Packing Checklist for a Writers Conference

SleuthFest 2020 is on the horizon March 26-29, and I’m already gathering materials for what I’ll need to bring. Writers’ conferences require advance preparation, especially if you’ll be speaking on a panel or giving a writing workshop. You’ve already determined your goals in participating, some of which may be referenced here: https://nancyjcohen.com/benefits-of-writers-conferences/

Aside from determining your objectives—i.e. attending specialized craft sessions, learning about new publishing options, meeting editors, making new author friends, greeting fans—there’s the physical prep. Here’s a checklist of things to bring. (Note – This is an update to a previous post.)

Writers Conferences

Prepare for your talks. If you’re a panelist, it can be easier because you might not have to do much prep other than jotting down some notes about the points you want to get across. Moderator-run panels in general mean more work for the moderator but less work for the panel guests, unless you are each expected to present your material for xx minutes.

If you are conducting a workshop on your own, you’ll need to compose or update your material, prepare a PowerPoint presentation if desired, and make copies of handouts. Sometimes the conference coordinators will offer to make the copies for you. Bring your laptop or thumb drive with these files and another flash drive for backup.

If you’re speaking on different topics, assemble each handout in a separate manila envelope to keep them organized.

Order business cards unless you have them already in stock. Consider updating them with QR codes or with your social network URLs.

Design, order, and pack brochures, bookmarks, and/or postcards about your books. Bring along display containers so they don’t get strewn across the promo tables. That’s assuming your conference has space available for this purpose. If not, you can hand them out at your workshop or as you meet people one-on-one.

Design, order, and pack swag for the promo tables or goody room. These are items such as magnets, pens, door hangers, candy, and other giveaways. If you are driving, toss a box of extra books into your trunk in case the on-site bookseller doesn’t get your books in time or is unable to obtain copies of a particular title.

Bring a checkbook in case the bookseller offers to sell you leftover stock at a discounted price. Bring cash for raffle tickets, drinks at the bar, gratuities and other incidentals.

Pack a book or two to display at your presentations and panels.

Bring a copy of your receipts showing your registration and any other special paid events.

If you’re donating a raffle basket, either get your materials to the coordinator ahead of time or bring the basket prepared and ready to go.

Bring a signup sheet for your newsletter to circulate at your workshop and to put out at signings.

Print out the conference workshop schedule and highlight your appearances. List these on your website and other online sites and include these papers in your suitcase.

Bring a highlighter so you can go through the conference schedule and mark sessions you want to attend.

Print out contact info for friends you want to meet at the conference.

Decide which outfits to wear to the different events. Business attire for daytime, dressier clothes for evening? Don’t forget matching accessories.

Determine which gadgets to bring along—iPad or Laptop? Kindle or Nook? Camera to take photos for your blog? Charging devices?

Pack a notebook to take notes if not using an electronic device for this purpose. Later, write blogs about the sessions you attended to share your knowledge. If you intend to paraphrase a large portion, ask permission of the presenter at the end of their session. Or send an email afterward stating your request.

Include Sharpie pens for signing books and ballpoint pens for note taking.

If you belong to a professional writing organization, bring along chapter brochures to hand out to potential members.

What else would you add to this list?

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March 2020

 

FAPA Conference – Day Two

I continued to meet new people on Saturday, Aug. 3, at the Florida Authors and Publishers Association (FAPA) conference. Here I had a separate table to sell books in between workshops. Everyone was in the same room, and there was one track per hour, so nobody had to worry about choosing which panel to attend or running to another location.

Michael Joy and Raquel Reyes represented Florida Chapter of MWA at the conference.

First speaker of the day was Ava Doppelt, an intellectual property attorney, who spoke about copyright and trademark issues. She was followed by Tiffany Padgett from Ingram Content Group who told us about the different programs Ingram offers publishers and authors.

I particularly enjoyed Robert Macomber’s talk on Keeping Fans Engaged. He suggested authors bring readers inside the story by sharing your writing experiences, mistakes, and research adventures. Let them meet you in person via your author newsletter, Facebook page, and local reader events. Make your newsletter about your readers, too, such as showing a photo of a fan reading your book or getting your autograph at a signing. The goal, from what I gathered, is to engage your readers as much as possible.

Lunch was a buffet with Italian food and a delicious tiramisu for dessert.

Next it was my turn to speak on “First Class Marketing on a Coach Budget.” This consisted of a Power Point presentation and a 10-page handout.

The last session was by Tara Alemany on Road Map for Success. Then we divided into tables for an “Ask the Experts” Roundtable.

The awards banquet followed, beginning with a cocktail hour. After another buffet meal, we watched the mounted screens displaying the book covers for each award finalist. As our names were called, we went on stage to receive our medal. I received a gold medal for Writing the Cozy Mystery: Expanded Second Edition.

