Preparing for a Writing Conference

by - 7:04 PM

I love participating in writing conferences. This weekend I travel to Texas for the Stories From the Heart Conference sponsored by the Story Circle Network ( I have been part of the planning for this so I know what will be there. I plan to attend the two preconference workshops, have two coaching sessions, and take as many of the workshop presentations as I can squeeze into my schedule. So how do I prepare? Here are my suggestions.

First, register early, most conferences offer a small discount for early registration. If you are not local to the conference, make your hotel reservation and plane reservation at the same time. I have tried to fare watch and buy my plane tickets in the window of time suggested by travel sights but found my best, and least stressful, option is to buy my ticket early and then cancel any fare alerts I have up. Once you buy your ticket, forget about it! A twenty-dollar difference is not worth the aggravation.

If the featured speakers have published works, read them in advance. In this case one of the preconference session on the craft of memoir writing featured Brooke Warner, publisher of SheWrites Press  ( and Linda Joy Meyers, founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers ( and both have numerous books in the world. The other preconference workshop was about publishing options and featured two prominent writers, Susan Wittig Albert, memoir, mystery, and women’s creative nonfiction (,  Connie Spittler, author of The Erotica Book Club for Nice Ladies (, and Debra L. Winegarten, poet and publisher ( These three women will be discussing the wide range of publishing options writers have today and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Read the program well in advance. There will be difficult choices, as you will want to attend two sessions that are offered simultaneously. If you plan ahead, you can negotiate with fellow attendees to share the information and notes from the session you could not attend. You, of course, can return the favor by sharing your session’s notes and handouts.

Pack light, especially if air travel is involved. Conferences have exhibitor rooms full of treasures, plus presenters usually have their books for sale. You can support a fellow writer by buying her book and you have the opportunity to get the book autographed. Airlines usually have a 50-pound limit on checked bags. I try to pack no more than 30 pounds, allowing for 20 pounds of book purchases. Plan to dress in layers as most conference facilities vacillate between too warm and freezing. I usually take a pretty shawl or scarf and maybe a light jacket or sweater.

Reach out through cyber space to any friends attending and set up a meeting time for dinner or drinks. If you wait until you get there, this may not happen. If you make a dinner reservation somewhere, add an extra person or two to the count so you can include the new folks you meet. There is such joy in connecting with other writers and expanding your writing tribe.

Take some time to journal about what your expectations and hopes are. This will help you focus in on the right sessions and will bring the right folks into your life. But of course allow some room for the unexpected gifts the conference will provide.

And finally, have an open heart and mind. You are with fellow writers; this is your tribe, revel in them!

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