Do’s & Don’ts for a Writers’ Conference

So. Writers’ Conferences can be intimidating, especially for those of us who have yet to publish our work. They can be overwhelming, with the sheer amount of information flooding our already cluttered, creative minds.

These annual gatherings can be found throughout the world and are places where writers come together to learn from published authors, veteran agents and seasoned editors. Through a series of workshops, panel discussions, lectures and keynote addresses, writers’ conferences afford attendees a chance to learn, grow and network.

It takes a great deal of time to prepare for a writers’ conference, but it’s well worth your time to maximize your experience. With that in mind, here are some Do’s & Don’ts for attending a writers’ conference.

Writers’ Conference: Do’s

  • Make a Plan.
Make a Plan for your Writers’ Conference experience.

No matter if you’re attending a ten-day marathon or a one-day sprint, writers’ conferences are a whirlwind race. You’ll need stamina and focus to maximize your time. You need a plan.

These conferences are centered around writers learning about the craft of writing. Some are general, some genre specific, and some are entire retreats.

Devour the conference website.

Learn about who’s attending. Read the bios of the speakers, and, more importantly, the agents. Review the descriptions of the educational sessions. Familiarize yourself with the location and details. Plan it out.

Are there early bird rates for registrations? If you’re going out of town, are there hotel discounts associated with the conference? Where are you going to eat?

Remember, these events are social in nature, so just because the schedule activities have ended that doesn’t your opportunities to interact with these people have.

  • Practice your Pitch

One of the most alluring aspects of a writers’ conference is the chance to pitch literary agents. Some conferences have this opportunity built into the base cost, while others charge an add-on fee. Make sure you know ahead of time.

Plan for pitch sessions to last about 90 seconds. You’ll need to know what you’re going to say before you say it. It’s daunting. It’s nerve-wracking.

But you don’t think your a salesman, right? You’re a writer! So maybe think about your pitch this way: It’s like reciting your Query Letter in a conversational manner.

You probably spent days if not weeks on a query letter, so memorize that bad boy. Try not to read off a page or notes. You should be able to talk about your book without them.

Also, make sure you’ve done your homework ahead of time. Does the agent you want to pitch represent the genre you write in? What other writers do they represent? Keep that in mind.

  • Attend as many educational sessions as possible

Be it conference or seminar, workshop or retreat, these events all feature an educational component. Sessions are presented by industry professionals who are experts in their particular field. For the unpublished writer, it’s a wealth of information.

There might be a lecture session on the elements of a specific genre, or a panel discussion where agents discuss hot-button issues. Editors might host a Q&A roundtable.

Be ready to take advantage of these opportunities. Have an open mind. Take notes. Listen. You’ll glean insights to help your writing process and pitching along the way.

  • Dress the Part
Don’t forget your business cards! They’re a valuable resource at any Writers’ Conference.

This one might seem silly, but you can’t walk into a conference looking like you’re staggering in from an all-night bender.

Think business casual. Remember, agents are looking for business partners. Be comfortable, but look the part. And dress in layers, some conference rooms are chilly.

Don’t forget your business cards! An agent might ask for one, and you can exchange these with the other conference attendees.

You’re networking, and many of the other writers are in the same boat as you. One of them might be your next beta reader, or better yet, a longtime friend.

Writers’ Conference: Don’ts

  • Don’t pass agents or editors pages

Agents and editors interact with dozens upon dozens of writers at some of these events. Some agents will hear anywhere from 25 to 50 pitches in one day! The last thing you want to do is pass an agent you’re pitching pages of your manuscript. If they took pages from all of the writers they met, they’d collapse under the weight!

If they’re going to ask for anything, it’ll be a business card. What’s more likely to happen is they’ll give you one of their cards and tell you to email them referencing the conference pitch session.

  • Don’t Ramble On

Leave that to Zeppelin. When you’re seated across from an agent, you might only have 90 seconds to pitch your novel, so you’d better know what you’re going to say. Avoid a long, meandering ramble about your story. Make sure you’re not darting off on any tangents. Stay focused.

Also, don’t spend all of your allotted time talking. (This is especially true of longer pitch sessions.) You want to leave some time to answer any questions the agent might have. And you certainly want to leave time for some feedback from the agent about what you’ve just pitched.

  • Don’t Be Afraid (to start conversations)
It’s important to take the time to network during the Writers’ Conference.

Writers might be naturally introverted creatures–God knows I am. But when we find ourselves in a conference setting, we must be ready to talk with anyone and everyone.

Chat with the other attendees around you. Share your ideas, experiences. Trade business cards. Practice your pitches for each other.

Start a conversation while in the coffeeshop line. Or in the elevator. Go out to eat and drink with your new writer friends. This isn’t necessarily a competition. There’s plenty of room for all of us to succeed.

Some of these people will becomes friends and colleagues if you’re open. Besides, you never know where you’ll meet an agent or editor.

It’s important to maximize your experience at any writers’ conference. You might not land an agent for your manuscript (you might!), but that doesn’t mean it was a waste of time and money.

Remember, at any of these events, you’re surrounded by people who love reading and writing as much as you do, so enjoy it!

I’ll be attending the 2018 Florida Writers’ Workshop in Tampa, FL, next week. I’m looking forward to another opportunity to make inroads in the maze of publication.


The Liebster Award

Much blog love goes out to The Legends of Windemere for nominating me for a Liebster Award. ‘Liebster’ translates from German to ‘dearest’ in English, and with that in mind, it’s pretty awesome that Charles Edward Yallowitz considered my work worth the read. Don’t miss his book Legends of Windemere: Beginning of a Hero available now at Smashwords, and for the Kindle.


