Recovering from a Writers Conference

I just returned from four days at a writers conference. I had something like 30 one-on-one meetings with writers, taught four 1-hour workshops, ran two late-night critique groups, had a few lunches/dinners/coffees with editors, and still managed to get out each morning for a 2-mile jog to and from Starbucks. Phew! I really enjoyed this conference but felt pretty rundown by the end of it, which is normal. It takes a lot of psychic energy to be “on” 12 hours a day!

I came away from the conference with one very strong potential client, and a small handful of others I want to consider. However, as you know, I don’t really have much time for new-client consideration at the moment so I’m going to have to make these decisions slowly and carefully.

One of the cool things about this conference was that I ended up pretty impressed with writers in general. I mean, I knew I liked you already! But I think I reached a whole new level of awe in the last few days. I’m amazed by writers’ dedication and perseverance and willingness to learn. If you’ve ever taken the time, effort and money to go to a writers’ conference, or you’re planning to in the future, I salute you. I think you’re doing a wonderful thing for yourself, and I applaud your courage. I truly hope you find your conferences helpful and enlightening and fun.

A couple of random conference tips came to mind while I was there:

1. If you’re pitching a project, definitely bring a couple of printouts of a one-sheet, a proposal, a synopsis, and a first chapter (or whatever you have available). You never know when an agent or editor might want to look at them. We’re visual creatures; we sometimes need to look at something written while we’re listening to your verbal pitch. Also, there are often opportunities to have your work critiqued, and you don’t want to lose out. (Let me know if you want me to talk about one-sheets here on the blog.)

2. If you want to leave an agent or editor with something, always ask them if they want to take it or if they’d prefer you email them. Whatever they say, respect it and don’t push! For me this is a practical issue; I sometimes travel with only one small carry-on bag, and there simply isn’t any extra room.

3. Make a point to stop and talk to anyone you see standing or sitting alone, especially if they have that “lost” look on their face. Conferences can be so intimidating and everyone needs a friend. (If you see a faculty member sitting alone, feel free to join them! Especially if you just want to have conversation rather than give them a pitch.)

4. Remember that one of the reasons agents and editors like going to conferences is to see their friends, i.e. all the other faculty members. We often only see each other at these events. Therefore if you see a couple of faculty members hanging out and talking, consider whether you might want to give them some time rather than interrupting to give your pitch.

I really want to thank everyone for being so nice to me at the conference; for making me feel welcome and for at least acting like you got something out of my workshops. It’s truly a pleasure working with writers who sincerely want to learn the business.
Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

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. Shirley Corder on June 11, 2009 at 1:35 AM

    >Thanks for your tips. A friend and I are travelling from S.Africa to attend the Florida Christian Writers' Conference early next year and I need all the tips I can get. YES PLEASE to info on the "one sheet".

  2. David A. Todd on June 10, 2009 at 10:19 AM

    >Should have written this as part of my last comment. Can you help the industry come up with another name than "one sheet" for this document? "One Sheet" just sounds like, I don't know, we couldn't come up with a better name so since it's all on one side of one sheet we'll call it a one sheet.

    How about Sell Sheet, since we are trying to sell our WIP to someone. Or Pitch Sheet. Or just about anything else other than One Sheet.


  3. David A. Todd on June 10, 2009 at 10:17 AM


    I attended that conference a number of years ago, and thought of it for this year, since we were coming to Chicago last weekend to see our son (who is a PhD candidate at the U of C). But he had several days of activities scheduled for us, plus a full conference registration was out of the question based on the budget. I thought about a one-day registration for Friday, just to meet you and pitch an idea to you, but he had us scheduled something on that day too. Alas.

    Oh well, there's always e-mail.


  4. Karin on June 9, 2009 at 2:42 PM

    >It was a pleasure meeting you at the conference last week. Thank you for your time and advice!

    Karin Beery

  5. Janet on June 9, 2009 at 12:12 PM

    >Yes, please do talk about one sheets. They are rarely discussed on agent blogs.

  6. Shelly W on June 9, 2009 at 10:18 AM

    >One sheets? Yes, please!

