The Two Big Mistakes to Avoid at Writing Conferences

OK, OK. It may sound like oversimplified advice for an entire blog post, but having attended a fair share of conferences and having once fallen on the (bitter, regret-laden) sword of the first mistake mentioned below, I really believe these issues are very real beasts to be wary of when going to any conference. And it’s not just the turkey hangover speaking.

Thus, it’s the subject of the latest from Promptly’s Top 20 Tips From WD in 2010 series (the quote-worthy quips that branded themselves in my mind when we were creating these magazines throughout the year). A regular prompt follows.

No. 12: Conferences: The Forest, The Trees
Writers make two big mistakes at conferences. The first is taking it all too seriously. Some folks are so overwhelmed with being at the conference [that] they forget to enjoy, learn and laugh. On the last day I see some [attendees] close to tears because they missed the trees for the forest. However, the other big mistake is being too laid back and too comfortable and forgetting the goal of getting published. While there are cocktail times and plenty of opportunities to mingle, publishing is a business.”
—Carrie McCullough, “Make the Most of Any Writing Event,” by Linda Formichelli, September 2010 (click here to check the rest of the issue out)

Finally, even though we ran the piece in the magazine back in 2009, Elizabeth Sims’ “How Even a Bad Conference Can Make You a Better Writer” remains one of my favorite articles on writing events (the body copy is actually quite hilarious). Since we’re talking conferences, here’s a sidebar snippet from it …

Making the Most of Any Conference
1. Arrive early to scope out everything, get settled and make friends. It’s incredibly bracing to have someone you can eat with or wave to as you enter a room.
2. Be on the lookout for faculty hanging around during downtime. Strike up a conversation, not about yourself and your work, but about them, because you’re here to learn. Try questions like, “If you were just starting out today, what would you be writing?” or, “What’s the best attribute an author can have?”
3. Carry a full-sized notebook for the full-sized ideas you’re going to write—not a tiny one for tiny ideas.
4. Focus sharply on what you want. Make a mission statement: “At this conference I intend to learn how to write better suspense / organize my nonfiction project / figure out an ending to my novel.”
5. If you’ve submitted work for critique, be open and receptive. Never argue or try to justify anything. Ask for more explanation, but don’t take notes—it’ll only distract you. As soon as it’s over, write full notes.
6. Make up your mind you won’t be judgmental, easily offended or needy. Remember, it’s not about you—it’s about your writing.

[And, finally, from the end of the piece:]
Figure out how much whiskey you think you’ll need, then pack double that amount.

* * *

WRITING PROMPT: Darkly Deemed Days
Feel free to take the following prompt home or post a response (500
words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional
around-the-office swag drawings. If you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail your piece and the prompt to me at, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.

It was the ultimate Black Friday deal. But it was the type of thing you don’t get in a store.

You might also like:

  • No Related Posts

7 thoughts on “The Two Big Mistakes to Avoid at Writing Conferences

  1. replica watches

    To create a Breitling Breitling

    classic look will inevitably bring about a suitable successor to the original such a

    challenge: Grand Classic’s new watch line that originated in omega omega northern Germany, Glashutte watch this family has

    been insisting on the principle of maximum functionality. At first glance, the new Grand

    Classic Reserve is a typical, familiar, classic Tutima watches, based on cartier
    cartier the legendary aviation

    history Tutima chronograph design. However, a closer look reveals, stainless steel case has

    been updated: large polished fluted rotating bezel and U boat U boat red mark the location of twelve Chung is timeless elegant

    design with the best combination of readability. Movement ETA 2892-A2/Tutima equipped to

    provide power reserve display and Hublot Hublot large date display, marking the technology matures and the perfect

    direction. These new watches designed by watches replica watches replica the best designers, ensuring optimal performance. What’s

    more, 43 mm diameter case in any case it is very atmospheric.

