A Newbie’s Guide to Surviving a Conference

A few weeks ago, I traveled to a blogger conference as a part of my job. This was my first time attending a blogger conference, and it was incredible. It was tons of fun, a lot of hard work, and I learned so much. While I missed my family, I’m really glad I went.

This week, I’m off to WorldCon. This is not a part of my day job, but it’s kind of an open secret that I’m also an aspiring speculative fiction writer and so this is a more personal professional development opportunity for me.

I’m glad I went to the blogger conference first because there are some really basic things I learned there that you never really think about asking and folks don’t think about mentioning. So I’m going to share with you a few of the little things that made the light bulb over my head go off and made my time at the conference just a little bit easier.

A Newbie's Guide to Con Survival

Wear Clothes With Pockets

You’ll need a place to stash pens, phone, cards, and so on that you can just grab without having to dig. For guys this is easy. Your clothes always have functional pockets. For women this can be a little more challenging. At Type A West, I found myself digging around in my bag way too much. Yes, the pencil skirt was a professional and appropriate choice of attire, but without pockets, it made it difficult to whip out my phone to snap a quick photo or produce a business card in a non-awkward way.

On the second day, I thought I had pockets, but they were still sewn shut, so I had to spend a few minutes tugging at threads on my butt pocket. Kind of embarrassing. “No, I swear I’m not scratching my butt. I just need a place to stick my phone.”

So the lesson I learned was: Pockets. The more the better.

Bring Business Cards

When me boss asked if I had business cards, I had to scramble to get some. I had been so caught up in the preparation for the actual event that it hadn’t occurred to me to have any made.  I only had time to have them printed at a copy store, and they did the job, but looking back I wished I’d planned ahead and had some nice ones printed at MOO. This time, I’m ready with a gorgeous stack of cards to trade. (If you want 10% off your first Moo.com order, follow my affiliate link.)

People come to conferences to learn, but they also come to network, and for the first time in my professional life I found myself actually in a position where I needed to be able to trade business cards. So plan ahead and have your business cards ready to go.

 A Newbie's Guide to Con Survival

Bring a Fine Tip Permanent Marker

The worst thing about getting home with a stack of business cards is trying to remember who it was you got them from and what it is you chatted about. Lots of people are leaving white space on business cards to allow space for note taking. Jotting down notes helps me process information, and a few quick notes helps me remember just what we talked about.

I had a ballpoint pen to write with, but with the glossy finish of most business cards, it was practically useless. I would have given just about anything for a fine point permanent marker. So at WorldCon, I will be traveling with a pack of fine point Sharpies to make sure if I need make a note on someone’s card, I can.


Carry a Bottle of Water

Yes, I know. Water is heavy. It can be a pain in the neck to lug around, and sure there are usually water fountains around somewhere, but having a water bottle in hand (or in the shoulder bag at least), serves as a constant reminder to stay hydrated. Sure the desert air was a factor in my being constantly thirsty at the blogger conference, but talking dries you out like crazy. So at WorldCon, I’ll be sip-sip-sipping from my water bottle.


Talking to Strangers is Not So Scary

This was huge for me. I’m a pretty introverted person. Talking to people I know can be challenging. I am super awkward in person. But talking to strangers? I was terrified. But I learned that meeting strangers is actually kind of nerve-wracking for everyone, and remember what I said about networking? Everyone else is there to network and meet other folks, too.

Sitting down at a table to eat breakfast with a bunch of people I’d never met turned out to be… great! I met some fantastic people. It’s not nearly as scary as I thought to sit down next to someone, introduce myself, and say, “So, what do you write about?”

A Newbie's Guide to Con Survival


Here are a few more necessities I’m including in my con survival kit based on my blogger conference experience:

  • Lip balm – I’m so glad I’ve got the super slim Grateful Naturals lip balm to slip into my pocket!
  • Hand sanitizer – I’m not usually a hand sanitizer kind of person, but Con Crud (the cold you pick up by the end of a convention or conference) is a real thing and I want to avoid it.
  • Vitamin C – See above about Con Crud.
  • A portable device charger – My phone died on me the first day of the blogger conference, and luckily my boss had a charger. She won’t be there to bail me out at WorldCon, so I’m bringing my own.
  • A light jacket – Some rooms at the blog conference were hot, some were very cold. You never know what you’ll run into.
  • High protein snacks – I don’t want to miss a session or a panel, but I don’t want to get sick from lack of food!
  • Notebooks and pens – Of course!

I’m so excited to learn and improve as a writer! This is going to be a fantastic few days!


A Newbie's Guide to Con Survival

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This is not a sponsored post. Any brands pictured are simply the ones I use in my every day life. I was not asked to write this post.

NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month

It’s time to come clean and confess.

I’ve wanted to be a writer my whole life. I spent my childhood adulthood devouring book after book after book. I dreamed up worlds and characters and stories and conflict. In college, I took a few creative writing classes, but I told myself that I wouldn’t be able to make it, so I focused on technical writing. My passion for reading dissipated in the face of book assignments for classes. As an adult, I discovered that, while I could write a damn fine user manual, the process was bone achingly dull.

Still, writing books was in the back of my head, and my husband would remind me sometimes when we were both feeling glum. “Hey, hurry up and write that book, so we can buy a house by the beach.”  No amount of explaining to him has convinced him that this is not how writing works, but that’s another story.

A few years ago, I noticed something popping into my blog and facebook feeds. What is this NaNoWriMo thing? National Novel Writing Month? It annoyed me. Here were people doing what I had longed to do. I felt a twinge of resentment. I told myself that things had changed and my priorities had shifted and that I was okay with that. I made excuses about why this thing with the annoying name that got stuck in my head was definitely not for me.

I was busy, alright? I had one kid. Then another. I was writing a blog. I was reaching out and helping other people. I was doing a service. And darnit, I had a full time job, okay? Didn’t I have enough on my plate already? I didn’t have time for anything else. So I ignored it. Except when I rolled my eyes when I saw that silly word pop up in one of my feeds.

Then I met a friend who reminded me how much fun it is to read. I started picking up books at the library. She showed me how to check out e-books from our local library. My imagination started working again.

A few months later, I joined the Writing 101 program that wordpress put on with the idea of helping me get a jump start. At first, I was turned off by the assignments. This felt a little more like creative writing than blog writing. Who wants to read that?  But I had signed up for it, so I went ahead and gave the assignments a try.

I discovered that I had forgotten how much fun it is to just… write!  And read!  I found other bloggers who were having just as much fun as I was!

Then I remembered that NaNoWriMo thing, and the book that had been pouting around in my brain since college gave its bedroom door a good hard kick.

So I’m hear to announce that this year, I’m going to be participating in NaNoWriMo.  In the month of November, you won’t see many post from me.  I will be working furiously on my book.  I will be trying to get down 50,000 words in 30 days.  I keep telling myself over and over that that’s just 1667 words per day, the equivalent of just 2 and a little more blog posts.  That’s not so bad, right?  Will I create a polished novel at the end?  No.  The goal is just to write a first draft.  Get it out.  Get it on paper.


So that is my goal.  I’m telling you all here, right now, so that I can hold myself accountable. Sometimes I need a kick in the pants and a deadline hanging over my neck, so that is what this post is.

Is anyone else doing NaNo this year?  What got you started?



Featured image courtesy of the NaNoWriMo website