My thoughts on preparing for conferences

A Quick Stream of Consciousness blog on conference prep

Read this list one bullet at a time – SLOWLY – in place of the bullet say your name

  • schedule a time within 7 days AFTER the conference to go over you notes to correct and organize – schedule one hour of every day you attend – you may need less – for this conference I have schedule 3 hours over two days the Tuesday and Wednesday I get back
  • Define Goals – Don’t be vague. Example – One of my goals this year is to send out 3 tweets a day. (I almost never tweet, like one a month)
  • Get an early copy of the program and  have a plan, but don’t force yourself to rigidly stick to it
  • bring a Tide to Go Stick
  • Hydrate – AC is a conference attenders biggest enemy. Rooms are cooled by removing moisture from the air…you do the math
  • Carry snacks – my go to snacks are apples, almonds and good granola bars (not chocolate bars)
  • Eat breakfast, I don’t care if you never eat breakfast, eat breakfast, Oatmeal or Fruit/yogurt/granola
  • Water, or a sports drink – not pop
  • Dental floss or dental picks
  • Try and limit your coffee consumption. This is VERY HARD, dare i SAY  IMFRICKINPOssible for me.
  • Deodorant
  • No aftershave
  • Antacid – I take Gavscon – that’s what I like
  • Power outlets are your friend
  • Don’t be afraid to say hello to a stranger, it may be Brandon Sanderson
  • Ask questions
  • Thank people, especially the volunteers
  • Take notes, there is no way you can remember everything you want to remember at the conference, find out if there are notes available for sessions.
  • Find the nearest local grocery store and stock your fridge
  • Napping is fine, use the alarm on your phone to wake you up
  • Laugh – enjoy the humor
  • There are two sides to writing – creative and editing – feed both sides of your writing at the conference – you will thank me later
  • Buy Books – bring cash – small publishers get more money in their pockets – get recommendations from the small publishers.
  • Take the free stuff, go over it when you get home
  • Expect to be super-saturated – there is nothing wrong with being overloaded with information, it will stretch your little grey cells

/End of the list

My goals: 3 tweets a day (already mentioned), volunteer at the conference (3 x 2 hour sessions booked), Eat healthy, Blog every day about the sessions I attend every day, thank Randy McCharles (Done!)

Part One – A slush session – no its not a drink

When Words Collide – 2014 Calgary AB Canada

First Session – “Early Bird: Live Action Slush”

The description in the program said the following:

Bring the 1st page of your manuscript to be anonymously read aloud and receive comments from  the editors.

The panel was: Tony King (reader) Brandon Sanderson, Mark Leslie, Robert Runte and Susan MacGregor.

Your piece gets read and when panellists don’t like something they raise their hand. If three of the four panellists raise their hand the reader stops and we hear why they raised their hand.

The courage to expose your “baby” to open criticism in front of other authors and writers is amazing. I listened, memorized, through the entire session. Some of them were brutal, most of the pieces suffered from what I have learned to recognize as “first time writer” issues. There was one piece that was wonderful and even the panel enjoyed. It was a happy moment when Tony King asked if the writer would stand so we could see who this piece was written by. Oddly it was the woman that I helped as she came in the door.

I did not submit a piece. Next year I will.  This type of session ran throughout the weekend and was generally genre based with editors and acquisition staff on the panel.

It is important to note that the panellists were able to criticize the writing, but left the writer encouraged. This is an amazing skill to have. Every person I spoke to about these sessions enjoyed them, even the people who were on the receiving end of strong criticism.

Here is the “stream of conscious notes” I took during the session.

Please get on with something – need a strong hook

Slow and slowly, few nice things …but it couldn’t stand like this

Too much navel gazing, need to try to get to action

Poetic – language – pulled him in – 

Think about the concept of “Voice” – white room syndrome – cut the second half – get excited – I got lost

Don’t do the “Show” and then tell them what you just showed them.

Dialog – can pull you in – hints at the beginning

Watch the cliché dialogs –

Prose is nice – you need to grab me – too much tell not enough show

Reader cookies – insert things that readers want –

New writer tell problems – Character’s Focus – is what the reader focus should be – don’t describe emotion – show emotion – 

Good imaginary – helps

Don’t be a dark and storming – avoid

Watch the timing – sometimes you need to get rid of the other characters to help isolate

If you start action – remember that you need to keep the tempo of the action

Gorilla in the phone booth – scaling a cliff in windy Icy weather – magic system – need visual or auditory systems to SHOW the reader 

I got lost in the reading – forgot I was on the panel –

“The quest for the name”

NOTE – I love the honesty of the panel

Don’t use newspaper clipping start –

If you are doing action don’t pull out the reader out of the action by too many details

“I get so tired of hair and eye color”

Need something that is Fantastic –

Description needs to invoke character – need a better sense off character

Look for hook line

Watch repetition of the same idea

Keep your characters clear – let there be no ambiguity

Over description – Character’s reaction of have dreaming reactions

Solidify the character and place – and then hit us with description

Watch dream sequence that has an injection of a real world element

Don’t Tell People You Write – Show People You Write

One of the many pieces of advice I found, and continue to stumble upon about writing is telling people you write. It’s good for you, confession is good for the soul. All writers know about the classic advice “Show, Don’t Tell”. Even me…


There is a draw back when you tell them- if they need writing done – in any genre any type – they will ask you. It’s like being a Canadian in the United States. They know someone in Toronto and ask if you know them. You are from Edmonton which is three days of driving away. So far, I am writing for a video game and a series of five minute plays for summer camp.

Both of these are great for me. One is with a bunch of friends who are tired of easy video games, they want to bring about the return to hard video games. The second is with my son for a summer camp he is working.

Your first reaction will be that you don’t have the time for this writing and time for your other “more important” writing.

This is simply false. SAY IT, “THIS IS SIMPLY FALSE!”

We always have the same amount of time. Every day it is the same amount. It is only a matter of priorities. Don’t blame your other “Important” writing  for not being able to do other writing. You need to show these people what you are writing or talk about the process of writing, what your goals are, what your struggles are…and what are the happy moments in your writing are. (I am happy this month that I didn’t have to kill off one of my main characters. I am so relieved and so is he.)

Ask if you can show some of your friends that you trust, some of your work. I did that this week, scared the ever livin’ crap out of me. One of the people is an excellent poet and writer in his own right, the other likes to read almost anything. Now I have to get it ready for them.

Once they read it, I will spend some money and get a professional editor to look at it. With her notes and theirs’ I will revise for my presentation of these pages to the writer’s group that I attend.

After the writer’s group has critiqued it, and, I have incorporated this additional commentary into my work I am taking those first precious pages to a writer’s conference I am attending this summer. I may even be brave enough to show them to an agent.

The only way I can get to the point to have the courage to show my writing to an agent, is by practicing. Practicing by showing to my friends, fiends and an editor.

Be not afraid, nor ashamed of what you write for the journey of a 100,000 words begins with a single word. In my case that word will be “The”.

Be Well – dcd

P.S. If you didn’t guess, this is a pep talk to myself…