    (You were right down the street from me last week. Sorry about our terrible weather.)

  7. Kate Lord Brown on June 9, 2009 at 8:31 AM

    >Great to hear about conferences from an agent's point of view. They're a great idea for writers – let's face it, we don't get out much 🙂

  8. Diane J. on June 8, 2009 at 10:05 PM

    >Another vote for posting about a 'one sheet'. Thanks for the pointers and the positive attitude.

  9. zkqayyum on June 8, 2009 at 8:54 PM

    >i would love to see a blog about one sheet thing…so here's another vote for that. i am writing fiction (somewhat like no time for goodbye) so i think my area and genre is very different from what you do but any kind of advice would be good ad i really want to learn and write something exceptionally good.

  10. Adam Blumer on June 8, 2009 at 8:31 PM

    >So nice to meet you last week, Rachelle. Thanks for taking the time to meet with me and listen to my spiel. Yep, you had an awful lot to do; good job keeping up with everything while keeping a smile on your face. I especially liked your workshop about novel openings; I'm considering grabbing an armful of favorite books and studying how they begin. I loved Fahrenheit 451, but I completely forgot about that cool opening line. "It was a pleasure to burn." Took me back to college lit classes. Thanks again!

  11. Amber Argyle-Smith on June 8, 2009 at 5:30 PM

    >The first conference is the worst. I was sick for weeks before my first one. But after several, I realized that the agents and editors weren't going to eat me. They were all really nice (even when my work wasn't so hot).
    I learned tons from them, and even made some friends. I still get a little uptight, but who doesn't?

  12. Mariana on June 8, 2009 at 5:00 PM

    >As usual, great post, very informative. Thanks!

    I'm glad you had fun. The more we enjoy what we do, the better we tend to be at it.

    Ah, one more vote for the one sheet post.

  13. WhisperingWriter on June 8, 2009 at 4:52 PM

    >Thank you for this. I'm always eager to learn anything I can about writing. I hope to be able to attend a writers conference at some point. I think I'd feel right at home to be surrounded by writers.

  14. Rose McCauley on June 8, 2009 at 3:43 PM

    >As one of the people fortunate enough to attend WTP and all 4 of Rachelle's classes I agree that she is one of the most helpful people in the business.

    Thanks for the comments and suggestions you made on my MS, Rachelle. Now I just have to put BIC as Mary said and make the revisions!

  15. Marybeth Poppins on June 8, 2009 at 2:57 PM

    >I would absolutely love to see a blog post about one-sheets. Glad you had such a great time, can't wait to go to my first Conference!!!

  16. Jeanette Levellie on June 8, 2009 at 2:41 PM

    I attended the conference last week, and it both exhilarated and exhausted me.

    Thanks for the compliment on our courage and grit.
    Also thanks for meeting with me, the advice you gave on my Preacher's Wife book, and letting me join you and Mary DeMuth at your table just to chat. That impressed me!


  17. Pam Halter on June 8, 2009 at 1:48 PM

    >Camille, I could go for chocolate and a nap right about now, too. 😉

    Thanks for the tips on conferences. I've been going to conferences for years. There's always something to learn! Even when I'm on faculty, I try to attend some workshops.

    I have a pretty good idea what to include on a one-sheet, but would love your imput. And what about business cards? Are they still okay?

  18. Amy De Trempe on June 8, 2009 at 1:44 PM

    >Thanks for the information and advise. I will be going to my second conference in July and can't wait. I would also like to hear more about the one-sheet. Thank you.

  19. Anonymous on June 8, 2009 at 1:11 PM

    >So there's no confusion about what the readers want, I'll also say, please talk about the one-sheets. I've never heard of these and am dying to know what they are and how to do them.s

  20. Liesl Shurtliff on June 8, 2009 at 12:46 PM

    >Yes. Please talk about one-sheets!

  21. Debra Twardowski on June 8, 2009 at 12:18 PM

    >Nice and practical advice.

