It’s time to get serious, you guys. OWFI is this weekend and we need to talk about what to bring to a writing conference.

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What to Bring to a Writing Conference

Original photo byBenjamin Zanatta

Sure, the conference websites tell you the sorts of things you should bring, BUT CAN YOU EVEN TRUST THEM? The answer is no. I’m the only one here on the world wide web that has your best interests at heart. I promise I won’t lead you astray. Also, if there’s one thing I know about, it’s a good laptop/work bag and what you should put in it.

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This weekend, I’ll be at OWFI, a large writing conference here in Oklahoma City. This year is the 50th year of the conference. And next weekend, I’ll actually be speaking at OKC Litfest, a smaller writing workshop and conference put on by the Metropolitan Library System in Downtown Oklahoma City.

Because I’ve always gotten a lot out of writing conferences, I wanted to share with my readers what to bring to a writing conference so they could get the most out of their upcoming conferences. And while some of my suggestions may be self-explanatory, some of them may be things you didn’t think of. And this list is by no means exhaustive. I’ll be bringing quite a few things that didn’t make this list. (Citrine stone for manifestation, headphones to get some manufactured alone time in a crowded space, and a thermos of hot coffee, because hotel/conference center coffee generally tastes like cigarette ash and pinto beans.)

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What to Bring to a Writing Conference

001: Laptop or Tablet

This is probably a no-brainer. But it’s also something I get asked about a lot. While you probably will not find time to bash out some words on your WIP while you’re at a conference, you may find that you want to take notes on your laptop during the different speaker sessions. I always bring mine (I mean, I take it with me pretty much everywhere I go), but I don’t use it much. I just like having it. And I have found a couple of times that if I’m not particularly interested in a session, I can snag some regenerative introvert time in the corner of the hotel lobby by working on some blog posts.

002: Portable Charger

You’ll spend a significant portion of time at a writing conference meeting new people and adding them on Facebook and Twitter, or putting their information into your contacts. And if you couple all that with the strain a conference puts onto the wifi of a location, you won’t be surprised to find that your phone battery will run out within the first 6 hours of the day. That’s why I recommend you bring a portable charger. Sure, there are outlets that you can use to charge your phone. But know that they will be in inconvenient places, and probably occupied by others who don’t have a portable charger.

003: Business Cards

I love business cards. I don’t really know what to do with them when people give them to me. I mean, I know I’m a writing professional, but like, for real. Where should I put them? Each year I get a batch printed up by Moo, and I’m always super happy with them. If you’re in need of some quality business cards for your next conference, you can use this link and get 20% off your first order with Moo.

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004: Paper and Pens

I find myself taking a lot of handwritten notes at the conference. Even though I bring my laptop, I prefer to write by hand. I remember more of the content, and it gives me the opportunity to draw little flowers in the margins, a function that most word processing softwares lack. I always bring whatever commonplace notebook I’ve been schlepping around, and a few good pens to take notes. Check out my favorite commonplace notebooks here, and my favorite everyday fountain pen here.

005: Basic Human Needs

So, probably the worst part of a conference is the schedule. Yes, it’s packed with good information and relevant speakers, but the day is organized in such a way that you’re probably not going to have meals at the times that you normally enjoy them. And if you’re sitting in workshops for long stretches of time, you’re bound to get hungry and thirsty. That’s why I recommend bringing a water bottle. Usually there are water dispensers around so you can refill it whenever you need it. And by having snacks on hand, you don’t risk the possibility of your growling stomach interrupting the speaker. I recommend something pre-packaged, just so you can throw away the wrapper without having to worry about carrying around a container all day.

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006: Sleeves

Even though the weather is quite warm in Oklahoma right now, it’s basically a law that conference rooms must be FREAKING FREEZING. One of my favorite things to do in between workshops or speakers is to run outside to the parking lot and sun myself on the asphalt like a lizard. And while that does warm me up, it’s good to trap that heat in my body with a good cardigan or blazer. If you know you get really cold, I recommend bringing a blanket scarf. You can wear it jauntily around your neck when you’re feeling okay, and wrap up in it when you feel like you may die of exposure.

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What Do You Normally Bring to Writing Conferences?

Do you have anything you normally bring to writing conferences? What do you do with business cards when people give them to you? Is there a writing conference I should put on my radar?

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