The Liebster award is designed for bloggers with less than 200 followers, and at present I’ve got a grand total of 63 followers. The fact that people beyond my blood relations read my work is humbling. So, here goes:

The rules are:
* Share eleven facts about yourself with your fellow bloggers.
* Make sure to answer the awarder’s eleven questions.
* Ask eleven questions of your own.
* Nominate eleven bloggers for this award.

Eleven Facts About Yours Truly

  1. As it turns out, 11 is my favorite number.
  2. 11 PM is now very much past my bed time. (There’d better be a damned good reason you keep me up late.)
  3. At 11 years old, I was reading The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin with my Language Arts teacher, Ms. Sue Timmis. Now, at 32 years old, I’m reading The Westing Game with my 6th grade Literature class.
  4. In 2011, I came to teach at my old middle/elementary school. Some of my old teachers are still here. The fact that my two children roam the same halls my brothers, friends and I once did makes me feel incredibly old.
  5. Growing up, one of my favorite basketball players was Isiah Thomas, who played for the Detroit Pistons, and wore #11.
  6. As such, my high school varsity basketball jersey number was, you guessed it, #11.
  7. Once upon a time, I could drink 11 beers and be fine. I’m not entirely sure that is still true. Weekend experiment!
  8. An epic 11-on-11 Survivor Flip-Cup match would be the best 11-on-11 game in existence, but until that game happens, Football is the best. (Weekend experiment?)
  9. I know what my 11th favorite movie of all-time is. (“The Fifth Element” [1997])
  10. The 11th song of the playlist I am currently listening to is: “That’s Not Her Style” by Billy Joel, from his album “Stormfront”.
  11. 9 of my last 11 posts (not counting re-blogs) have been about Writing.

My Awarder’s Eleven Questions

My Awarder has come up with a devious array of queries that I will now endeavor to answer.

1. What is your favorite pizza topping? 

-If I had to choose one, it’d have to be the classic pepperoni. Throw some sausage and maybe some fresh basil on there too, and now we’re talking.

2. Do you have a nickname?  If so, what and why?

-I’ve had a number of nicknames throughout my life, but the only one that’s stuck with any sort of permanence is ‘Bebé’. I’m the first born of my generation so-to-speak, so grandparents and all my aunts and uncles referred to me a ‘Bebé’, which means “baby” in Spanish. To this day, most of my family, including some of my little cousins, call me ‘Bebé’. Once I started talk, though, I had my revenge. As the first born, I doled out a number of nicknames to those selfsame grandparents, aunts and uncles that have stuck to them.

3. Who is your hero?

-My answer is absolutely cliché, my parents and grandparents. As far as my grandparents go, they immigrated from Cuba in the 1960s and worked to establish a better life here in Miami. My parents were blessed with that same work-ethic and helped developed a loving, faithful and supportive family environment–one that pushed me to follow my dream of being a writer.

4. What was the last song you listened to?

-This question is unfair, and not indicative of my own musical predilections. The last song I listened to was one chosen by my five year-old daughter on our ride home. It’s was “I’ve Got a Dream” by Brad Garrett, Jeffery Tambor, Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, and company from the “Tangled” soundtrack.

5. What is your biggest fear?

-Once upon a time, my biggest fear was death. Now, my biggest fear is the death of my wife and/or my children.

6. If you had a choice between riding an elephant or a camel, which would you choose? Why?

-I would ride an elephant, and henceforth refer to myself as a mahout. The benefits of such a title are evident.

7. Is there an animal that you identify with?  Why?

-I would love to claim an identification with the dolphin–you know, sleek, smart, and speedy. Alas, I’m more akin to a Basset Hound, lolling, loyal, and lovable!

8. What is your favorite season?  Why?

-My favorite season would be Winter, if we experienced it here in Miami, but we really only get Summer and More-Humid-Summer. So, my favorite season is Summer–not the least of which among my reasons is that I’m a teacher. I don’t think the Starks included Miami in their Winter Is Coming declaration.

9. Do you wish I was better at asking questions?

-Not at all. I mean, you might not be Barbara Walters or the Corpse of Larry King, but I’d certainly slot you ahead of Montell Williams and, gasp, Matt Lauer. (If you were Oprah, and I were Tom Cruise’s alien host, I’d jump on your couch.)

10. In a fight between King Kong, Dracula, and Kenny from South Park, who would win?

– Considering Kenny is immortal, and no matter how many times Dracula bit him or King Kong smacked a plane at him he’d be back for the next episode, I’d go with him. Battle of attrition.

11. Do you believe that everyone has the ability to be an artist?

-I believe everyone has the ability to create, but whether or not that becomes art I guess is up to them. What’s that saying. ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’? People make things all the time, and there’s a level of artistry in any number of professions. The short answer would have been, Yes.

My Questions

  1. Who are you and why are you here?
  2. What literary character would you like to be?
  3. If you could scourge the Earth of one man-made creation, what would it be? Why?
  4. Where do your literary tastes lie?
  5. Where do your musical tastes lie?
  6. What as-of-yet unmade novel/film adaptation would you make?
  7. If you could have dinner with one historical figure, who would it be? Where would you eat?
  8. Speaking of eating, what is your favorite blogging snack?
  9. If you could have a new day-job (assuming you currently have one), what would it be? Why? (You can’t choose writer!)
  10. Which of your non-writing related hobbies helps your writing the most?
  11. What is your blogging process?

My Nominees

I hereby nominate the following awesome bloggers (in no particular order):

  1. Mark Elman
  2. Laura B Williams
  3. Caitlin Stern Writes
  4. Corey M.P.
  5. 21st Century Renaissance Girl
  6. Marie Lamba
  7. Sidekick Reviews
  8. Robakers
  9. Lauren Marie Robb
  10. Myth Rider
  11. The Ranting Papizilla (He’s got 201 followers, but I’ll keep him on this list ‘cuz he’s way awesome.)