  2. Christian Louboutin outlet

    There is a brand, its name is Timberland boots. Timberland outlet had the name of the new leather boot waterproof launched by the company.There are quite a few new style ladies boots from timberland boots online for the Winter.Belstaff only on the basis of Belstaff sale people. Belstaff Jackets to be the men’s great choice.Because of its good quality and stylish appearance, Belstaff outlet are very popular. There are many people who want to buy Christian Louboutin shoes, because there are many online shop cheap shoes of Christian Louboutin outlet online store.Here is a Christian Louboutin sale you can buy shoes with reasonable price, but high quality.Christian Louboutin outletshoes are so lovely and perfect person wearing high heels and shoes look amazing.

  3. Baron

    <strong>Monster Beats Studio Kobe Bryant Limited Edition Headphones</strong>|<br/>
    <strong>Monster Beats Tour In-Ear Headphones with ControlTalk</strong>|<br/>
    <strong>Monster Butterfly by Vivienne Tam with ControlTalk High Performance</strong>|<br/>
    <strong>Monster beats by dre studio Headphones Ferrari-Limited Edition</strong><br/>
    <strong>Lady Gaga Heartbeats In-Ear Headphones – Bright Chrome</strong>|<br/>
    <strong>Lady Gaga Heartbeats In-Ear Headphones – Rose Red</strong>|<br/>
    <strong>Lady Gaga Heartbeats In-Ear Headphones Bright Chrome</strong>|<br/>
    <strong>Monster Beats Studio Kobe Bryant Limited Edition Headphones</strong>|<br/>
    <strong>Monster Beats Tour In-Ear Headphones W/ControlTalk Black/Red</strong>|<br/>
    <strong>Monster Butterfly by Tam ControlTalk Pe Ear</strong>|<br/>
    <strong>Monster beats by dre studio Headphones Ferrari-Limited Edition</strong>|<br/>
    <strong>Monster Heartbeats by Lady Gaga High Performance In-Ear Headphone</strong>|<br/>
    <strong>Monster Heartbeats by Lady Gaga High Performance In-Ear Headphone-red</strong>|<br/>
    <strong>Complete Yellow Monster Beats by Dr. Dre Studio Limited Edition Lamborghini Microphone Headphone</strong>|<br/>
    <strong>Kobe Monster Beats Bryant Limited Edition Studio Dr Dre High Definition travel DJ Mic Headphone</strong>|<br/>
    <strong>Monster Beats by Dr. Dre Tour with ControlTalk High Performance – headphones</strong>|<br/>
    <strong>Monster Beats Butterfly by Vivienne Tam ControlTalk High Performance In-Ear Headphones</strong>|<br/>
    <strong>red beats by dr dre</strong>|<br/>
    <strong>Lady Gaga Heartbeats In-Ear Headphones Bright Chrome</strong>|<br/>

  4. Janel

    Jeff looked at his crumpled shopping list. He was in the middle of shopping mall gridlock, apparently caused by a sparkly hair accessory kiosk. Only half of the items on the list were in the awkward, over-sized shopping bags dangling from his arms. There were still presents to buy for Aunt Lidia, cousin Marvin and the Secret Santa exchange at work.

    The knot of Black Friday shoppers still wasn’t moving. Jeff looked around for stores to duck into. He was standing in front of a storefront that had been vacant a few weeks ago. Now the front windows were shrouded in dark curtains. A banner stretched over the door read: Earn Money, Help Others.

    Jeff quickly calculated the amount of money that was left in his wallet. He nudged passed a couple women dressed in matching holiday sweatshirts and walked into the new business.


    The lights were dim and it took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust. There was a pretty, dark-haired woman sitting behind a reception desk. Her head moved slightly as she looked him over from head to toe. He wondered if that was what it felt like to be a dog in a dog show.

    “Would you like to earn some extra money?” She smiled. Her teeth seemed to glow in the shadowy room.


    “Well, you’ve come to the right place.” She motioned toward a door in the back of the room. “Come this way and I’ll tell you about our program.”

    The room was even darker than the reception area. Jeff settled into a beat up plastic chair while the woman perched in a big, leather desk chair on the other side of a small table.

    “I’ll be brief.” She pulled what appeared to be a contract out of a black filing cabinet. “We’ll pay you to donate your blood.”

    “My blood?” Jeff leaned back.

    “Yes.” She flashed another high-wattage smile. “Blood is needed year around. You would be surprised how many car accidents happen this time of year.”