  22. Sharon A. Lavy on June 8, 2009 at 11:27 AM

    >I agree there is nothing like going to writers conferences. Fellowship with other writers is a must. Networking, realizing you are not weird and there are many others who think like you, who love their characters as family members.

  23. Eric J. Krause on June 8, 2009 at 11:18 AM

    >Thanks for the excellent tips! Though I don't have the funds at the moment to even dream of attending a conference, I hope to one day. I will add my vote to getting an explanation on a one-sheet.

  24. Camille Cannon Eide on June 8, 2009 at 10:45 AM

    >I tried to text my vote but it didn't work. I vote for chocolate and a nap.

  25. Dara on June 8, 2009 at 10:27 AM

    >Another vote for a post on one sheets 🙂

  26. Eric on June 8, 2009 at 9:46 AM

    >Great post. I am putting my vote in for a post on one-sheets. Thanks for helping us uninformed learn the ropes, so to speak. It's always a pleasure to stop by here.

  27. JStantonChandler on June 8, 2009 at 9:03 AM

    >Hi Rachelle!

    I'm going to join the crowd in asking for a post on one-sheets. I'm a bit embarassed to say I've never heard of them. Or if I have, it has been a very long time.

    Thank you!


  28. Teri D. Smith on June 8, 2009 at 8:49 AM

    >Rachelle, Here's another "yes" on the one sheets.

    I've seen a few but since we're visual creatures too, a link to a couple of samples would also be instructive.


  29. Liana Brooks on June 8, 2009 at 8:46 AM

    >I'm glad you had fun!

  30. Ralene on June 8, 2009 at 8:36 AM

    >Thanks for the tips, Rachelle! I am going to the ACFW conference in Sept and am so nervous! And excited. Well, I think it's like one part excited, two parts nervous. 🙂

    I'll echo everyone else and say I'd love to see a post on one-sheets! Thank you!

  31. Stina Lindenblatt on June 8, 2009 at 8:30 AM

    >I'm exhausted from just reading about your days, Rachelle.

    I, too, will be attending the August SCBWI conference, though I'm not sure if I need a one-sheet (no pitching sessions at the conference). Okay, I don't even know what a one-sheet is, so maybe a post on the topic would be a great idea.

  32. jessjordan on June 8, 2009 at 7:51 AM

    >I fourth the request for a one-sheets post! 🙂

    I'm going to my first conference in August–SCBWI–and I'm simultaneously thrilled and terrified. Thank you for all of the wonderful advice.

  33. Chatty Kelly on June 8, 2009 at 7:39 AM

    >One-sheets, yes I'd love to hear more.

    You Twitter'ed about receiving chocolate and have often joked/blogged about it. Do conference attendees really give you gifts, and if so, do you appreciate it or think it's too suck-up?

  34. Krista Phillips on June 8, 2009 at 7:27 AM

    >a third on the onesheet post idea. *grin*

    Sounds like a great conference. I toyed with the idea of going this year, but decided on ACFW instead. WTP has been over my babies birthday the last two years and yeah, not missing that for any writer's conference!

    Great tips for conferences! I dont' have to worry about the last one… Interrupting people for a pitch, wow that just makes me shiver at the thought! LOL

  35. Karen on June 8, 2009 at 5:51 AM

    >I can understand how tired you are. I witnessed how much energy you put into the WTP conference. Thank you for being so gracious and giving. And thank you for meeting with me and giving me suggestions for my work .

  36. Katie on June 8, 2009 at 5:34 AM

    >I second Megan. I would LOVE for you to talk about one sheets!

  37. Megan on June 8, 2009 at 4:33 AM

    >If you could talk about one-sheets that would be great!
    Great and informative post, thank you!

  38. Yamile on June 8, 2009 at 1:47 AM

    >I'm going to my first ever writers' conference tomorrow, and I'm a little nervous. Thanks for posting this tonight! It's really what I needed.
    One question:
    My WIP is in the very first stage of writing. Should I still take some sample material with me in case an agent wants to read some of my work? Should it be from the WIP I will eventually query about or some other projects I already have that are more polished (and better written)?