How to Prep for a Writing Conference (Part 2)

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CYA 2017 was a whirlwind of excitement, learning and nervous anticipation. The CYA team delivered a marvellous conference with over 200 delegates (their biggest yet). We learnt, we mingled, we met up with old friends and we made brand new friends. It was a wonderful, inspiring day.

But how did all that conference prep turn out? And was it worth it?

In How to Prep for a Writing Conference (part 1), I went over all my preparations for conference day. I shared the obvious preparations, the things others advised I should do and the extra things my super-paranoid self just couldn't help doing.

So let's take a look at just how useful those preparations were...

Seems Obvious Preparations

Bring Pens / Bring more Pens / Bring a Notebook or Paper

Jacqueline Harvey  talking about middle grade and junior fiction at CYA 2017

Jacqueline Harvey talking about middle grade and junior fiction at CYA 2017

Pens and paper were essential, but it did turn out they were both provided in my conference bag (though not sure that’s something you’d want to count on at every conference you attend).

Don't forget the program and event location details

Program and locations was also important, but again, we were provided with an updated version at the registration desk.

Get business cards and don't forget to pack enough

Business cards were great to have, but they turned out to be even more useful than I thought.

I thought they’d be great to swap with people I met, but I found them most useful to give to people so they could contact me and ask more questions about things we had been talking about.

I met so many amazing people who, like me, are still working on making a mark in this industry, and I found I was able to tell people about some of the amazing resources out there for children’s writers (Girl and Duck, ScribblesJust Write for Kids, Creative Kids Tales, 52-Week Illustration Challenge, 52-Week Picture Book ChallengeSCBWI, CBCAKid Lit Vic). But because time was always short, the business cards came in handy so we could continue our conversations beyond the conference.

Bring a bottle of water

And then there was the water. People, pack water in your bag! You will be so busy chatting and networking during lunch and coffee breaks, you’ll hardly get time to turn in a circle before it’s time to go to the next session.

I’d even go so far to say a snack in the handbag would also be useful!

What Others Advise Preparations

Natalie Hatch talking about the adolescent brain at CYA 2017

Natalie Hatch talking about the adolescent brain at CYA 2017

Prepare (and practice) an elevator pitch for all your manuscripts 

I never got to use my elevator pitches, but I don’t regret having them prepared. They helped me to know my work better which made me feel more confident when speaking to people.

Know who you are as a writer/illustrator

I used my one liner numerous times throughout the day (I write picture books with science fiction and fantasy flavour). “What do you write?" was the number one question people asked when striking up a conversation, so the one liner really came in handy.

Bring an extra bag stowed away in your handbag in case you leave with more than you arrived with

I didn’t need the extra bag in the end, as the conference bag was big enough to put all my books in.

And, yes, I did buy by books. Three of them!

My Extra Preparations

Click  here  for more info on the CYA Conference

Click here for more info on the CYA Conference

Give thought to all the sessions and have questions prepared

In the end, I was too shy to put my hand up and ask a question, but luckily there were more than enough people braver than me who did.

But the questions were still good to have as back up, and maybe next time I'll be braver!

Research ALL the speakers and have questions ready just in case

I never actually saw any of the speakers at other times during the day. I imagine they were far too busy.

This one was a bit unnecessary, but I did like having a good idea of who all the speakers were for when they came up in conversation.

Come up with a list of questions people might ask you

I put a lot of effort into coming up with potential questions editors might ask me during the two manuscript assessments I arranged to attend at the conference.

And I 100% do not regret doing this work. I was asked questions like, "where do you see yourself sitting in the market?" and "what authors are you similar to?", and I had answers prepared for these so I was ready for them.

If you want to see the question sheet I prepared for myself, click the button below. I promise you won’t regret doing the extra work!

Give yourself a pep talk about being brave

You know, I didn't really need the pep talk. The children's literature community is so friendly and kind that I found it easy to start up conversations with people I didn't know. Everyone is generous with their time and willing to give you tips and ideas, so if you're thinking about going to a kid lit event, I can say without any reservations, do it! You won't regret it.

So, at the end of the day, did I use all my preparations?


But do I regret all the work I did to prepare?

Absolutely not.

And am I bananas?



I still need to sit down and go through all my notes from the day, so next week I'll share some of the gems I learnt at CYA 2017.