Monday, July 12, 2010

Things to bring to a Writers Conference


Okay, rant over. I get to go to the ACFW Conference in September, which is also one of my favorite conferences. :)

Sandra did a great blog post about preparing for RWA Nationals, but I’m terrible at forgetting what to bring when I’m packing for a conference, so this year I figured I’d make a list. And I also thought it might be a useful list for other people who might be going to conference, too (not just the ACFW conference, but any writer’s conference).

So here goes, in no particular order:

1) business cards and/or bookmarks. For me, bookmarks are usually easier since people want to know about my latest book as well as my contact info. These need some advance planning for you to order them or print them out yourself. Don’t leave this to the last minute! I had a graphic designer do my business card design and my bookmark designs, and I had business cards printed at VistaPrint and bookmarks printed at Dineen (my graphic designer) gives PrintRunner a thumbs up for good quality printing of bookmarks.

2) A one-sheet of my latest proposal. Dineen Miller did a great blog series on One-Sheets:,,,, and examples here:

3) My pitch for my latest proposal. The one-sheet has my pitch on it so I don’t have to stress about memorizing it, although I’ll usually just talk about my story rather than reading the pitch because most editors/agents don’t like it if you read it. However, they will prefer you read it over go on for ten minutes about it. Be ready to give the gist of it in 30 seconds.

4) My camera because I always try to take lots of pictures!!! This can also be helpful if I take a picture with an editor or an agent so I’ll better remember what they look like, because now that I’m in pre-menopause, my memory is just mush.

5) $1 bills to tip the maids (a dollar on your pillow every morning, not just your last morning, because you could have different maids every day), cab drivers, porters, etc. Not tipping is just rude, in my opinion.

6) Clothes. Everybody is different, so pick what you feel comfortable in. I dislike tight clothes, but I also dislike baggy things, so I’ll go for cute tops that are form-skimming but also made from fabrics that won’t crease as easily. I bring both jeans and nice slacks depending on what I’m doing—if I’m teaching or meeting an editor or agent, I wear the slacks. If I’m hanging out with friends, I wear jeans. I also pack layers (see below). Bottom line: DON’T LOOK LIKE A SLOB BUT BE COMFORTABLE. Mindy Obenhaus had a good blog post here on raiding your closet for conference.

7) Light jacket and/or sweater. Actually, in years past I’ve been packing a lace shawl instead since I can cram that sucker into a bag and not worry about it getting wrinkled, but when I’m cold in those air-conditioned rooms, I can whip it out and put it around my shoulders. The nice thing about conference is that it’s always in a hotel so you don’t have to worry about weather except when going outside.

8) Comfortable shoes. I don’t always take my own advice here because I love cute shoes! But I always have at least one pair of comfortable but nice shoes that I could wear when walking from workshop to workshop, which matches my slacks.

9) Workout clothes/shoes. This year, especially, I’ll be in the gym since I’m training to run the Honolulu marathon in December! (I’ll blog more about that later, I promise.) The nice thing about ACFW conferences is that it’s always in a hotel with a good gym to work out in, and usually the hotels have pools, too.

10) SCENT FREE LOTION. The ACFW Conference is SCENT FREE since a lot of people (including our CEO, Colleen Coble) are allergic to perfumes, so I always bring Nutrogena fragrance free hand lotion. Besides, do you really want to send an agent or editor into a hysterical sneezing fit because they happen to be allergic to the tuberoses scent in your lotion? Not a good first impression!

11) An extra, empty duffel bag or suitcase because I always end up buying books and then trying to stuff them into my overstuffed suitcase to carry them home.

12) My knitting! If you’re a knitter or crocheter, bring your project along! I knit while listening to workshops or the keynote speaker.

13) Snacks. Do you really want to pay $7 for a granola bar at the hotel gift shop? Also, keep your blood sugar steady since you’ll be doing a lot, going places, interacting with people, and using more energy than you think you will.

14) Computer. I usually bring my laptop simply because I typically need to do work while at the conference. Since I’m a List Hostess and the Genesis coordinator, I almost always need my files or to get online to check my email address. Other people use their computer to take notes in classes. However, if you don’t think you’ll need to do any of that stuff, feel free to not bring your computer. Some people will bring their iPad or Alphasmart for notetaking. I use my Alphasmart Neo since it’s built like a tank, takes up less space in my conference tote bag, and doesn’t need to be plugged in.

If you’re bringing your computer for notetaking in workshops, remember that the rooms don’t always have enough outlets, so consider bringing a multi-outlet surge protector if you can fit it in your computer bag.

