books with Athena

books with Athena

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Next month (September 17-18) I’ll be attending the Central Coast Writers Conference at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, CA. It’s a great little conference, where I always learn something new.

There are still places available. And this year the keynote speaker is the awesome agent, author, and uberblogger NATHAN BRANSFORD!!!!

In honor of the conference I thought I’d re-run my list of tips on getting the most out of a writers’ conference

DON’T dress to impress. (At one conference I attended, a woman came dressed as a tree. Shedding real leaves. Don’t do this. Also, dressing as one of your characters WILL get you noticed, but not in a good way.) Wear neat but comfy clothes. The days will be long and intense.

DO wear a distinctive scarf, hat, or jacket every day that will help people remember you.

DON’T pitch your project unless you’re in a specified pitch session. I’ve seen writers pitch to agents through the bathroom stall door. Seriously. Don’t be that person.

DO offer to get an agent or editor a cup of coffee or ask how she’s enjoying the conference. Or ask what books he reads for fun. It will give you great material for your query letter.

DON’T cart around all 800 pages of your magnum opus and try to thrust it upon faculty members.

DO perfect your pitch beforehand, so you can tell an agent or editor in three sentences what your book is about. Then ask if you can query. (If you’re querying a novel or memoir, make sure to tell her if it’s complete.) If she says yes, you can put “REQUESTED” on the envelope. A big plus.

DON’T compete for faculty attention like a needy two-year old. The accolades will come when you perfect that book and get into print.

DO bring a notebook, several pens—and if you are attending a hands-on critique session workshop—a first chapter, story, or a few poems. Business cards, if you have them, will help with networking. Also, bring some protein bars and energy drinks and/or water. Your breaks may be too short to grab real food.

DON’T forget to have fun. You’re there to make friends as well as learn. One of the most important aspects of a conference is meeting fellow writers.

DO remember agents and editors are people too. As the late, great Miss Snark said “It’s like visiting the reptile house. They're as afraid of you as you are of them. Honest.”


  1. Dearest Miss Allen,
    Another fine post & a classy set of reminders. Sad as it makes me, when I head off to my next conference, I"ll have to leave my Oscar Mayer Weiner hat at home. Bummer.

  2. Great tips! I'd also add to bring a jacket/sweater--the temperatures at conferences are always wacky.

    And Nathan Bransford--what a great keynote speaker. :) Have fun!

  3. Great post! Almost identical advice I was given for attending academic conferences! lol. . .

  4. Great Post!
    I hope you have great fun at the Conference. Did you pick this one because you knew NATHAN would be there or were you looking out for a different agent in particular?
    I'm wearing an outfit that is a homage to 1990 - those days were bright! I'm issuing shades to everyone in the house. (Minnow has just been in in Tick Tick Boom - this outfit hasn't been returned to props yet - it is howevery, only a matter of time:) This would be eye-catching in a bad way.

  5. Chester, the Oscar Mayer wear would probably do just fine.

    Roni, YES! Jackets are always a good idea. I should have said that.

    Emily, I guess it's kind of the same, isn't it? Academic stars can be rather reptilian.

    Elaine, Actually, I kind of engineered Nathan's invitation. I have friends in high places.

  6. Good tips, Anne! Especially the comfy shoes and snacks. I attended Thrillerfest in New York City in July and thought they'd have snacks available for us but they didn't, so we had to waste valuable time going downstairs to pick something up. Other than that, that conference was excellent!

  7. OMG..... A tree?? Yikes! Never seen anything like that!! How I wish I could attend this conference...and just about every one I've ever read about! :)

  8. OMG a tree! That's a first. Another great tip is to bring a memory stick with sample chapters, synopsis, query letters, publication history etc., in case you get asked. Be prepared for every opportunity that may present itself or that you create!

  9. These are all fantastic tips. I hope to start attending a conference here and there soon, so this will definitely come in handy. Thanks for sharing! :)

  10. Some great advice there Anne - but it all sounds like a complete nightmare!

  11. I’m still hoping to attend. This is always a good conference. And, I took all of your suggestions the last time I attended! Thanks for the good advice, again!

  12. Great advice, Anne! Wearing a distinctive hat, scarf, or jacket isn't one I would have thought of, but it's a great idea. I keep meaning to tell you, by the way, that I went camping in Los Osos last month. We stayed in Montana del Oro State Park, and it was cold and foggy all weekend! Does it every get sunny down there?

  13. Jodie--I've heard Thrillerfest is one of the great conferences. But way intense.

    Jan--great tip about bringing your work on a flashdrive just in case

    Becky, Jessica and Simon--Conferences are great, but not necessary to your career. And they can be stressful.(I love the CC Conference because it's pretty laid back. Local conferences tend to be less intense.)

    Christine-I hope you can make it!

    Meghan, July and August are our two foggiest months in LO. We're the air conditioner for the inland towns. But we're moving into "summer" weather now, which will last until the end of October-early November. It's sunny and 85 degrees today. A little hot for me. I think I'm part marine mammal.

  14. Thank you for the great post! I'll be attending my first conference next month (Southern California Writers Conference), and am hoping for a great experience. These tips are bound to help.

  15. Excellent post - informative and very funny! I'll be attending DFWCon 2011, my first writers conference, and now I know I will NOT go dressed as Zena.

  16. I'm glad to read this! Will be prepared for next time. I attended the Writers' League of Texas Agents & Editors conference in June and was completely, totally blindsided by all of it. It ended up being a great weekend, but I could have used your advice.