ACFW Conference Checklist

Many of us will be heading to the ACFW conference in about a week, so I wanted to give you a handy checklist of things to make sure you bring. Even if you’re not attending ACFW, you might find this useful sometime in the future for another conference.

a Some concise and fascinating answers to questions like, “So, what do you write?” and “Tell me about yourself.”

a Organized thoughts about the book(s) you’re pitching, so you can easily give a 1 or 2 minute pitch when asked.

a One-sheets for each book you’re pitchingโ€”plenty of copies in case agents or editors want to keep them.

a Business cards.

a A printout of the first chapter of your novel (or a book proposal for non-fiction). You just need a few of copies since you will show them in meetings but probably won’t leave them with agents or editors.

a A camera if that floats your boat.

a A tote bag or brief case (not too big) to carry around your stuff, or simply a folder to hold your papers and keep you organized.

a A professional-looking, business-casual wardrobe with comfortable shoes. A nicer outfit for the banquet Saturday night.

a Some personal goals for the conference… and an open mind so that you don’t miss opportunities and connections that come your way unexpectedly.

a A big smile, since it’s the best way to forge connections with others and keep yourself relaxed.

Readers? Anything to add?

You can read all my posts on writers conferences by clicking here.

Rachelle Gardner is a Christian literary agent affiliated with WordServe Literary Group in Colorado.

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Rob Roush on September 13, 2008 at 10:29 AM

    >Rachelle, thanks so much for your blog. This post specifically is of great value, if nothing else to calm the nerves. Yes, I am bringing the right things.

    Also as a first time writers conference attendee, I appreciate everyone’s suggestions, though I’m probably going to opt out on the “cute” shoes.

    Hope to see you all in a few days.

  2. Anonymous on September 10, 2008 at 2:26 PM

    >Bring grace and space to allow all those kind-hearted and (usually) Job-patient agents and editors a moment’s rest between scheduled events. (ie: No Bathroom Pitches!)

  3. Nicole on September 10, 2008 at 2:16 PM

    >Dont’ make it all about you.

  4. Matthew C Jones on September 10, 2008 at 1:19 PM

    Just wanted to let you know you’ve been getting a lot of props and recommendations on the ACFW conference first-timers loop.

    Everybody’s pointing to your blog for tips and advice, so congratulations!

    Grace to you,
    Matt J.

  5. Anita Mae on September 10, 2008 at 1:13 PM

    >Hey Gwen and Rachelle – You said fun, cute and comfortable shoes…I’m taking your shoe advice to heart.


    I needed new comfy but non-sneakers and was getting more worked up about them than my one-sheets. When my teen dragged me to a sale, I bought a pair of Air Walks that I’ve been breaking it at church. My teen rolls her eyes but I love them. She says they’re for teens only but my response was if that’s true, why do they come in my size which is…big.

    So, I’ll be the one wearing black flocked/suede shoes with a 2″ pink heart on the side near the heel. Just perfect for romance…

  6. Katy McKenna on September 10, 2008 at 12:31 PM

    >Rachelle and other desperadoes–The hotel website has a pic of the coffee shop. You can see a menu on the wall, Starbucks-style. But what if it’s all croissants and bagels? Oh, NOOOooooooo! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Anonymous on September 10, 2008 at 12:26 PM

    >I think another important, but often forgotten-until-too-late, item is the a breath mint.

    It may not be noticed if present, but will be missed if absent!

    -Burwell Stark

  8. Rhonda on September 10, 2008 at 12:09 PM

    >Wow how time flies… great list Rachelle. I always take my Bible and this year I’m adding Travel size Downy Wrinkle Releaser… LOL I hate to iron. Looking forward to meeting you Rachelle.

  9. Janny on September 10, 2008 at 12:05 PM

    >I’ll be at ACFW, and I’ll be in comfy shoes. End of story. No “professional” look is worth sore feet when you spend half your day at a conference walking…and walking…and walking… ๐Ÿ™‚

    When I do find reasonably cute shoes that fit my short, w-i-d-e feet (think Smurfette, without the blue)…they’re usually from the “kids” section of the store. For those of us who can get away with it, the shoes are usually both cute AND cheaper than “adult” prices for the same shoe.

    The downside is, of course, that there are only so many Barbie sneakers a woman with gray hair can get away with….

    (heh heh)


  10. Lisa Jordan on September 10, 2008 at 11:40 AM

    >Great list, Rachelle. I love the idea of going with goals in mind. Can’t wait to meet you!

  11. heather on September 10, 2008 at 10:28 AM

    >An extra book to read in the bathroom in case you end up with a snoring roommate. Not that I speak from experience or anything.
    Of course, you could take earplugs.

  12. Anne L.B. on September 10, 2008 at 10:12 AM

    >Way2go Gwen and Rachelle! And to think I was wondering how badly I’d regret the not-TOO-high heels I’ve already put aside to pack! Guess I’ll bring comfy ones for when my feet hurt.

  13. Cheryl Barker on September 10, 2008 at 9:59 AM

    >Rachelle, I’m not going to ACFW but am headed to another conference tomorrow so this came at the perfect time for me. Thanks for the tips!

  14. sheriboeyink on September 10, 2008 at 9:56 AM

    >Oh, I wish I could get to the conference this year, but next year for sure. I’m using these ideas for a conference (local) that I’m attending next month though. So this is great.

    ACFW website is having a course on “pitching” and “One Sheets” so you should check that out as well.

