Attending a writers’ conference requires time and energy. These tips for before, during and after attending a conference or other writing-related event, especially those that include workshops, can help you make the most of the time and create a foundation for what comes after.
Before the conference:
- Faculty: Research your faculty workshop leaders, and prepare a list of questions about your work and the craft of writing in advance. Also research other faculty, in case you want to talk with them.
- Panels and keynote: Research the panelists and keynote speaker, and bring your questions to the Q&A sessions. If time runs out, you may be able ask questions afterward.
- Website: Study the conference website, especially the resources sections, for helpful information. Keep checking the site for updates.
- Workshops: Carefully review all the information from your workshop leader, to learn as much as possible about the art and craft of your chosen genre.
- Registration: Arrive early to get a feel for the event and to meet your fellow writers, the faculty and the coordinators. Also carefully review the information in your registration packet.
During the conference:
- Networking: Get to know your fellow writers, the workshop faculty and conference coordinators. Exchange business cards, promotional materials and contact information with others so that you can keep in touch. Compare notes with other writers about what you’re learning.
- Book and resource tables: Visit the faculty and other book tables for examples of work by the experienced writers at the event. Also visit the resource table to collect as much information as you can.
- Readings: Attend the readings of other writers. You'll be surprised at what you learn. And if the conference offers an applicant open-mic session, consider signing up to read your work. This will give you practice reading before what is, hopefully, a mostly friendly audience.
- Panels and keynote: Meet the panelists and keynote speaker, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Workshops: Keep any reading lists your workshop leader provides. Read and retain all the workshop handouts. Where you need clarity about feedback or other workshop information, be sure to ask questions. Before you leave the conference, aim to have some idea of the next steps to take in your writing life.
After the conference:
- Collaboration: Consider collaborating with a trusted fellow writer. Also consider working with a faculty workshop leader (yours or someone else) after the conference.
- Networking: Keep in touch with your fellow writers and others you meet during the conference.
- Feedback: Give the workshop feedback you receive from your faculty leader and fellow writers time to gel. Your workshop leader provides a worthwhile overview and details on how to improve your work, as do your compatriots, especially if a particular critique arises more than once. You fellow writers also bring another key perspective to the table — that of your prospective audience.
- Next steps: Consider making a list of next steps for after the conference, and ask your faculty workshop leader for guidance on this. Ask the conference coordinators about the best resources to meet your writing needs. Considering creating your own writing community, and seek opportunities to stay involved and active in your writing life. Check the conference website for final information.
If making the most of a writers’ conference sounds like it involves more than just inspiration, it does. But consider this: “Creativity has much to do with experience, observation and imagination, and if any one of those key elements is missing, it doesn’t work.” Bob Dylan, Chronicles Volume One