Last week senior editor Ron Kovach and I (pictured above) headed
to Chicago for the annual AWP conference. Thanks to everyone, especially our
readers and contributors, who stopped by The Writer’s booth to say hello.
Maybe you didn’t make it to AWP this year, but you’ve chosen
another conference that’s right for you. How can you make the experience worth your time?
Prepare. Review the conference schedule before you get there
to plan out what sessions you want to attend. This is particularly helpful if
you’re going to a conference such as AWP or ASJA, where
you don’t need to register for a lot of the individual events ahead of time. Bring
business cards and practice your elevator pitch.
Schedule fun events and time for yourself. A large
conference like AWP can be overwhelming, so don’t make your whole day about
networking and information gathering. Attend readings or check out a jazz club
(Thanks, Ron!) during the evening. Don’t feel pressured to make it a late
night, though. If your body is telling you to take it easy, relax in your room
with a good book and get in a full night of sleep. You’ll feel much better the
next morning facing another full day of activities and/or travel.
Follow up. If you introduced yourself to an editor at a
pitch session—or during an informal encounter—hoping to land an assignment, be sure to follow up with a query or submission. At the least, you can send a
quick thank-you message with a promise to send story ideas soon—that is, if
that’s your plan. Don’t waste your opportunity, and don’t worry if something
doesn’t pan out right away. If you make a good impression, an editor might come
to you with an assignment later.
Finally, if you’re concerned about the cost of a conference,
see Joyce B. Lohse’s “10 reasons you can afford a writing conference” in our
April issue, which also includes a list of more than 50 upcoming conferences as well as a closer look at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference in June. The issue hits newsstands March 13.
—Sarah C. Lange, associate