What am I thankful for?
Living in North Carolina for one! Don’t you know North Carolina is the Writingness State?
I’m also thankful for the North Carolina Writers’ Network Fall Conferences and if you keep reading this post you’ll pick up a few tips from me.
Writing conferences are fabulous opportunities to meet other writers at all experience levels from outside your zip code, to soak up knowledge from experts and to solidify your Facebook and Twitter relationships. You can can check out publishing, blogging and speaking opportunities while sugaring your coffee and in the evening you can get to know your fellow writers through the open mic and after-event get-togethers.
I just came back from the 26th annual NC Writers Network (NCWN) Fall Conference in Asheville, NC and it’s my 6th NCWN Conference–they simply get better every year! Although I have been published and will have another poetry book come out April 2012 from Main Street Rag and I wasn’t presenting, attending conferences especially in my home state of NC, are vital for my career’s growth. At this year’s conference all of the workshops I attended were poetry workshops and I even crafted a poem which I sent at 7am Sunday to my critique buds.
Tony Abbott’s Master Class on Recitation encouraged me to memorize and recite one new poem every month in 2012 (one of my New Year’s resolutions). If you haven’t heard Tony recite, you’re missing an essential nutrient in your literary space. Scott Owens told his 40 participants to write about the “small moments” and to capture a year or a day in one line: For example: “2011 was the year I mattered to readers.” “Yesterday was the day I found the light.”
I also loved hanging with all of my favorite NC publishers: Kevin Morgan Watson of Press 53, M. Scott Douglass of Main Street Rag, Richard Krawiec of Jacar Press, and Keith Flynn of the Asheville Poetry Review. I also loved hearing Karen Wells tell us at lunch on Saturday what’s happening with ARTS NC and how we can make a difference in our local communities. I’m buying a license plate from ARTS NC emblazoned with “The Creative State”!
So in the spirit of giving, here are my writers’ conference tips from a veteran conference goer:
Stay hydrated: bring lots of waters or a thermos of water not only for the road, but for the conference. You’ll be using your brain all day and you’re bound to get thirsty. Also for all of you party animals, lots of water will fend off the groggies the morning after. I had two full bottles of water in my bag at all times.
It’s OK to take a break: You may think you have to make all of the events and speakers and workshops, but it’s OK to take care of some of your personal business, write (really? at a writers’ conference?) or take a little siesta. Although I missed the “Brilliant at Breakfast” meeting at 8am and I’m sure it was fabulous, I needed to get out for a run since I didn’t go outside for the rest of the day.
Gets lots of sleep the week before–You won’t sleep much at the conference and you’ll be tired from the drive. At conferences you do have to be “on” most of the time and it can be draining especially if you vote Introvert. I didn’t get a lot of rest, but did get enough sleep to function and not doze off at any key moments–like on the drive home.
Read all of the faculty bios. I’m so glad I took the time to read the faculty’s bios and publications so that I could talk to them about their latest amazing book or ask them any questions while we’re in the same room. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you’re physcially present in the same space as someone else! Doing your homework makes for successful networking and makes you look smart when your workshop leader is referencing their latest poem on soup.
Brings lots of cash. This one is a no-brainer since you know you’ll need cash for the books you’ll buy and for the cash bar! Your bank’s ATM may not be within easy access so plan accordingly.
Brings lots of business cards. Make your own cards via your home printer or go through a service like www.vistaprint.com
Bring your phone charger. The power in our smartphones drains quickly when we’re updating our status or uploading photos. I forgot my phone charger once on a trip, but was glad to have my car charger with me–always bring a back up charger!
And there you go! Please comment below to tell me what tips I have left off and what you have gained from your writers’ conferences. I want to hear from you!