June is my favorite month for a variety of reasons - end of the school year, my birthday, and a host of other fun moments. This includes packing up for the annual weekend in Princeton with the lovely NJ SCBWI folks. I've attended my fair share of writing conferences, and this is by far my favorite. The staff are superb, the fellow writers are invested and invigorating, and it's Princeton. Come on now.
As I've been preparing the past week my hope is that everyone reading this can find a way to get to a conference, whether it's a one-day pitchfest or a full weekend of fun and learning. And if you do, here are a few tips to make the most of the experience.
Attire - Be comfortable and notable. Think about how your clothing can highlight your personality and make you memorable. (No, do not dig out your sequined prom dress as a conversation starter/profession ender.) But if you write historical fiction, consider a piece of nostalgic flair. It's a subtle way to make your mark.
Supplies - Travel light. Transfer as many agendas and pieces of info to your phone or iPad as possible. My iPad is the perfect conference compliment. With a keyboard I can take notes at lightning pace, hyperlink important contacts, and even email my info to folks who request it. (The one caveat to going digital? Have business cards handy and plenty of them. There's something intimate and tangible about handing a new writing buddy or agent a physical card. Staples can print them for you in a day, but my favorite online source is Tiny Prints.)
Time Management - Arrive with a plan. Research the professionals attending. Register early if possible to pick strategic workshops and even possibly tables for meals. And schedule time to mingle. The most successful conferences I've enjoyed are ones where I have the confidence of knowing exactly where to be and who to touch base with. But I also always give myself dedicated wander and get lost time, too. It's a balance.
Personal Brand Management - Review your social media. Make sure everything is current and related to writing. If your last ten tweets have been about Johnny Depp (I say this because some of mine have been), tidy things up so when people check you out, they see you as the professional writing machine you are. Catch up on blogs. Source a few neat links. Make yourself as relevant as possible.
The Love - All of the above should be secondary to your love of writing. Take a few deep breaths and remind yourself that you are a writer, that paid or unpaid it is a real profession, and be proud of yourself for what you do. The conferences can unfortunately also elicit urges to compare yourself to other writers or beat yourself up for not having achieved everything you want. Success will come in good time, and while you're toiling away and waiting, you deserve to be in the company of writers.
Happy writing, and go HERE if you've been inspired to find a conference this summer.
Writing has always been an escape, a passion, and a friend. I look for other writers who feel the same.