8 Must-Have Items to Pack for a Writers Conference

Kristin is off to the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, and – ooh, look what she’s packing!

It’s that time of year. To quote Alice Cooper, “School’s out forever.” Unless you happen to be packing your bags for the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, as I am.

Our coverage of the conference last year was so successful that I’m reporting again this year from beautiful Santa Barbara, California. As oddball as it sounds, I’m taking a week out of my busy writing schedule…to write, and hang out with other writers, including alums Ara Grigorian and Trey Dowell, who have published their first books and will be part of the can’t-miss First Book Panel.

The first evening keynote last year was the fabulous Jane Smiley and this year Mona Simpson, author of my current literary obsession, CASEBOOK (which I’ve been tweeting about while listening to it on Audible), promises to be fantastic, as well as the other keynotes: Danny Bland, Anthony Breznican, Meg Gardiner and Tawni O’Dell. Literary name droppings will fall like writers’ business cards! Are we packed yet?

SBWC has been named the third best writers conference in the USA by The Writers Edge. From the SBWC’s own Website:

The first year, in 1972, Barnaby [Conrad, the founder] called Ray Bradbury and asked him to speak at the conference. Ray responded, “I don’t know, my schedule is full. Who else have you got?”

Barnaby replied, “I’ve got Budd Schulberg, Clifton Fadiman and Alex Haley.”

“I’m coming, too!” said Ray.

Then Barnaby invited Schulberg, who asked, “Well, who else is coming?”

Barnaby told him, “Ray Bradbury, Clifton Fadiman and Alex Haley.” “All right,” said Budd. “Then I’m coming, too.”

Soon, a guy named Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, became a lecturer. SBWC is famous for launching Fannie Flagg and Robert James Waller, among other luminaries.

This year, as in many years past, the faculty includes:Santa Barbara Writers Conference

  • Matthew Pallamary
  • Wylene Wisby Dunbar
  • Marilee Zdenek
  • Susan Miles Gulbransen
  • Lisa Lenard-Cook
  • conference owner Monte Schulz (Charles’ son)
  • Barnaby Conrad III
  • Geoff Aggeler
  • Duane Unkefer
  • Jerry Camarillo Dunn
  • Ernie Witham
  • Carmen Madden
  • Walter Halsey Davis
  • Yvonne Nelson Perry
  • Dale Griffiths Stamos
  • Leonard Tourney
  • S.L. Stebel
  • Karen K. Ford
  • pirate workshop leader Lorelei Armstrong
  • Marla Miller
  • pirate workshop leader John Reed
  • Rebecca Robins
  • Catherine Ann Jones

Incredible talent. Incredible people.

As well, it’s a magnet for agents and editors who generously speak and offer scheduled meetings with conference participants who have signed up.

A shout-out to those amazing conference staffers and volunteers: director Nicole Starczak, Grace Rachow, Jim Alexander, Melinda Palacio…the list of the tireless and sleepless could go on all week.

What to pack for a writers conference

How do you pack for a writers conference? Here are eight items that will help you make the most out of your inspiration vacation.

What to pack for a writers conference

  1. Business cards. They don’t have to be fancy. You can print and design them from your computer.
  2. Book synopses/takeaways. Copies of your books are great, but agents/editors/producers LOVE takeaways. As well, they are an effective way to meet interesting fellow students. Get a postcard, give a takeaway.
  3. Manuscript copies. Because there are better ways to network with your fellow attendees than hanging out at the copy machine.
  1. Workout outfit/swimsuit if applicable. What? I’m a writer. Why exercise? Because agents, presenters and fellow attendees may steal away to the hotel gym, pool or beach, that’s why. Just kidding. Conferences are intensive and you need to bring your A-game. Exercise boosts endorphins and mental functioning so you can remember the names of everyone you’ve met.
  2. Books by selected presenters, instructors and speakers you want to meet. It’s a given many people are going to be paying extra baggage fees for all the books they buy at the conference (although we are writers on a budget), so it’s smart to already have your copy with you when Jane Smiley is signing books. (Last year at SBWC I had her sign The Man Who Invented The Computer I’d bought before the conference.) Also, book-buying lines can get long. You don’t want to waste any more of your precious time than you have to. It’s great to support the authors and conference/local bookstores, but time management is key.
  3. Oreos. (This from a SBWC instructor.) Or your munchie of choice.
  4. DVDs, golf clubs, swimsuits, theater tickets, Disneyland passes, wine tasting tickets, and whatever else you need to keep loved ones occupied while you’re off working. (“Yes, that’s right, honey. I’m working.”)
  5. Eye masks. Trust me, after 8-10 hours of conferencing, you will need your sleep. Unless you’re having a great time after hours with new friends (and attending SBWC’s famous Pirate Workshops from 9 p.m. until the wee hours.) This is like Las Vegas and summer camp for writers, after all.

It’s going to be an incredible week. Stay tuned…

Kristin Johnson poses with Mon

About Kristin

is a longstanding writer for many clients of THGM Writing Services.

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