Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thursday Review—A Review of the Small Things that can make a Writers Conference more Enjoyable

by Lynn Blackburn

Every year when conference season rolls around, writers are faced with huge questions. Are they ready to pitch? What should they wear? Which editor/agent/author should they schedule an appointment with? 

And these are all valid questions, but in the stress of the moment, the would-be conferee may forget some extremely important things. The things you either need to have on your person at all times, or at least nearby in your room or car.

I’m talking about the essentials.
  • Chocolate. Not only will this make your week go more smoothly, but it can be used as an ice breaker when you sit down for your fifteen minute appointments. Remember, agents and editors are people. People with sweet tooths. (Or should it be sweet teeth? Surely an editor can weigh in on this!) 
  • Basic pain/allergy/tummy medications.  No one wants their experience ruined by a three-day tension headache or the intestinal drama that stressing out over a critique can induce. Come prepared.
  • Bandages. You do not want to bleed all over your dream agent because you sliced your finger open on your one sheet. 
  • Snacks. At Blue Ridge, the conference food is quite tasty, but I don’t know many people who only eat three times a day. Have non-perishables in your room for between meals. I recommend Oreos and Cheeze-Its. Healthier people recommend granola bars, bananas, and trail mix. You decide. 
  • Kleenex. I know of a writer who pitched to an editor with a booger hanging out of her nose. Don’t let this be you. And while we’re at it, don’t let anyone walk into that situation. If you see anything where it should not be—food in teeth, skirts stuck in waistbands, flies open—take that person aside and clue them in. No one wants to be known as “that girl who pitched to Chip MacGregor with poppy seeds in her teeth.” 
  • Hand Sanitizer/Lotion. You’ll be shaking lots of hands and handling lots of paper (handouts, one sheets, etc.). Baby those hands. They’ve worked hard to get you to this conference!
  • Wisps. These require no water and are mess free. They are great to have on hand if you need to freshen up your pearly whites and don’t have time to return to your room for a two-minute brush. Or, if you’re like me and have an uncanny ability to dribble toothpaste on your shirt anytime you have an important meeting.
  • Breath mints. True story—I picked up a pack of breath mints to take with me to my first conference. It took me three days to realize that every time I popped one in my mouth, I started sneezing. And I do not have a delicate sneeze. Take my advice—test drive your mints before you arrive. My personal favorites are the Listerine Strips because they dissolve fast and don’t rattle around in your bag. (This just in…Tums has come out with a combo antacid/breath mint…genius!)

This is hardly an exhaustive list. But wait . . . there’s more. Tune in next week as I wrap up my list of conference essentials. 

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Lynn Huggins Blackburn has been telling herself stories since she was five and finally started writing them down. She blogs about faith, family, and her writing journey on her blog Out of the Boat. Lynn is a member of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and the Word Weavers, Greenville. She lives in South Carolina where she hangs out with three lively children, one fabulous man, and a cast of imaginary characters who find their way onto the pages of her still unpublished novels. She drinks a lot of coffee.


  1. Love this, Lynn! What great advice. Can't wait to see you there!

  2. Thanks for the tip on Wisps...never heard of them. And I wish I were going to Blue Ridge! It is such a good conference.

  3. I keep hearing the chocolate one. I guess I better stock up on Godivas.

  4. What great advice! Even thought I've been to a few conferences before, I didn't think about some of these things. Wonder how much chocolate the faculty can eat?

  5. Sage and practical advice for the conference, I love it! I can attest to the need for non-perishable snacks in your room. All that walking around Ridgecrest burns extra calories, so you need some treats in your room for in between meals. Looking forward to May 20th!

  6. Vonda - I can't wait either!
    Pat - I love Wisps!! And there are other brands - on the toothpaste aisle. I keep them stashed in my car/diaper bag/ purse. :-)
    Connie - If the first thought you have when you hear chocolate is "Godiva" then you are someone I want to be friends with for sure!! :-)
    Marilyn - Glad there were a few new ideas! And that's an interesting question...maybe some faculty will chime in :-).
    Allison - :-) I'm counting the days!

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  8. Great article Lynn. Great point about chocolate. It makes everything better!
    Can't wait.

  9. Add a flashlight or plan to use your phone if you're sharing a room. Much easier to find things in the dark that way so you don't wake your roommate.

  10. I'm not going, but I sure enjoyed got a charge out of this post...esp. the Kleenex note. Ha!!

  11. Love this, Lynn. Made me laugh. Thank you. I'm putting my list together. Definitely won't forget the Cheez-Its.

  12. Edie, The booger story cracked me UP!! I'm much calmer as conference approaches this year. I'm not pitching anything, just going to soak of the vibes.
    Sharon Srock

  13. I'm so glad you all have enjoyed this post! I really was blessed to find Lynn to guest post regularly - she's a gem!
    As far as chocolate for the faculty—there can NEVER be too much chocolate!
    Diana, great tip. I always have a flashlight when I share a room.
    Sandra, we'll miss you!
    Volunteerfringe and Sharon, thanks for dropping by!
    Blessings All, E

  14. I won't be there but I'll eat some chocolate at home to celebrate from afar. That was the best suggestion of them all, and they were all great. Hope I need them next year. Thanks, Lynn and have fun at BRMCWC!

  15. Lynn, you made me laugh out loud. Thanks for spilling the practical side of things for us humans.

  16. I just read this to my husband and even he's laughing! Thanks for the reminders!