
By Terra Luft
With our Pre-Quill Conference coming up in April, and The Quills Conference in August, you might be wondering what to expect, especially if you haven’t been to many conferences before. I’ve compiled a list of both tangible and intangible things I’ve found are must-haves from my experiences attending writing conferences across the country the last decade.
Let’s start with the tangibles:
1. Dress in Comfy Layers
Even if you’re stuck in pandemic times and attending virtual conferences, being comfortable is key. Too hot and you can’t stay awake, too cold and you can’t focus. Be strategic with your wardrobe for quick temperature adjustments without needing to step out of the room (or away from the screen.)
2. Be Ready to Take Notes
Whether it is a pen and notebook or a laptop/tablet to type into, taking notes helps solidify ideas in our brains. Plus, conferences will have lots of great content and you’ll appreciate being able to go back at the end of the day, or weeks later, to review what nuggets of wisdom you took away from each speaker. Pro tip: if you find it difficult to concentrate and take notes, see if the conference is selling recordings of all the classes or ask permission of the presenters to record them instead of taking notes.
3. Snacks and Hydration
Nothing saps your energy more than being hungry or dehydrated. Some conferences include snacks, but you can’t be sure so tuck some in your bag to have handy. Pro tip: if you’re traveling to a higher elevation, drinking lots of water will stave off altitude sickness and the headaches it comes with. A refillable water bottle is a must.
4. Have Business Cards Handy
Yes, even you who aren’t published yet and might feel like a fraud just ordering some from an affordable place online on an introductory offer. You never know when you might meet a contact who will be key to your success in future years, or your next critique partner who you hit it off with and ended up in the same classes all day. Handing out business cards to people you connect with is easy and puts you in the mindset of a professional, even if you’re still faking it until you make it.
5. Bring Headphones
You never know when inspiration will strike sending you to seek out a quiet corner to jot down an idea. The truth is, there are few quiet corners at many conferences and being able to block out noise to indulge in moments alone is invaluable. Bonus: if you’re someone who needs time alone away from people when you are overwhelmed, headphones can create a bubble around you where people respect that you are working and leave you in peace for a few stolen minutes.
Now the intangibles:
1. Have an Open Mind
The advice you get from other authors and professionals is never absolute. Take what resonates with you and leave the rest behind.
2. Be Brave
Meet people, talk to strangers, connect with other writers. Everyone at a writing conference has one thing in common (writing!) and often people you meet once can be a connection on your journey as an author down the road. Take advantage of all the opportunities even if it takes you out of your comfort zone. You’d be surprised how many others are just being brave so they can meet you and build their own connections within the writing community.
3. Have Flexibility
It’s 100% okay to realize what sounded like an amazing class/panel/presentation isn’t what you expected. No one will take it personally if you slip out to catch a different offering you thought might also be interesting, and chances are you’ll regret it if you don’t. Conversely, you are not required to attend something every single block of time on the conference schedule. If you get burned out and need a rest, use those headphones or chat up with other attendees in the lobby or hallway to recharge.
Attending a writing conference is a way to level up your writing skill in a weekend. If you haven’t attended one, why not consider starting with a one-day opportunity like the Pre-Quill Conference and see what you’re missing happening April 17? Every conference I’ve ever attended had something to offer, even for the seasoned attendees looking to take their next step on their writing journey. Forward progress is always the goal, and I hope these tips will help you on the path toward achieving your creative dreams.
She is a speculative fiction author whose imagination conjures mostly dark tales. Her work explores women’s themes and challenging societal norms in hopes of allowing fresh perspectives to emerge. An overachiever by nature, Terra tackles every project with coffee and sarcasm and believes all rules exist to be broken.
Terra holds a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and English with a minor in Communications from Southern New Hampshire University and (almost) a Master of Science in Management and Leadership from Western Governors University. She is a member of Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society, and The League of Utah Writers where she serves as President of the Infinite Monkeys chapter and Membership Chair. Find her and her books online at https://terraluft.com