You don’t need to bring a notebook for notetaking because ACFW will give you a nice notebook with your conference totebag.

15) Cell phone. This is invaluable for me when I’m meeting someone (a friend, not an editor appointment) because who wants to waste precious minutes searching throughout a huge first floor lobby/meeting room area for someone?

16) Pajamas. I actually need to list this because I have forgotten my PJs on more than one occasion.

17) Charge cords for your cell phone, computer, etc. I also bring charge cords for my Nook ebook reader, my iPod, and my Bluetooth headset.

18) Books to read. Yes, I fully confess I get jittery and psychotic if I don’t have a book to read when I’m on the plane or waiting or whatever. I always bring my Nook ebook reader with me so I have hundreds of books at my fingertips.

19) Bible. I have one on my Nook so I never forget my Bible when I’m going places, since I always bring my Nook, plus it doesn’t take up as much space in my luggage as my regular Bible. If you have a pocket Bible, you may want to consider bringing that so it’ll take up less space.

20) Miscellaneous stuff:
contact lens solution
hair stuff (the hotel has a blow drier)
safety pins
nail care kit (if you have nails that can chip or break at the worst possible times)

So did I miss anything? Anything you’d add to the list?

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. You can now preorder her September romantic suspense, Formula for Danger! She runs the Story Sensei critique service, is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she ponders frivolous things like knitting, running, dogs, and Asiana. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for giveaways!


  1. Thank you so much for this helpful blog! Since I will be attending the ACFW conference for the first time, it's helpful to have a good idea of what to bring and what to expect!

  2. Thank you so much for this helpful blog! Since I will be attending the ACFW conference for the first time, it's helpful to have a good idea of what to bring and what to expect!

  3. GREAT list!!! I'll be at ACFW also, but I'm so jealous of those going to RWA! The lineup this year looks AMAZING. I'm definitely getting those mp3s, another option for those not able to attend specific conferences.

    And great tip about..the tip. I'm adding that to my list.

  4. While not a conference goer this year, it's fun to live vicariously through all of you who are going. I feel like hauling out my suitcase in solidarity!

    Especially appreciate point #5 about tipping the maid. As a former hotel maid can I just say that's one tough job and physically hard work. Phew -- flashbacks of bad memories. Just love that you thought of maids, because they are often overlooked since they slip into your room and clean up when you are gone. Out of sight, out of mind.

    Since no one's standing by the buffet table, I'll plug in the coffee pot and pray I don't mess up the brew. In case I do, I'll leave out plenty of freshly squeezed orange juice with tons of ice cubes and a fruit platter...and oatmeal chocochip cookies because they go with any time of day. :-)

  5. Looks ike coffee's taken of, so I'll just add a big pitcher of iced tea.

    Camy, thanks for the links to examples of one sheet. That is EXACTLY what I've been meaning to ask for.

    I have business cards designed, but haven't printed a supply yet.

    Now if I could just write a satisfactory pitch paragraph!


  6. Kathy--awesome! Be sure to find me at conference and say hi (let me know you're a Seekerville reader!)

    Jenny--Woohoo! I hope we get a chance to have coffee together at ACFW! The MP3s are a great reminder, too!

    Kav--I'm so glad you said that! I personally think that the way we treat the people who serve us says a lot about our character, and I try to think of the maids and bellhops, especially since they're usually very helpful!

    Helen--don't wait too long on getting your business cards done! And for great help on pitching, check the ACFW Course archives for the course Cheryl and Robin taught last summer on pitching!

    Coffee's on, I've got Irish breakfast tea brewing, and a few chocolate almond biscotti to go with!


  7. Thanks for the timely post, Camy. I'm a definite list-maker, no matter where I'm going. My husband stopped me about it when I skipped the list once and forgot to take bread when we went camping! :-)

    Conference planning hasn't been on my radar because I'm saving for a big one next year. Found out last week that I won a Cec Murphey scholarship to the Philly conference (the director of my local writer's group nominated me). Now that I've gotten past the initial awe at God's goodness I'm overdrive to get prepared. Every tip to stay organized helps!

  8. Good for you, Leigh! Nothing better than going to a conference on a scholarship! Enjoy!

    Kav, I'm with you on the tipping. Though I've never been a hotel maid, I know they clean up some horrendous messes!

    Thanks for *tip* Camy. I think you covered all the bases for conference prep. I'm collecting things already and conference isn't for another couple months!

    Thanks too for the links to Vista and Printrunner. I'll check those out.

    Enjoy the hot summer day, everyone. I've brought fixin's for smoothies on the buffet table. Help yourselves!

