Pack Your Bags

Before a writer’s conference, the typical buzz on social media revolves around two questions, “What are you packing?” and “What are you wearing?”.  Before attending the 2014 SCBWI Conference in NYC, I compiled the following packing list for my friends and I.  Because I write both Christian non-fiction and kid-lit, I tailored the list to suit those genres. While it is likely suitable for most writer’s conferences, I suggest you learn what is particular to your genre. For example, at a regional SCBWI conference, I brought “one-sheets” to hand out to agents and editors. While this is typical for Christian writer’s conference, it was unheard of at a kid-lit conference. (Although one editor was particularly pleased with my one-sheet and took it.)

PRACTICAL

  • Clothes: business/casual, comfortable but professional. Some attendees strive to have a signature look for easy recognition.
  • Attire for gala/cocktail reception: dressy, but not formal.
  • Comfortable shoes: Prepare to walk considerable distances.
  • Jacket/sweater/shawl: Meeting rooms vary widely in temperature.
  • Toiletries and medicine: Don’t forget to bring headache medicine into the conferences. This will prevent you or another attendee from leaving the session unnecessarily.
  • Deodorant: This deserves it’s own bullet point. Please.
  • Watch: Walking into a session late is not the attention you want.
  • Cash/credit cards/identification: DON’T forget to tip. We not only represent ourselves, but also the writing profession as a whole.
  • Hard copies of airline, hotel, and transportation confirmations.

BUSINESS

  • Tote bag/attache case
  • Notebook and pen
  • Business cards- including contact information, websites, social networks, etc. While not a necessity, it is a great way to network easily.
  • Desired technology- laptop, iPad, phone, camera, etc, and CHARGERS.  Smart phones and pads are particularly helpful, as many conferences offer apps that give information on speakers, detailed schedules, and hotel/restaurant information.
  • Hard copy of registration confirmation
  • Conference schedule, list of classes registered for.
  • Pitch: 1-2 minute pitch about your book/s. Concise, punchy, intriguing, original, and conversational.
  • Answers to questions like: “What do you write?” and “Tell me about yourself.”
  • Submission ready manuscripts for those participating in critique sessions. Don’t assume you will have the opportunity to randomly hand them out to editors and agents. You won’t. If you are the rare exception, bring them on a thumb drive and print at the hotel’s office/business area for guests.
  • One-sheets: typical for Christian Writer’s Conferences
  • Snacks, mints, water bottle: Bring to all sessions. Having a large package of mints at the critique table provides instant friends.

INTELLECTUAL/EMOTIONAL READINESS

  • Knowledge of presenting agents, editors, and authors
  • Confidence
  • Willingness to learn, grow, and revise. In critique groups, revisions WILL be suggested.
  • Acceptance that writers rarely leave a conference with an agent or publishing contract. You will, however, leave with contacts and new friends.
  • High level of professionalism
  • Open mind
  • A smile: It invites conversation and connection.

DO NOT BRING

  • Fear
  • Insecurity
  • Belief that you are a “wanna-be writer”: If you are at a conference, YOU ARE A WRITER. Period. That shift of paradigm will remarkably affect your confidence level, professionalism, conversations, and writing life.
  • Spirit of competition, jealousy, or suspicion
  • Closed mind
  • Pettiness: There will be things you don’t like or agree with. There will be blurps, mistakes, and leaky faucets. Be kind and patient.
  • Intent to stalk agents and editors until they offer a contract
  • Loud, obnoxious ringtone: Find the mute button. There is always one and you DON’T want it to be you.
  • Overzealous reaction to meeting dream agent, editor, or famous author
  • Inappropriate attire: stiletto heals, mini-skirts, sweats, comfies. Seriously.
  • Perfume/cologne: For those of us with allergies, it makes the session entirely uncomfortable.
  • Your children: unless you have a 24 hour babysitter

Happy conferencing!

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS BELOW.  What essentials do you bring to a writer’s conference?

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