Tips for Attending a Small Writer’s Conference

Today's post is by OCFW member Robin Patchen.

I attended the OWFI conference in May, and I learned a few of things about attending small conferences that I thought I’d share.

Volunteer:  I agreed to be the helper for Normandie Fischer, an editor at a very small publishing house. From her bio and website, I could tell she was a talented writer and a Christian. I figured maybe if I did a good job, she’d take pity on me and look at my writing. 

Well, Normandie and I hit it off immediately, and by the time we sat down to lunch after I’d picked her up at the airport on Thursday, we were like long lost sisters. She has indeed agreed to help me with my writing, and I’m helping her, too.

Now I can’t guarantee you’ll have the same experience as I did, but who knows what kind of folks God will let you meet when you’re willing to volunteer.

Engage in the activities: I’m an introvert, secretly always looking for a way to be alone. But these conferences don’t last long enough to waste time. Because of my connection with Normandie, I had lunch with her and her agent, Terry Burns, along with a few other authors on Friday. I also attended a pre-conference dinner on Thursday night for speakers and their helpers, where I sat with the keynote speaker, Steven James. Even though I was exhausted, I stayed for the banquet Friday night and heard a hilarious speech. In other words, I threw myself into the conference rather than allowing myself to flitter in and out like a schizophrenic butterfly.  Was it hard? Sometimes. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

Pitch your story: Even if your dream agent and editor aren’t there, you should pitch, because the more often you pitch your story, the better you’ll be at it. So look for an agent or editor interested in what you sell—even if you don’t think he’d be a good fit for you—and pitch away. Worst case scenario, you learn a little more about pitching, which gets you one step closer to publication.

So to get the most out of your small, local conferences, volunteer, engage in the activities, and pitch your work. Who knows what God will do with your efforts?


  1. When Robin volunteered to host me, I knew she was afraid I'd be stand-offish or have expectations she couldn't meet. Instead, she showed off her hospitality skills in such a way that I was the envy of every other editor/writer/agent at the conference. So if you get a chance to play that role some time, or if you see an agent or editor who looks like he or she might need something, step up and ask. Offer to bring Starbucks in the morning. Because you never know where friendliness will take you. Yes, my meeting Robin was orchestrated by Someone else Who knew each of our needs, but if you don't step out and make yourself available, you'll never have a chance to find out if that day, that conference, that meeting will be the one that takes you some place new. Based on that weekend and my appreciation of Robin's intelligence and humor, I asked her to edit something for me so I could test her skills. And before you could hang up the phone, I'd invited her to come on board as Wayside's new Assistant Editor. So now we're not just reading each other's work, she's also helping to hone the next book to come off Wayside's press.


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