Hippocamp 2016—and how to get the most out of a writer’s conference

Before I even begin this post, I have to gush about the wonderful time I had in Lancaster, PA at this year’s Hippocamp. It was organized by Donna Talarico and the brilliant team at Hippocampus Magazine. If you’re not familiar with their mission and their work, go check them out! Submit! And register for next year’s conference, which is sure to be spectacular, when registration opens up.

Thanks, Marshall Warfield, for a great shot of our agent/editor panel on Sunday!

For many people who attended, it was their first writer’s conference, and with the extraordinary amount of talks and panels and networking opportunities, it can be a bit daunting. Here are some basic tips to get you organized for your next conference.

Plan ahead. Read through each panel/session description, mark the ones you’re interested in, and slash through the ones you don’t think would apply to you. Think about your goals for the year (for Hippocampers, think of Dave Cameron’s fab closing keynote!) and which sessions will give you more information to achieve them. The more organized, the better.

Talk to as many people as possible. Snack breaks, lunch, and happy hour are all great times to approach an editor, agent, author, or fellow memoirist and have a quick chat. Have a conversation about the conference, the woes of a writer, your favorite session of the weekend, or even just about how great the food is. You’ll never know what might come of it: a new writers’ group, a new agent, a piece of advice that could take your book to the new level. Any connection is a good connection.

A panel from agent Eric Smith’s perspective

Ask questions. That’s really, at the end of the day, what conferences are for! Raise your hand during a session if you’re confused or if you want to know more information. Walk up to the mic after a panel. Come up to a speaker afterwards if you hate raising your hand. Want to be even more proactive? Write down any major questions you have before the conference even starts and make sure you get them answered.

Get involved. Tweet your heart out. Volunteer to introduce one of the speakers. Take pictures and post them on social media. Sign up for a writers’ group. Put your name in for open mic night. Ask your new friends if they want to go for drinks at the end of the day. The more you do, the more you learn, grow, and meet new, awesome people.

What do you do to make your conference experience impeccable? Tweet @LCatAp!


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