Conference Etiquette: Mind Your Manners

(Note: I'm posting this on Sunday night instead of Tuesday so those attending Blue Ridge will have an opportunity to apply these suggetions at the conference.)

blueridgelogo2009I'm having a ball at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference this week! Sure wish you were all here with us!

Now, before I start, I need to offer a quick disclaimer about this week's entry: This is NOT written because anyone here has done anything that offended me or hurt me or made me want to smack them. And if you don't know why I would use that particular term, please refer to last week's post. πŸ˜‰

But like many of my blog entries, this one is written and shared with you because I wish someone had taught the concepts to me when I was starting out.

Since I'm already really busy at Blue Ridge and time is in short supply, I'll get right to the point: Conference etiquette. I didn't have it and didn't even have enough sense to know I didn't!

Here are some suggestions on how to be a gracious receiver of an editor's or agent's or other faculty member's time and input:

1.    Seriously pray about and consider who you should meet in faculty appointments. Don't just take an appointment because there's an opening. I did that the first year. Signed up to talk to just about everybody-even if I had no intention of ever writing what they'd be interested in! Wasted my time and theirs.

2.    Be on time for your faculty appointments and be considerate when the faculty member says the time is up. I think most instructors are like me and try to stay on schedule in fairness to all those with appointments.

3.    Listen more than you talk. Like many others, I tend to talk too much when I'm nervous. And before I learned this lesson, the less I knew, the more I talked! The best use of your time is to make a short introduction, tell a little about your experience, ask a sensible question, and then listen. Don't plan your next question while the person is answering the one you just asked. Really listen. Take notes if necessary. Follow up with other questions as time allows.

4.    If you're getting a critique, don't defend every point the critiquer makes. If you do, you're wasting valuable time you could be using to learn. Of course, you may have questions you need answered for clarification, but don't argue or rationalize every point. Sincere questions are one thing, continually being on the defensive is another.

5.    Realize that instructors will most likely be unable to take your manuscript home from the conference. Remember, you're one person. Multiply that by 300-400 students. If they are interested, they'll give you instructions for sending it to them.

6.    Faculty members love to eat with students, answering questions and giving encouragement. But don't hog the conversation at meals. Occasionally there are those who dominate the conversation, treating the opportunity as one-on-one time.  Not good.

7.    One more thing about meals with faculty: It's really nice when they can get a bite or two of food in.

8.    Be considerate: Don't shove your manuscript in their faces in the restroom. Don't interrupt a conversation or break in line to speak to someone.  Don't bad mouth one instructor to another. πŸ˜‰

9.    And a common courtesy that's often missing in our culture today: thank you notes. Handwritten ones are especially nice, but email ones are certainly acceptable. I cringe every time I think of those kind people who invested in me…and yet, I never even wrote a thank you note. Sadly, that wasn't something that I was taught as a child, and I didn't even take such notes seriously until someone mentioned it regarding conferences. Now I try to write notes to everyone who does a kindness to me. Sometimes I forget, but it is something I want to do. They've invested time in me. The least I can do is invest time to write a note.

So there you have it–suggestions on how to present yourself as a professional writer, as well as a kind, considerate person. πŸ˜‰


Writing Opportunities for YOU!

➢    SUSIE Magazine is a new monthly print magazine for teen girls. According tosusiemaglogo editor Susie Shellenberger (creator of Focus on the Family's Brio Magazine), the purpose "…is to lead girls into intimacy with Christ, guide them in developing healthy relationships, showcase positive entertainment choices, provide healthy role models and teach positive self-image." Susie is currently looking for EXPERIENCED freelance writers who would be willing to donate their work for the first year. If you're qualified, please email Susie for writers' guidelines at with the words, FREE FREELANCE in the subject line. 

➢    Chicken Soup is looking for NASCAR stories. Several of you have been published in Chicken Soup books, so we know it's a viable opportunity! Submit your story here. But hurry. Deadline is June 15. (Thanks for the heads' up, Jo Rae!)

➢    One Touch from the Maker and Escape from the Prison System are two books from PuckettBrowne Publishing that need true short stories of the grace of God. The stories include salvation, healing, provision, getting through and others. Check out the website for Writer's Guidelines. This is a paying market.

➢    Age of Elegance Writing Contest. Ladies, are you a baby boomer? If so, you're invited to share what Age of Elegance means to you–and you could win cash! Check it out here.

➢    Thanks to Buffy Griffin for sharing this link for free writing courses!

➢    If you're a graduate of CLASServices, you're invited to submit articles to the CLASS Communique! Contact Tama Westman at for more information.

➢    Didn't find what you're looking for? Go back and check the Blog Archives for ongoing opportunities. 


And now, as this week's entry comes to a close (and I head back to Blue Ridge heaven), I hope you'll meditate on these words of Paul, written to the believers at Colosse:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name if the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

I pray God's blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,

Posted in categories: Christian Living | Writer's Conferences | Writing Instruction | Writing Opportunities

  • Dana

    Good advice. I hate that I am not there… I’ll remember your pointers whenever I get the opportunity to attend the conference.

  • Thanks for the great advice for the conference. I hope you get to enjoy yourself a little at the conference, too. I’m heading out on the road right now! Can’t wait to meet lots of new people at the conference, too.