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10 Things You Should Take to Every Writers Conference


Photo by Glen Euloth courtesy of Creative Commons


I thought I was so prepared at AWP 15 this year, but there were a few essentials I didn’t take that would have made my conference run much smoother:

1. Business cards

I can’t emphasize enough how much you should take a stack of business cards with you to every writers conference. I take at least 50, although I give out closer to 20.

2. Copies of your book

If you have a book published, you should never go anywhere without multiple copies. Take 20 if you can. You never know who will buy one from you. I heard a woman read last month and said, “I’d love to read your book sometime,” and she said, “Well, I happen to have a copy right here” and whipped it out of her book bag. SOLD. $20 cash in her hand.

3. Post cards or book marks

You should also carry post cards or bookmarks with your book cover printed on them and give those out to everyone who asks about your book. If you speak on a panel, have a stack on the table in front of you next to your business cards. I’ve also seen people who have their book cover right on their business cards, killing two birds with one stone (as if it were a good idea to go around killing birds with stones).

4. USB stick/thumb drive/flash drive

I wish I had taken one of these to AWP! When I wanted to photocopy something, I had no way to carry the file down to the FedEx center in the Hilton or the UPS center in the conference center to print it. I had to email it to myself and then pay ($3+ $.40/minute) to use their computer to print it out before photocopying it. Big pain that a flash drive would easily have solved.

5. Handouts

I would have saved a bundle of money if I’d printed  all my handouts ahead of time rather than typing them up on the plane and printing them at the UPS office. At big hotels and conference centers, photocopy centers charge around 15 cents for black and white copies and 60 cents for color, which can cost a pretty penny if you need to print 100+ copies.

6. Layers

Weather is wacky these days, especially in the spring. It can snow one day, rain the next, and be hot and sunny the day after that—which is exactly what it did in Minneapolis last month. And no matter what the outside weather is like, conference centers can be chilly, so even if it’s sweltering outside, carry a sweater.

7. Comfortable shoes

You’ll do a lot of walking at any conference, so wear comfortable shoes. For clothing, I see most people wearing jeans or casual pants and boots (or shorts and skirts in the summer) with a nice sweater or top in case your meet your favorite agent or famous author. At the BlogHer conference I attended in 2013, women were more dressed up. I saw a lot of long sundresses and sandals (although it was Chicago in July). Bloggers seem to be fancier than writers. I think that’s because they’re more in the habit of selling themselves.

8. Extra room in your suitcase

You’d be surprised by how much swag you pick up at conferences—books, T-shirts, and book bags if it’s strictly a writing conference. All that plus a sack load of snacks, coupons, and toiletries if it’s BlogHer. Leave a little extra room in your bag, or bring a second bag, so you can get everything home. I’m still working my way through the nasal sprays and cough medicines I picked up at BlogHer13!

9. Snacks

Some conferences provide meals, but most don’t, and it can be challenging to find decent food in a city you’ve never visited while dashing between workshops and panels. Carry snacks—almonds and Lara Bars are my favorite—so you can re-energize when you’re feeling depleted.

10. An open mind

You never know who or what you’ll encounter at a writers conference. Maybe you’ll meet your agent. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll get some great writing done. Maybe you won’t write a word. Don’t go with too many expectations, or you may be disappointed. Stay positive, try to make a few friends, and enjoy your time away from home.

What about you? What essentials do you take to every writers conference? What do you wish you’d taken to the last conference you attended?

7 comments to 10 Things You Should Take to Every Writers Conference

  • It makes your work easy when writing a dissertation but only if you have with some draft. The draft will act as your guidelines and there are chances that you may not require anything else other than just honing this draft to a final paper.

  • This is great and absolutely the most necessary things to be taken to a writers conference.

  • I think what you say about "photocopy centers charge around 15 cents for black and white copies and 60 cents for color" that is the price that can be quite cheap.

  • Thanks for sharing this wonderful list of things i am very impressed with that list. Each of these things are equally important. Please keep sharing more tips.