  9. This is timely even though I am not going to a conference...but I am going on vacation.

    I am like you...have to have a book and often pack too many since I like options.

    One thing to add about medications, make sure to pack them in the original container or have a list of what they are in your purse or with them. Hopefully, you will stay safe and well wherever you are but if not, this is valuable information for your provider.

    Peace, Julie

  10. Great list, Camy! And I'm sure I'll see you there.

    One thing I always bring is chocolate. It's fun to share with your friends and roommates and makes a great little gift!

    And, plus, I need chocolate every single day of my life!

  11. Camy, great ideas and solid advice as always, girlfriend!

    Of course the whole scent thing just makes me want to slather on scents, but I'm naughty that way and I won't be at ACFW this year so it's moot.

    But I'm totally with you on cute shoes. I will torture my feet to have cute shoes.

    I like dressing for success at ACFW, I'm a suit or dress kind of gal at professional stuff, but people dress in all sorts of ways there so it's good that you noted that. In my head (can you spell paranoia????) you never know who's watching, who's taking note, who you're going to be sitting with, and I so rarely get the chance to deck it out at home that I love a chance to look professional at a conference.

    At night with the gangs? Jeans. Total "C"-Zone.


    Umm, no, I let the actions belie the look.

    More fun that way.


  12. Great list, Camy!

    Mine is...ahem...a little longer. It's in an excel spreadsheet, alphabetized by categorie:

    Cl - Clothes
    Toil - Toiletries

    Everything is on the list, down to which top I want to pack, and which pairs of shoes. Every item (fingernail clippers) is on there. If it's something I MUST have, it's on the list.

    I'm usually under the gun trying to pack, so I can copy my list from last year a couple of days before I leave, change out a few outfits, and it's ready to go.

    It's arranged in a couple of columns so it all prints on one page. Print it out, and I can pack in an hour if I have to.

    A few odd items on the list that I usually take, but not always:

    Cough Drops
    Camera Charger
    Phone Charger
    Safety pins
    Portfolio: one sheets and Pitches
    airline ticket
    Business cards
    Editor list
    shuttle info

  13. Good morning, Camy! I'm a list maker, too!

    One thing I take when I'm flying to a conference is a flattened Fed-Ex box in the bottom of my suitcase to mail my book purchases & stuff back to myself. Cheaper than paying a big fine for too-heavy luggage. I understand you don't have to do that at RWA as they have a postal service set up, but I did do the Fex-Ex box thing for ACFW.

    I also take a small flashlight. And if you don't want your clothes to get totally wrinkled while squashed in your suitcase, pack everything in individual, various- sized plastic ziplock bags. They slide easily against each other and your clothes come out much nicer when you're ready to unpack and hang them up at the hotel.

  14. These lists are great! Thanks for the help Camy and Pam. I am still not sure if I can attend the ACFW conference, but I have my fingers crossed!

    I think I am with Ruthy on the looking professional. It gives me confidence to look put together.

    Blessings today, everyone.

  15. Whoa, Cam, GREAT LIST!! This is one I will be printing off for sure, and Pammy added some great stuff too.

    Hey, Leigh -- congrats on winning the scholarship! Looks like God wants you there for sure. :)


  16. Great blog post, Camy.

    Consider bringing thank you cards to write and leave for those agent/editor appointments or an impromptu note for someone who has touched you during the conference. Thank you cards to the hotel staff in general makes a lovely impression for our Christ-inspired gathering.

    This year I'm bringing my knitting because watching you knit last year with Debbie Macomber inspired me to try to learn again and I did!

  17. Great suggestions, Camy! I try to pack light, but I always seem to pack the wrong things. Some hotels use very little a/c while others are like the Arctic Circle. I always guess wrong. I'm determined to do better this year. Ha! Ha!

  18. Camy, Great tips, I esp liked the tipping tip. I always tip, but stress about the change in shifts from the week day staff to the weekend staff. Now I know what to do. One dollar e every morning. I take it the maid knows its for her/him?

    am, I just know you have that excel sheet. Wouldn't be Pamster without one. Great idea to have your clothes on the list also.

    I like your idea about the plastic baggies Glynna. Esp if you're flying and the possiblility that kSecurity is riffling through your stuff. That way, things stay net because you know they never fold things back up. LOL

  19. Thanks for the list!

    There's always something I forget, so I think I'm going to use the spreadsheet idea and start a list now.

    The most common things I forget when traveling are the phone charger, my electric razor cord, my toothbrush, telephone numbers, and appropriate undergarments. I've had to rush out and buy a new slip on a way to an out-of-town wedding. And extra hosiery--since Murphy's law dictates runs occur at the most inopportune times.