Below I am with my husband in photo one, and with Angelina Assanti, former FAPA president, in photo two.

 

See all my conference photos at https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor/

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FAPA Conference – Day One

Last weekend, I attended the Florida Authors and Publishers Association (FAPA) annual conference. It was held at the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace across from Disney Springs in Lake Buena Vista, FL. Outdoors is a beautiful pool area with a covered poolside restaurant and a lazy winding waterway for tube rafts. If you follow the paths, you can find the pedestrian overpass crossing to Disney Springs.

The hotel has a pleasant lobby on the third floor with a large bar/lounge area where you can get drinks and appetizers starting in late afternoon. Our first evening, we enjoyed glasses of wine and a crab cake appetizer. I skipped the Friday workshops so we could settle into our room and explore the environs.

 

Downstairs on the first floor is a sundry shop, a quick-service café offering coffee, sandwiches, ice cream and other snacks, and another small gift boutique. On this level is also a full service restaurant. Friday night, we ate here with the gang from the conference. I had a tasty pasta dish with shredded beef short ribs and mushrooms.

That evening was a welcome cocktail party for conference attendees with a cash bar. We met new friends and greeted authors we already knew, such as Melody and Barry Dimick, Robert N. Macomber, Jane R. Wood, Raquel Reyes and Michael Joy. Angelina Assanti, outgoing FAPA president, did a great job along with the conference committee of organizing the entire weekend event.

Below: Nancy with Michael Joy in first photo and Robert N. Macomber in second photo. See all my conference photos at https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor/

Coming Next: Day Two

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Sleuthfest 2019 – Day 1

Third Degree Thursday at Sleuthfest found me at the registration desk from 1pm to 3pm. I like this volunteer duty because it allows me to greet everyone coming to claim their badges. This is my home conference where I know lots of people (although it helps that I served as chapter president for two years), plus it’s wonderful to spend time with other writers who’ve become friends. It’s like homecoming week for many of us.

sleuthfest

Workshop sessions ran all day, but I used my free time to check into the hotel and unpack in my suite. At 5pm, we attended the welcome talk by conference co-chairs Raquel Reyes and Michael L. Joy followed by a speech by publisher and long-time Sleuthfest friend, Neil Nyren.

I ate dinner in the lobby and hung out with friends, making some new ones in the process. Here I am with my Booklovers Bench pals, Debra H. Goldstein, Cheryl Hollon and Diane A.S. Stuckart.

I didn’t stay up late, wishing to sleep well since my workshop presentation was in the morning. Up in my room, I dropped my heavy digital camera right on my foot that is scheduled for foot surgery in two months. Ouch! So now I lay awake wondering how I’d fit into my dress shoes in the morning.

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FWA Conference – Day 2

Saturday morning at the Florida Writers Association annual conference found me starting off the workshops with a talk on “Book Promotion on a Budget.”
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Next I attended Penny Sansevieri’s presentation, “Help! My Book Isn’t Selling.”

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A buffet lunch followed with barbecue chicken and accompaniments. Awards were given to youth writers. After lunch, I had a booksigning and later a video interview.
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Then it was time to get ready for the Royal Palm Literary Awards banquet. My family came to support me as a finalist. It was interesting to see the blurbs about each author’s book on big screens as we ate. I didn’t win, so I’ll have to try again next year. I’m still thrilled to have made the finals.
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On Sunday, I attended a workshop “Bring that Action Scene to Life” by author L.E. Perez. I learned a few tips during her entertaining presentation.
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Then I checked out and packed up the car to meet our family for lunch.
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FWA Conference – Day 1

This was my first time attending the Florida Writers Association annual conference. The theme was “What A Character.” I didn’t attend the Thursday all-day workshop with bestselling author David Morrell, but I did hear him speak later on. Instead, I checked into the hotel and went to faculty orientation followed by a general welcome for conference attendees.
Friday morning, things began in earnest with a breakfast buffet at 7am. Scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, bagels and pastries were on the menu. We sat at genre tables to speak to other writers in our specific categories. Here I am with true crime author Carla Norton.
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First on the agenda was my talk on “Writing the Cozy Mystery.”
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I put away my laptop and attended Carla’s workshop on “True Crime – Stranger than Fiction.”
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Then I wandered through the bookstore organized by Murder on the Beach and the silent auction rooms. Lunch was a bountiful buffet of Italian food.
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At 2pm, I was on a panel titled “Dredging Up Your Dark Side” moderated by Ken Pelham. Also on this panel were Carla Norton, Doug Dandridge, Micki Browning, and Dan Alatorre.
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Later that afternoon, I attended a panel on “Effective Book Marketing with POEM” by speaker Keith Ogorek.
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That evening was a welcome reception with superhero-costumed characters. The picture with a foursome has Carla Norton, Ken Pelham, Vic DiGenti, and literary agent Mark Gottlieb.
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A sit-down dinner was followed by a keynote address from bestselling author Steve Berry.
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Mystery Fest Key West

