I attended my first conference last weekend, and loved it. (I would’ve put an exclamation mark at the end of that sentence to emphasize how much I loved it, but Jerry B. Jenkins said only use them in dialog, and then sparingly. So here are some smiley faces to express my excitement and enthusiasm. )
The Indianapolis Christian Writers Conference provided some excellent speakers and workshops. There were sessions discussing fiction, nonfiction, and the publishing industry in general. It wasn’t possible to attend all of them, but the ones I went to were well worth the time and money I spent. I highly recommend this conference, which is held every November.
Looking back, there are a few things I want to remember for the next time I go:
1. Don’t stress over your appearance. While the registration information recommended business casual, people wore whatever they liked. Some were in dresses and high heels, others in jeans and sneakers, but most wore casual slacks and sweaters. No one seemed to care what others were wearing.
2. Don’t buy a big purse to carry all your stuff in. The conference staff provided large canvas bags with packets of information for the attendees, so another bag was unnecessary. Some classrooms were so crowded that the bags were in the way.
3. Make sure you know where you put anything important—like your reading glasses. I bought a big purse (really big) and it had so many pockets that I couldn’t find my reading glasses when it came time to consult with my chosen faculty member. How embarrassing not to be able to read my own questions, which I’d typed out in advance and couldn’t remember.
4. If you have to leave the conference building for some reason, make sure you know where you’re going and how to get back. Yes, I learned that one the hard way. I’m requesting a GPS thing for Christmas.
5. Be friendly first. I went by myself, but by initiating conversations with the people around me I became friends with several wonderful women. Everyone I spoke to was pleasant and helpful.
6. If the high temperature during the day is in the forties, expect thick frost on your car the next morning. At home I always park in a garage, so it didn’t occur to me that I’d need extra time to scrape ice off my windows.
7. Be friendly to the hotel staff because they can be very helpful. For example, I’d asked my son to clean out my car before I left, so my ice scraper and gloves were no longer in my trunk when I needed them. The receptionist loaned me a scraper, and gave me directions to where I wanted to go. (Someone else told me a plastic rewards card works as a scraper in an emergency.)
8. I am not alone. The people at this conference shared my values and my interests, which is something I don’t often experience. I understood exactly where they were coming from and what they hoped to achieve. It was awesome.
What do you wish you’d known before attending your first conference? What do you hope to achieve by attending a writing conference? Who would you like to meet or learn from if you could choose the staff for a conference?
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