A Survival Guide to Writers Conferences: 1. Eat Chocolate for Breakfast

A friend who is heading for a writers’ conference next month asked if I had any advice, and since it’s not the first time I’ve been asked:

1. Eat Chocolate for Breakfast.
Just a square of extra dark. It’s a known mood enhancer, and everyone does better at everything when in a good mood. Oh, go ahead. Lunch. Dinner. Midnight snack.Journal Avatar to Link Back to Blog Hop

2. Choose Your Own Path.
Do everything that looks appealing. Skip anything that doesn’t. Writers’ conferences can be exhausting, and a little downtime can be restorative.

3. Bring Your Elevator Pitch.
Two sentences. Short. Vivid. Punchy. Rehearse it. Agents and editors have been known to hang out at these conferences, and first impressions matter. Even your friends will thank you, as your mother really doesn’t want the 1/2 hour explanation of your book, even if she pretends she does. If the two sentences appeal, people will ask for more, or better yet, ask to read.

4. Tuck Business Cards into your Lanyard Badge.
Or wherever else they will be handy. Swap cards with everyone you meet, so you can connect later.

5. Read the Participating Writers’ Books.
You won’t likely be able to read the books of every author presenting at your conference, of course, but reading around in the writers’ works will help you decide with whom to study (if you’re given a choice) and which panels to attend. Writers tend to be a generous bunch, but conversations that start “I haven’t read your books, but…” tend to be considerably shorter than ones that start “I loved [insert title here] — especially [something specific, and preferably flattering].”

And most importantly…

6. Be yourself, and try not to be shy.
Many of my closest writer-pals are people I’ve met at conferences, and those friendships go a LONG way to keeping us all sane. Most of those I’m closest to are friendships that began before any of us were published.

If you have other tips, please share them in the comments.  – Meg


  1. January 31, 2013    

    Bring an extra sweater! And leg warmers! Conferences are freezing!

  2. Laurie Reese Laurie Reese
    January 31, 2013    

    Thank you for the tips! I’ll be attending the San Francisco Writer’s Conference (my first one) and will be sure to bring along some business cards and dark chocolate. The two-sentence pitch is about to kill me, so I may have to start on the chocolate early. I look forward to meeting you!

  3. me me
    January 31, 2013    

    Come sit by me with that extra dark, Laurie! If there is any left after you’ve got the pitch. :-)

  4. me me
    January 31, 2013    

    And wear a sleeveless shirt underneath, Anjali, for when the air conditioning fails. :)

  5. Laurie Reese Laurie Reese
    January 31, 2013    

    I’ll bring extra! ????

  6. Laurie Reese Laurie Reese
    January 31, 2013    

    (Those question marks were supposed to be a big thinking-about-eating-chocolate smiley face)

  7. Tracy Guzeman Tracy Guzeman
    January 31, 2013    

    So you’re basically saying that your 3 square meals a day can be 3 squares a day, right? Sounds good to me!

  8. me me
    January 31, 2013    

    Laughing! Oh yes, three squares.

1st BOOKS is hosted by MEG WAITE CLAYTON

Read the new national bestseller, The Race for Paris, from the author of the New York Times-bestseller The Wednesday Sisters (a writing group novel). Meg has also written essays for The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Writer's Digest, Runner's World, and public radio.

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