    I’d wish all those going to the conference Good Luck, but I’ll say God Bless instead! May doors be opened for you all on your way to publication/representation.

  15. Rachelle on September 10, 2008 at 9:38 AM

    >Hey everyone… JC’s comment is right on. Best to bring several copies of your first page.

    And all your conference suggestions are great! Regarding shoes… personally I opt for cute over comfort, but since I do a lot of conferences, I’ve managed to find shoes that are both.

    And Starbucks… don’t get me started. It will NOT be pretty if they don’t have one.

    Anyone saying “I hope I see you at ACFW…” Please realize you won’t be able to miss me! Come up and say hi to me, or sit at my table at a meal. I’m counting on you to do that!

  16. Kim Kasch on September 10, 2008 at 9:34 AM

    >Congrats to Chatty Kelly! What’s the publication so we can check it out?

    And have a wonderful time everyone. Just wish I was going.

  17. JC on September 10, 2008 at 9:18 AM

    >Bring several copies of the first page of your novel. Agents and editors look at that first — and want it to grab them by the throat. At the last conference I attended, the agent panel collected first pages and went over them outloud; at a workshop we handed them in for editing; when you meet people at lunch and strike up conversations, you can ask “Does my opening paragraph catch your interest”. The feedback is invaluable.

  18. Courtney Walsh on September 10, 2008 at 8:52 AM

    >I asked about the Starbucks too! Can’t function without that coffee. It’s a sad, sad addiction.

    I would have to add “something to settle your stomach” to the list if my pre-conference nerves are any indication.

    Oh, and someone tell me where I can find shoes that are equally as comfy as they are cute? So far, I’ve struck out in that arena! My cute shoes always KILL my feet.

    Thank you for the list, Rachelle! I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I hope to see you there!

  19. Marcie Gribbin on September 10, 2008 at 7:49 AM

    >Camera! How did I forget Camera on my list? Thanks for the reminder!

    Deodorant is good to pack, too ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Organized thoughts? That one might be a bit harder to check off ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Oh- organized thoughts about my book. Okay, that might be doable.

    Thanks, Rachelle! Great list!

  20. Chatty Kelly on September 10, 2008 at 7:38 AM

    >Good luck to everyone who is going!

    I’m haven’t written a book yet, but I just sold my second article for publication! Hooray!

    Hope everyone has a fabulous time…and that the hotel does have a Starbucks for those who need it.

  21. Catherine West on September 10, 2008 at 7:17 AM

    >Merci. I shall make my list and check it twice.
    What are my books about again????
    Kidding. Sorta.
    Hey I haven’t heard if there’s a Starbucks in the hotel. The last hotel we were at they had Starbucks in the giftshop and they gave us Starbucks for our coffee breaks. Loved that hotel.
    What do you mean this isn’t vital information?

  22. Katy McKenna on September 10, 2008 at 6:53 AM

    >Great list, Rachelle! I always print out (from the ACFW website) the pictures and descriptions of the editors and agents in attendance. During the editor/agent panel when they discuss what they’re looking for in submissions, I take notes on those pages. It helps to have glanced over those materials if I get a chance to meet them in person.

  23. Karen on September 10, 2008 at 5:55 AM

    >Great list! Makes me wish I was going to ACFW again. Last year was my first ACFW conference and it was one of the best writers’ conferences I have ever attended. Excellent workshops for all levels of writing experience. Great opportunities for networking.

    And a group of people who are extremely kind and welcoming. I was by myself but never sat alone for a meal. There was always someone who wanted to join me. The greatest kindness shown was when I lamented missing an opportunity to meet one of the editors and another writer gave me her appointment time.

    This year we celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary in the Mediterranean. Next year we celebrate 41 at ACFW.

  24. Susan on September 10, 2008 at 5:35 AM

    >Thanks for this: great list, and nice to see what an agent expects we’ll have ready. (pitch? yikes!)

    I hope I don’t sound like a complete boob, but what are ‘one-sheets’? Would it be just basic information like Title/Author/Blurb on a page?

    (I’m with Gwen on those shoes btw!)

  25. Gwen Stewart on September 10, 2008 at 4:53 AM

    >Wish I could go! It’s not a convenient time of year for my job. However, I was fortunate enough to attend a conference in August that was wonderful and hope to make ACFW next year.

    Excellent list Rachelle, I was so glad I had all of the listed items minus the camera, as cameras do not float my boat. What did float my boat was nice outfits with accessories and fun shoes. Yes, I bring the superficial silliness to the table here…though, dressing professionally is important to me. I noticed at the conference last month that the faculty dressed professionally and stylishly, and I was grateful I followed suit. Among many unknowns, making a good impression in dress was something I felt I could control along with being prepared with materials, etc.

    And fun shoes. Fun, comfortable shoes. Prayer first, always always. Fun shoes second. Bad appointment? Just look down. Instant endorphin rush if you have slammin’ shoes.

    No, I didn’t pitch chick-lit. Maybe I should have. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  26. Anne L.B. on September 10, 2008 at 2:25 AM

    >I hope I remember my faith and prayers amid the excitement, and trust God to be One who opens doors I only knock upon. That means I have to leave expectations behind (as if they’d fit in my suitcase anyway!)

    I’m glad for your reminder to bring an open mind to those unexpected connections (“divine appointments”) with all the wonderful people who might otherwise fade into the background. I look forward to seeing you all!