Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


I’ll be leaving for my favourite writer’s conference soon.

I look forward to this conference all year long, and when I’ve been unable to attend due to work commitments, I’ve definitely felt something was lacking in my life.

Writing can be so isolating that an opportunity to connect with other like-minded souls should not be missed.

But these must haves don’t just apply to writing conferences–they’re important for any kind of conference you may attend.

1) Business cards: You’re going to be meeting a lot of people. Awesome people. People you’ll want to keep in touch with–people who may end up being important business contacts in the future. I’ve seen too many scramble for a piece of paper and a pen when someone asks for their contact info. Don’t be one of those people–come prepared with a professional-looking business card. It doesn’t need to cost a bundle, but it’s so much easier to hand someone your card than it is to scribble your name on a napkin. And there’s a much better chance that the people you meet won’t lose a business card. Random scraps of paper are easily misplaced.

2) Samples of your work: I was always told never to give an agent a sample of my writing at a conference. Imagine my surprise, then, when an agent asked for one. The only reason I was able to deliver was that I had a blue pencil appointment that day that required me to bring part of my novel with me. Otherwise, I would have shown up empty handed. Always bring printed samples of your work along. You never know who might ask to see what you can do.

3) Cash: In these days of paying for almost everything with plastic, hardly anyone carries cash anymore. But it can come in handy and save some awkward moments when you’re at a bar with your fellow conference-goers and everyone’s trying to split the tab in twenty different ways. It’s also great for tips, vending machines, and spur-of-the-moment emergencies. At my particular conference, most of the books can only be paid for with cash.  Talk about an emergency!

4) Professional Wardrobe: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–it never hurts to look professional. Even when you’re in a creative field like writing or design, it’s still a business. Don’t give the wrong impression by turning up for a workshop in your beloved “I’m With Stupid” T-shirt.

5) A Smile: I know a few introverts who feel like they could never enjoy a conference, but that’s not true. An introverted friend I met at last year’s conference simply sat beside me, smiled, and said hello–or I said hello to her. We’re not sure which, but we’ve been friends ever since. If you smile and look approachable, you will make friends. You’re at a conference with a whole bunch of people you have something in common with. Almost everyone wants to make friends. Almost everyone is nervous and doesn’t want to be the only one sitting alone. So smile–at a conference, it’s worth more than cash.

Do you ever go to conferences? Do you like or dislike them? What are your must haves for a conference?

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  1. Elle

    Dear Holli, I really don’t appreciate you spying on my suitcase. It looks just as full as that one 🙂 Good list, especially the cash one.

    • Holli Moncrieff

      Oops, didn’t I tell you that you were my cover model for this post? Sorry about that!

      Thanks for the kind words. I suppose this list probably came too late for some, but they may help someone…you never know. 😉

  2. Stephanie Faris

    Here’s a tip that I came up with. I don’t know anyone else who does it. Instead of business cards, I hand out pens with my name and web URL on it. You can put your email address on there, too. I find people keep pens but business cards easily get lost. (Okay, so do pens, but at least it’s good promotion if someone else finds it once it’s lost!) I get mine through VistaPrint.

    • Holli Moncrieff

      That’s a great idea, Stephanie, and really different. Thanks for sharing it. Do you find you normally hear back from the people you give pens to?

  3. Steven

    I keep meaning to go to a writer’s conference. Perhaps I will give in an attend one some day, but there are no good ones nearby!


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