Getting value from a writer’s conference — Carolyn Wilker

Having attended writer’s conferences over the years, I encourage others to try it out. Those opportunities charged and inspired me and offered the push I needed to move on.  It’s one thing to sign up and say you’re going; preparing oneself to get the most from the event is just as important. 

Write-Canada-garden-015In a large event, such as Write Canada, it makes sense to spend the time beforehand and choose the tracks that are just right for you. This could be true of any conference you attend whether you are a writer, speaker or representing your company. 

If you’re starting out in writing, there are beginner tracks, but if you’ve been working at it for a while, you might find you’re best suited to the intermediate track, and so on. Then you can begin to select the workshops that match your areas of interests. 

Tips to help you prepare for conference:

  1. Look up the speaker’s bio. What focus does this workshop present? What experience does the speaker bring to the presentation? 
  2. Plan to take notes, because you’ll want to remember what you heard. Use a notebook and pen, a binder with loose leaf pages, or a laptop for typing (pack a cord for recharging). 
  3. Always ask permission before recording a speaker. At a conference, speakers may allow the organization to record the presentation and then sell the CDs to attendees. If this is the case, budget for that if the session you’re in may be recorded.
  4. Pack comfortable clothing (business casual) and footwear. If the conference offers the opportunity to pitch a manuscript to an agent or publishing representative, you’ll want to look your best. Pack a light jacket or sweater, in case conference rooms are air-conditioned; that way you’ll be comfortable and look good. Good grooming and proper attire makes you look professional.
  5. Go well rested. A conference offers a lot to participants. Absorbing a lot of information one session after another fills your head with good things, but it can be tiring too.
  6. Take along business cards, if you have them. If you don’t have a card, now is a good time to design one and get it printed. Go for a smaller quantity of good quality cards for starters. It makes connecting afterwards much easier.

Once you’re at conference, remember to:

  • Take a break when you need it. You alone know how much you can absorb before you hit overload and fatigue. The same goes for getting proper rest at night. 
  • Make copious notes, in whatever style suits you. Have your paper and pen, notebook and pen or laptop ready. Ask questions in sessions and get involved in discussions. Listen carefully.
  • Choose food according to your needs but don’t overeat. 
  • Stay hydrated. Coffee and tea may be enjoyable, but water is best.
  • Make connections. Network. This is a place to meet other writers over snack breaks and lunch and get to know them and what they write. Introduce yourself. If you show an interest in others, they will often do the same for you.


The Inscribe conference, coming up in late September, offers many workshops. See them here. If you’ve never been to a conference, take it from me, it’s a worthwhile experience and one that can charge your writing career or pick you up out of the doldrums of working alone.  Go for it or save for the next one. It’s worth your consideration.

Carolyn-Wilker-2Carolyn Wilker, editor, writing instructor, storyteller and author of Once Upon a Sandbox.

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