    No matter where I go, I end up needing to take a trip to pick up something. So now I travel with a thermometer, antacids, eyedrops, lip balm, uti meds, water pills, and a decongestant. And crackers in case of nausea. (I apparently also seem to get sick at the most inopportune times.)

    So if anyone needs anything at the ACFW, look me up. I'll be the newbie toting the portable pharmacy--if I can get it past airport security.

    Does anyone know if the hotel in Indy has irons in the room?

  20. Camy, I never knew I ought to leave a tip for the maid and whatnot. Of course, doing so makes sense. Blame it on my dense Oklahoma upbringing. Or that my parents were so cheap they still never give more than a 10% tip. I'm sure they'd justify their cheapness by saying, "We only tithe 10% to God so why give more than that to a waiter?"

  21. This is a great list! Thanks, Camy. I will look forward to seeing you at ACFW.

  22. If I'm going to forget anything it's pajamas and toothbrush.


    Because you can't pack those ahead.
    You need them the during the night before you leave.

    Very annoying.

    One thing I do that greatly reduces my stress level is, I have what I think of as a litmus test for my disorganized/amnesiatic way of dealing with the world.

    I ask myself, 'what problem could arise that can't be solved with a credit card?'

    That's it.

    Those things, those fundmental things, are what I worry about. And they pretty much boil down to ID (for getting on and off airplanes) and a cell phone.

    And even the cell phone could be solved with a disposable phone, but I wouldn't have all the numbers stored in them.

    For some reason this just is calming to me. Knowing that yes, if I forget everything, I can go buy it. I never do and of course buying all this stuff, don't even talk about the EXPENSE of it, it's just plain inconvenient.

    But knowing I could relieves stress.

    Add my laptop. I'd be in trouble without that. Not real nasty, 'they won't let me on the plane' trouble. But I'd hate to not have it and I'm not replacing that.

  23. Also, I've gotten in the habit of putting out the 'do not disturb' sign. Usually the hotels have enough towels to last the whole time.

    I don't need someone to make my bed for me daily.

    So, I leave a tip the last day. But--I figure they can't mind skipping a room. And then I can just spread my junk all over. I swear the place looks like a crime scene. I pity the poor housekeeper.

    But then I pack. Throw all the towels in a heap in one spot and it's not too mess.

  24. OH, and Barbara honey, an IRON? Seriously?

    I have a firm policy for clothes that need to be ironed.

    I throw them away.

  25. Thanks so much for this post, Camy. You jogged my memory about some important items I'd let slip my mind... like business cards!

  26. Camy,
    Great post!

    I'd add zip-locks to help keep things organized, clean AND use to pack your gels, lotions, etc. (Quart size will get you through security just fine if you fly, remember the 3 oz limit per item.)

    WOW-marathon... Definitely post on this one!

    Everyone have fun. Will be exciting to see photos of all the smiling faces after editor meetings! Go go go!!!

  27. Yikes!

    ALSO - I can vouch for VistaPrint. GREAT work, very professional, and the pricing is superb. Just be sure to order early so the shipping doesn't nip the savings.

  28. Hi Camy:

    Medicine is important.
    (At least a few pills each. Keep on your person. A headache can be cured before the workshop is over.)

    ARMs (allergy pills)
    Tylenol PM
    Others to need.


  29. Thank you Mrs. Tang for the wonderful tips! :)

  30. Great list. Thank you so much. I am slowly starting to prepare for the ACFW conference (my first one) this year and this is so helpful!

  31. What a great list, Camy!

    My biggest problem is that I HATE packing for air travel. I mean, really. I need my own special pillow.

    I need all my little bottles of bathroom & makeup stuff (not all of which are under the 3-ounce limit, and it's just a hassle filling little travel bottles).

    I need extra clothes in case I get dressed one morning and decide the outfit that looked great hanging in the closet looks RIDICULOUS once I put it on.

    And I totally agree with Glynna & Sandra--those big zipper baggies are great for packing. For one thing, if all your clothing is in baggies, when the TSA folks open your suitcase to find out if that can of mousse is something lethal, your undies won't be dumped all over the floor.

  32. Thanks for the list, Camy. I would never had thought about the $1. That's great advice. And the snacks!!! Oh yeah - wonderful.
    I won't be at RWA, but I'll be at ACFW (Lord willing)

    I'm so tickled I have my one-sheets ready, but I still need to work on my pitch. It's hard for a long-winded person to be short-winded(without a good excuse, like chasing children or watching Hugh Jackman on T.V. ;-)

  33. Mary,
    I'm with you on the Iron-policy.
    Aren't wrinkles 'in' anyway?

  34. Leigh--congratulations!!! I hope you have a great time!

    Audra--smoothies! Yum! Now that's more appealing than coffee!