Here are notes from some of the workshops I’d attended at Mystery Fest Key West. Any errors are mine due to my misinterpretation.
Friday started off with a talk by a representative from the Bomb Squad. The bomb squad in Monroe County gets about thirty calls a year. Lots of them involve old military ordinance like torpedoes and grenades, and about eighty percent are still live. Once a mortar round was dug up in a fellow’s yard and it dated back to 1887. Other finds might include acid bombs, pipe bombs, vehicle bombs, flares, and other old explosives that turn up in people’s backyards.
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The investigators want to know: What is it? Why is it here? How can we disrupt it? Compressed water will tear the devices apart but won’t set them off. They have to make sure it’s safe while preserving the evidence.
When the guys respond, they keep a distance of three hundred feet or more and stay behind a protective barrier. If they have to go in closer to determine if an object is safe they’ll don helmets and flak jackets. Or they’ll send in the Robot.
The Robot is used for recon and demolition. It costs approximately $265,000 and can run up to seven miles per hour. It has six cameras, some of them encased, and it can climb stairs as well as go in and out of planes and buses. The Robot can take X-rays and can drag up to 300 pounds. It is remote-controlled at a five mile range. The machine runs on dual motorcycle batteries.
Police Myths
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James O. Born spoke about police myths and how to make our law enforcement officers more realistic in our stories. He distinguished between the uniformed Highway Patrol officers and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that’s more of an investigative agency. He spoke about pay and pensions and how patrol is the main job for a cop. They are taught to shoot in order to stop a suspect, not necessarily to kill. Deadly force would be a last resort. Plainclothes is not the same as undercover which involves deception.
I missed some of Lisa Black’s excellent talk on Blood Spatter as I had to prepare for my “Writing the Cozy Mystery” workshop coming next. Then it was time to head over to Hemingway House for an outdoor reception with drinks and appetizers.
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On Saturday, Randy Rawls moderated a panel on “Where I Get My Ideas” including John H. Cunningham, David Beckwith, Charles Todd, and Paul Sinor. Next came Heather Graham moderating the interesting discussion on “How to Commit a Perfect Murder” with Lisa Black, Rick Ollerman, Robert Coburn, and Siera London. Here’s how: 1. Don’t Get Caught. 2. Is it really a murder if there’s no body? 3. Poisons have worked well throughout history, especially before modern forensics. 4. If there’s trace evidence, you will get caught. There really isn’t a right answer to this question.

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Honored Guest Clifford Irving gave the keynote luncheon speech. Here he is with conference chair, Shirrel Rhoades.
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I skipped the next panel, “It Takes a Crook,” to get ready for Cozy Mysteries and Female Sleuths. I moderated a panel about female sleuths where we touched upon many subjects. One of the main points that came across was that women sleuths are more intuitive and compassionate, and these stories often involve interpersonal relationships or family issues.
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The evening continued with a special dinner party held at the historical Custom House Museum, which houses displays on the island’s military history.
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This is always a fun conference in a relaxed atmosphere with fellow authors and fans who are eager to learn about our books.
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Fun in the Sun Conference

Florida Romance Writers Fun in the Sun Conference

Featuring Keynote Speaker NYT Bestselling Author, Carla Neggers, with Special Guest Speaker, Dr. Debra Holland, Bestselling Indie Author

Conference 2016

DATE: Saturday, January 16, 2016
TIME: 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
PLACE: Broward County Main Library, 100 S. Andrews Ave., 6th Floor, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301

Editors & Agents:
Kristine Swartz, Berkley
Charles Griemsman, Harlequin Desire
Karen Thomas, Publisher of Cleis Press
Marlene Stringer, Stringer Agency

Great Workshops:
Marketing on a Shoestring
The Indie Road to Success
Maintaining a Long-Term Career
Beginning Writers’ Boot Camp
Conquering the Synopsis
Editor/Agent Panel Spotlight

Event will conclude with a public BOOK SIGNING that is open to all registered authors! Anyone interested in signing should email frwfuninthesun@yahoo.com

PLUS…PLUS!!! A Sunset Cruise on the Intercostal Waterway – Friday @ 6:00 pm

COST:
FRW Members:
Saturday only – $90
Conference + Sunset Cruise – $115
Sunset Cruise only – $35

Non-Members:
Saturday only – $100
Conference + Sunset Cruise – $125
Sunset Cruise only $40

Hotel accommodations are available. Visit our website for more information and to register: http://www.frwriters.org/conferences/2016-frw-conference/
For questions, please email
frwfuninthesun@yahoo.com

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