It’s that time again. Time for our region’s annual SCBWI writer’s conference. Woo hoo! This will be the third year I’ve attended, so while I’m not quite an expert, I have learned a few things about making the most of these valuable meetings.
Before The Conference
Know where to go. First of all, if you’re like me, you’ll want to know in advance the exact route and time it takes to reach your destination. (Thanks to Google maps this is easier than ever!) After that's calculated, it’s a good idea to add 15-20 minutes, providing leeway should the unexpected occur.
Gather supplies. Many writer’s conferences offer handouts as well as opportunities to purchase books. Knowing this, I take an extra large tote. Not only does it hold the goodies I gather, it also carries other “necessities” such as a notebook, pens, snacks and bottled water. Some people prefer a laptop in lieu of paper and pens. That’s okay too, just remember to fully charge your battery as there may not be access to an outlet.
Consider business cards. If you don’t already carry cards identifying you as a writer, now may be the time do so. With today’s software and perforated card stock, it’s simple to create your own. Just remember to include your email address and/or website as this will help you connect with other writers, editors and agents should they request contact information.
Prepare your manuscript if opting for critique. It’s essential to thoroughly proof your work prior to a critique. Doing so reduces the chance of discovering mistakes during your reading. Printing in advance also prevents a mad dash to the store to buy ink or paper at an inopportune time.
Select your attire. Since Midwest weather is as stable as the stock market, I wait till the day before to select what to wear. The recommended style is business casual; however, it’s important to choose something that’s comfortable for you. At past conferences I’ve noticed participants donning everything from jeans and t-shirts to skirts/slacks and dress shirts. Just keep in mind, it’s a business atmosphere, so cutoffs and tube tops are best left at home.
The big day is finally here. You’re dressed and ready to roll. You know where you’re going and have materials on hand. You arrive in plenty of time, collect a heap of handouts, grab a cup of coffee and locate a comfortable seat. Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the show!
Take notice. At the conferences I attended, a schedule was provided upon arrival. It outlined the day’s events which included three speakers, a lunch break, three breakout sessions and a final wrap up. During the breakout sessions, attendees were able to select from several workshops according to their writing interests. This was also the time when critiques took place. Although other conferences may differ from this agenda, many offer a variety of workshops. Therefore, it’s wise to check your schedule early, should you need to decide which sessions you’d like to attend.
Take notes. Since you prepared ahead of time, you brought your notebook (or Netbook) and are ready to write. I find that I fill about half a notebook by the time all is said and done. You may end up writing more. Or less. There’s no test afterwards, so relax and write what feels right to you!
Have fun! Don’t forget to mix and mingle. This is the time to get acquainted with others who share your passion. An easy way to start a conversation is by asking the person next to you what genre(s) they write and read. I’m happy to say that this year I will be sharing my enthusiasm with three of my fellow critique group members. Thanks to our helpful and talented former regional advisor (whom I met at last year’s conference), we got off the ground last December, are at six members strong and still going!