Monday, June 30, 2014


Summer is a time for writers conferences.  If you are planning to attend a conference in the next few months, here are some things to keep in mind in order to get the most out of your experience.

1.  DON’T PLACE TOO MUCH PRESSURE ON YOURSELF-It is unhealthy to think of this as a make or break situation.  Granted, you may have a chance to meet editors and agents but it certainly won’t be your last opportunity.  The more relaxed you can be, the more at ease, the greater the likelihood that something good will happen. 

2. DO HEALTHY SCHMOOZING-In my opinion, the healthiest form of schmoozing one can partake in at a conference is to get to know other aspiring writers, people who are on the same journey you’re on.  Sure, it’s always nice to get a business card from an agent but in the long run it may be more valuable to have the e-mail addresses of three fellow writers whom you may be friends with for the rest of your life.

3.  GO SOMEWHERE NICE-Choose a conference in a city or in a part of the country that you’ve always wanted to visit.  If the conference ends up to be disappointing, the vacation will still be a huge success.

4. DON’T RUN YOURSELF RAGGED-Conferences can be grueling.  Don’t be afraid to skip a seminar or a panel discussion if your mind and body are begging for a nap.  It’s hard to absorb information when you’re drained.  Don’t feel obligated to do everything.

5. SEE IT AS A NO LOSE SITUATION-Even if you don’t land a four book deal with Macmillan, you will come away from the conference highly motivated and full of new insights about the craft of writing.  It really is a no lose situation!

For those of you in the Midwest who may be looking to attend a conference in the fall, I will be teaching a one week seminar called ‘How To Write A Children’s Book’ in Door County, Wisconsin, where I grew up.  The seminar will take place from Oct. 12-17 at Bjorklunden, the northern campus of Lawrence University.  For more info check out Bjorklunden’s Web Site-

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  1. Great tips all. I have done a fair few conferences in my time, and the best part is the camaraderie with other writers who in some cases become friends. I always leave energized, even if I haven't scored the four book deal!

  2. I have never been to a conference. Ever.
    Now that I'm officially retired, I desperately want to.

    Anybody in the mid-Atlantic east want to suggest a good one to start with?

    1. WFC 2014 is in Washington DC this fall, but it's kind of more for adult SF/F than kidlit. Still, I went in 2011. Pretty cool.

  3. Good advice. After attending a yearly conference (either NJ or PA SCBWI) every year for, gasp, six years, I'm taking a break from conferences this year. I did learn a lot from the workshops, but as Michael said, meeting other writers and talking and laughing a lot is the highlight of any conference. Writing is such a solitary profession that it's great to get out of your room and meet other writers. I've made some great friends and found my crit group through conferences.

    Note to Dianne: NJ SCBWI is the best, but you've just missed it for this year.

  4. I always think if you get just one piece of valuable information out of a conference it's worth it. It can be the difference in everything! :)

    Great post!

  5. I once got to sit with Bruce Coville during a meal at weekend conference in MI. He gave me this sort of advice just before my editor one - on - one -- see it as a learning experience rather than a do or die sort of thing. I've always remembered this.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!