Attending A Conference? Dos and Don’ts

I’m about to head off to New York for SCBWI’s 2015 Winter Conference. I remember my early conference-attending years. My anticipation was keen, but I recall not knowing what to expect as I went about the business of mingling with editors, agents, and published authors – all of whom walked on water as far as I was concerned. Whether you’ll be in New York or plan on attending a regional conference, whether SCBWI or another, here are some “dos and don’ts” to keep in (1)


  • Sign up for critiques and/or pitches if at all possible. My first few were cringe-worthy, but they were learning experiences, and I grew a lot as I learned what worked and what didn’t.
  • Get to know your peers, whether you are starting out or have some experience. The people you meet at a conference could become your lifelong writing buddies.
  • Attend as many sessions as you can – especially craft sessions. Listen. Learn.
  • Be open. You’ll find inspiration in strange places. Some of my best ideas have grown out of margin notes (“what if…”) while listening to a great speaker.
  • Pay attention to “news”. The publishing industry is constantly changing, and those sessions on industry can help you navigate the tides. And social media is always in flux.
  • Wear comfortable but professional clothing. You only have one chance to make a first impression, and especially if you are being critiqued by a pro, you want them to remember you in a positive



  • Try to be trendy. Don’t change your writing focus to match what editors or agents say they want. What they really want is great writing.
  • Be pushy. Don’t fling yourself at editors, agents, or published authors. See my comments on this in my logline post. No handing out business cards (unless asked) or manuscripts. Be respectful.
  • See this as a sales meeting. Don’t even take your work with you unless you have signed up for a critique or a pitch. You’re there to learn.
  • Exhaust yourself. Try to eat sensibly and get some rest. Big conferences can be jam-packed.

Conferences are a terrific way to learn if you’re a newbie, and they are a wonderful place to grow your connections if you’re further along. I’ve never been to a conference I didn’t like and didn’t learn from, and always come away recharged and ready to get back to my work.

If you’re in New York next weekend, come find me!