    Julie--GREAT point about the medications! Thanks!

    Melanie--EXCELLENT addition to the list! How could I have forgotten chocolate? Just make sure it doesn't melt ... or mysteriously disappear from your carry-on at some point between home and conference ... ;)

    Ruthy, you are so right, you never know who's watching. I guess we're both paranoid! I have a completely different wardrobe when I'm traveling for a conference.

    WOW Pam you are totally organized!

    Glynna, that's a FANTASTIC idea about the Fed Ex box!

    Kathy, I hope you can attend the conference!

    Thanks, Julie!

    Lisa, good point about thank you cards! And I hope you come knit with me! :)

    Cara--I do the same thing! The shawl thing has worked well for me because it squashes smaller than a sweater.

    Sandra--yes, a $1 bill on your pillow every morning before you leave the room for breakfast. If it's on your pillow, the maid knows it's for her.

    Barbara--You're a drugstore! :) Extra hosiery is a good point. Also lingerie items like a slip--I always forget what extra undergarments I need with certain outfits! I'm like you, I make sure I carry a decongestant and UTI meds with my medicines/vitamins.

    Gina--LOL I learned the tip thing from my dad, who often had to travel for work, and it was confirmed by my agent once when she was talking about travel etiquette for conference traveling.

    Carrie--I look forward to seeing you too!

    Mary, great way to relieve stress! I like that! I've forgotten my toothbrush more times than I can count, but the hotel often will give you a complimentary one if you forget. Nowadays I keep an extra toothbrush in my toiletries bag.

    Lori--get your business cards done early! Don't be like me and print them out the night before my first conference! Doh!

    KC--good point, I usually bring extra ziplok bags too! Thanks for the affirmation on VistaPrint--I've had nothing but good products from them, but that's only one customer (me) so it's nice to know someone else likes them too. :)

    Vince--good point about a headache! I keep Tylenol in my purse at all times to help stave off any migraines that might hit. It keeps it from getting worse too fast.

    Angela, you're welcome!

    Cindy, you're going to love the ACFW conference! Be sure to find me and say hi!

    Myra, I'm totally with you on packing for air travel! And I hate it when TSA goes through my bag! I feel so violated.

    Pepper, a pitch is the hardest thing for me. Seriously. Check out this post on my Story Sensei blog for some tips on writing it:
    The 50-word elevator pitch
    Creating a pitch


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  37. Wrinkles--I've been keeping my eye out for nice blouses that are made with fabric that doesn't wrinkle (usually anything that's at least half synthetic). I've gotten some really nice tops that I never have to iron, and I save them for conferences.

    Sorry about the multiple postings, I deleted the extras. I don't know why Blogger is being so weird for me today!


  38. This is a solid list. I'm tempted to go start stuffing clothes in my bag for September right now!

    One more sub-reminder under clothing is to bring something purty (or handsome as the case may be) for the awards banquet. My roommates and I had fun girlifying before dinner.

    Ooh! And a razor. Not that I speak from experience...

  39. Good reminder about the Awards banquet! There's a huge range of dressiness so people can get up in formal evening gowns all the way casual to nice slacks and a pretty blouse.

  40. I see that Vince added Tylenol PM.
    I also take a small nightlight for the bathroom. Better than waking up your roommate with words like Oh Darn, when you stub your toe or take out your knee on the corner of the bed.

  41. I used to bring a nightlight except I left them at the hotel TWICE! So be sure you don't forget it!

  42. Hi Camy:

    My wife always brings a nightlight and a 100 watt light bulb because often in a hotel room there is not even one light that is bright enough for comfortable reading. This is easier to do when you drive to your location.


  43. The light bulb is a great idea! Unfortunately, I usually have to fly to my conferences. If I had the space to pack one, I would, though.

  44. Barbara, I've been there, and I'm certain there was an iron.

    And even if your room doesn't have one, you can borrow Mary's, since she won't be needing it.

  45. Love all the extra tips y'all have added since I checked in this morning! I might have to think about the large ziploc bags for clothes and love the Fed Ex box suggestion!

    Thanks for the congrats on the conference scholarship. Lots of God things happened to get me to this point so I'm a mixed bag of awe/humility/excitement. :-) Another Seekerville regular also received a scholarship, so we're excited about meeting each other!