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How you can make the most of a writers festival or conference: Part 3

After a very funny lunch with the girls

Conferences can be hard work, and great fun

How can you best prepare for a writer’s conference or literature festival? This is what worked for me…

It’s crunch-time

I’ve prepared my presentations and printed my business cards.

I’ve worked out what I want from the 2014 Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore,

Time to put all that into action.

Once you’ve done all your preparation, go forth and be yourself. Enjoy the conference, enjoy the people. That’s certainly what I did.

Thanks to my conference prep, I met dozens of interesting people, gave out nearly 100Cristy Burne business card business cards, thoroughly enjoyed presenting my two sessions and received great feedback. I feel I really achieved my goal of cementing myself as a writer of children’s science and non-fiction, and I had a great time doing it.

So what’s Tip #4?

Tip #4: Allow yourself to stray from your goals

Being at a conference is like a caffeine bomb to the head, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Follow your game plan, make choices based on the list you wrote back home, but don’t be afraid to jot down new ideas, even if they stray from your goals.

Don’t wait till you get back home to come up with ideas: I took notes at every session, and then brainstormed on the spot to apply those notes to my career. Some ideas worked in with my goals, others didn’t, but by following that stream of consciousness, I arrived at some even better ideas.

Example: conversation with me and my session notes

What is the session about? Blogging more effectively. Writing posts that will help your reader answer their questions.
My brainstorm: Could I blog about encouraging children to read? About diversity in children’s fiction? About the importance of non-fiction in the classroom? About how to get the most out of attending a writer’s conference?
Result: Ta da! You’ve just read the result. And watch this space, because I’ll be implementing some of those other ideas too.

And finally…

Tip #5: Follow-up!!

Remember all those people you met and the business cards you gathered? Remember all the notes you took and the ideas you jotted? Remember all those goals you listed? Well, the conference is over, baby. It’s time for the real work to begin.

For me, it’s time to follow up on leads, implement ideas, motivate myself to achieve the things on my list.

And that, dear reader, is the most important tip of all. The whole point of dancing round the conference, filling your notebook with ideas and your wallet with business cards, is to put a rocket under your career. So go to it! Get started!

What is next on my list?

More writing. I’ve a non-fiction manuscript to edit, another to write, a fiction manuscript to rewrite and some freelance deadlines to fill. So, to work!

See you at the next conference!

Part 1 of How to make the most of attending a writer’s festival or conference.

Part 2 of How to make the most of attending a writer’s festival or conference.



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How you can make the most of a writers festival or conference: Part 2

Know what you want to achieve from the festival.

Know what you want to achieve before you arrive

You’re off to an important conference or valuable writer’s festival.

How do you optimise your time? How do you make the most of the opportunity? 

Before you jump on that plane…

I’ve shared my experience in preparing to attend and present at the 2014 Asian Festival of Children’s Content, and I hope it was useful. Now let’s talk about how to make the most of your time at a literature festival.

Optimising your time at a conference requires you to have done most of the preparation early [see Tip #1]Then, you need to work out why it is that you’re attending.

Tip #2: Write a list of what you want to achieve in your career and in your life

Before I parachuted into the sometimes overwhelming stimulation of the conference environment, I wrote a list of the things I wanted to achieve in my writing career and in my life.

Don’t wait till you’re at the conference to do this. Conference environments can be like having 50 coffees: they’re massively stimulating but they can also be distracting. Make sure you don’t go off down a rabbit-hole because it seems like a good idea at the time. Write your list, and decide what is important.

Tip #3: Write a list of what you want to achieve at the conference

Now, having assessed the bigger picture in Tip #2, I wrote a list of what I wanted from the festival. What little-picture steps could I take at the conference to further my big-picture goals?

Example: conversation with me and my list

What is my big-picture goal? I want to strengthen my position as a writer of children’s science and non-fiction.
Little-picture conference steps: Focus on my science writing rather than my fiction writing; include my science background in biographies and on my business card; give priority to attending sessions relevant to my science writing career.
Result: My passion for children’s science shone through. I met some terrific writers also interested in creating non-fiction for children, I was approached by conference organisers about speaking on children’s non-fiction at other events. I viewed sessions through my non-fiction lens, and so I learned a lot that is directly applicable to my non-fiction writing. Also, I feel true to myself. I know where I’m going and I’m confident that attending the conference really helped me achieve that.

And so voila! I know where I want to be and how a literature festival can help me get there.

But, knowing where you want to be isn’t the be-all and end-all. Sometimes, when a rabbit-hole beckons, you just really need to jump down it.

Which is why you need part 3 of the game plan…COMING SOON.


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How you can make the most of a writers festival or conference – Part 1

How do you make the most of a professional conference?

How do you make the most of a writing conference?

Picture this: you’ve saved your money, or you’ve scored an invite, and you’re off to a potentially career-changing conference or festival. What to pack? How to network? Which sessions to attend?

Here’s the thing:

You can’t be everything to everybody, and you can’t be in 20 places at once. If you want to optimise your time at a literature festival or writer’s conference, you’re going to have to prepare a game plan.

Preparing your conference game plan

When I walked into the 2014 Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore, I was under-slept (who ever sleeps their first night in a hotel?), over-burdened (laptop, jacket for the aircon, jacket for the rain, cords, chargers, a dozen pens) and nervous (did I mention nervous?).

Why nervous?

Well, for a start, I knew only 10 of the 2000 people expected to attend. Even thinking about that makes me sit up straighter.

Plus, I had to choose sessions. There were four separate streams and dozens of topics in multiple venues, as well as a public program, masterclasses, and (note-to-self: don’t forget!) the sessions I was presenting. What if I chose the wrong session?? How could I make the best choice?

Finally, I was presenting two sessions on vastly different topics: topic one, scary stories and topic two, children’s non-fiction. And let’s face it, preparation can combat nerves, but not entirely. I was stressing.

Would I sink or swim?

I was quietly nervous in the weeks and months leading up to the conference. I wanted to make optimal use of this opportunity, but how?

Well, here’s what worked for me. I hope it works for you too…

Tip #1: Write a list of what’s stressing you

I wanted to turn my useless nerves into actionable points, so I made a list. Months before attending the AFCC, I listed the things that were stressing me, then I worked out why they were stressing me, and I did something to make them less stressful.

Example: conversations with me and my list

What is stressing me? My non-fiction presentation. Will it work? Should it be funnier? Or more academic?
Combat stress: Get off your lazy rear and develop your presentation until you’re confident it will work.
Result: Oh wow…I’m a million times less stressed now. In fact, I’m downright happy. Yay!

And again…

What is stressing me? I’m rubbish at networking. I’m embarrassed by my business card.
Combat stress: Create a business card that expresses what I do and who I am. Work out what it is I want to achieve when I’m networking.
Result: Yee ha! I’m in love with my business card and I can’t wait to give it away.

Cristy Burne business card

Thanks to the amazing Brett Canet-Gibson from TWINE – IDEAS THAT BIND for the great portrait.

And voila! The months and weeks leading up to the festival became a time of excitement instead of nerves.

But that didn’t necessarily help the under-slept, over-burdened still-nervous me walking into the festival on Day 1….

…Which is why you need part 2 of the game plan