Once you have selected a conference, be sure to go to it with all necessary materials in hand. You will need a way to take notes (pencils, ink pens, and notepads, or a laptop, netbook, or other device you can type on) and a digital recorder for recording lectures in class and conducting interviews with guest authors out of class. Many conferences have wi-fi or hook-ups for computers for use in class or in the dorm or hotel rooms. When you pack your camera gear, be sure to include a small notepad to jot down the locations in the photos as you shoot them. Remember to pack spare batteries or the plug-in chargers for all your electronics.
If you have business cards, take plenty to exchange with other writers or to give to visiting editors and publishers. Also, take along your e-reader or a book or two to read during the evenings when you are trying to unwind after a hectic day of classes and workshops. Many workshops provide handouts, such as magazine guidelines or sample issues, so be sure to take along an extra tote bag to use to transport those items back home.
Most important of all, take at least three of your manuscripts. Some conferences arrange informal swap-and-critique sessions in which they have your fellow conference registrants read and analyze your manuscripts. You probably will also have a private counseling session with one of the conference instructors or an editor in residence or literary agent in residence, who will want to examine your writings. Here will be people you can talk to face to face whom you’ve had trouble reaching by other means.
Adapted from Writing for Profit by Dennis E. Hensley (Thomas Nelson, 1985; revised 2003). At Taylor University in Upland, IN, Dr. Hensley teaches students in the Professional Writing Major what to pack for writers’ conferences so they can get the most value from their investment of time and money. © 2011 by Dennis E. Hensley. All rights reserved.