    The woman slid an ink pen across the table. “Just sign at the bottom of this contract and we can get started.”

    Jeff read over the document. It looked legitimate and he could use the $100 to get a few video games for himself. As he was signing his name on the dotted line the lights in the room dimmed even more. He glanced up after crossing the T in his last name, just in time to see her fangs lengthening as she lunged for his neck.

  5. Dare Gaither

    The wind nudged him down the dark alley, sweeping him up
    in the forgotten debris of human existence swirling around him.
    He peered into the empty shadows, seeking the ghosts of a long-ago dream.

    “I’ve been expecting you.”
    A figure emerged from the dusk.
    “Are you sure this is what you want?”

    A gust of wind seemed to echo the unanswered question.

    “The burden of this self is too great,” he whispered into the darkness.

    “There’s a lot of that this time of year,” the figure moved closer.
    “Tis the season, you know.”

    A curt laugh held the pain of a ravaged life.

    “Do you have it?” He voice was impatient.
    A gnawing fear threatened his resolve.

    From the depths of his cloak the figure brought forth a small white box.

    “Can you afford it?”

    He reached out to grasp an unknown future.

    “What will happen to my present self?”
    His voice betrayed his dread.


    A shudder passed through his soul.

    “That was the point.”
    His words were crushed by the howling wind.

    “What is the price of a new self?”

    Unearthly laughter filled the darkness.
    “All it costs is some change.”

  6. Mark James

    “You call that a discount?”

    “It’s a generous offer, Rik.”

    Even more than the sight of his new trophy wife wrapped in his Mazeradi, Richard hated being called Rik. “A hundred years? That’s it?”

    The angel on the other side of Richard’s desk smooth his black hair over two small red horns. “I’ve knocked off a whole century,” he said. “What more could you want?”

    “A straight deal.” Richard levered himself up from his leather chair and leaned over his oak desk, focusing his bleary eyes on the creature who looked like a man. “I thought I’d get away with it.”

    “You made a bargain with the Devil, Rik,” the angel said. “What exactly did you expect from me?”

    “Nothing. But the freaking truth about the nightmares would have been good.” Richard shuffled his way out from behind his desk. His body was weak from lack of sleep. He’d taken to trolling back streets on the wrong side of town after dark. Anything to avoid his bed during the hours after sunset. “Why didn’t you tell me, Lucifer?”

    “You didn’t ask.” Lucifer rolled his head back and studied the ivory tiled ceiling. “I had this same problem with Michelangelo. He wanted it all. Mortals always want that. Have you any idea how tiresome that becomes over millennia?”

    Richard staggered. His legs were about to give out from sheer exhaustion. He couldn’t take another night. “I’m sorry we’re boring you,” he said. “But my life is just about killing me.”

    Lucifer sat up straighter. His eyes brightened with a glow of crimson. “Now that we’ve come back round to it Rik, what’s your answer?”

    The walls were doing a slow somersault before Richard’s eyes. In his pockets, his hands were shaking. The gold Rolex on his right arm, encrusted with diamonds, felt like a fifty pound weight. He regretted every moment of killing his father for the family fortune. “You didn’t say it would be like this,” Richard said. “Damn you.”

    “Oh no,” Lucifer said. “It seems you’re confused, Rik. Not to mention tired. You see, you’re the one who’s damned.” The fallen angel sighed. “You break the heart of an old merchant. Very well. I’ll sweeten your end of the bargain.”

    Against his strained will, Richard’s heart leapt with hope. Could he have heard right? “What?”

    “If you agree to this one small thing, I’ll take away the nightmares.”

    Richard whirled on him, ready to rail against the Devil in his office. Instead, he grabbed the arm of Lucifer’s chair to steady his swaying body. “Small thing?” he said.

    “All you have to do is kill someone.” Lucifer cast Richard a sly grin. “Someone else, that is. What’s a little more murder between friends?”

    “I am not your friend,” Richard said through clenched teeth.

    “Think on it.” Lucifer rose to his feet, laid a gentle hand on Richard’s shoulder, and leaned close to whisper. “No more dreams.”

    “And you won’t kill me?” Richard croaked in his invalid’s voice.

    “It’s Black Friday. Would I steer you wrong?”


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.