For part two of the Writer's Digest Conference series, I thought I would share a few things that everyone should know before they go. And you should definitely go. This conference has so much to offer new and seasoned writers alike.
With that being said, I know that there are certain things that can be prohibitive in making that happen. Hopefully, if you do get the chance, this post helps you get the most out of it.
#1 - You don't have to register for everything at once, but you may want to.
When you register for the conference online, you have the option to add any extras, like Pitch Slam or pre conference classes. If you are undecided on either of those things, you can wait and add them later by changing it in your portal or emailing WDC staff. The closer you get to the conference, you may have to just email the staff directly- once the portal stops accepting changes. For me, I added Pitch Slam three days before I left for New York. I am a pain like that.
One thing to keep in mind if you do decide to wait is that you may miss important emails for those events. For example, because I waited to sign up for Pitch Slam, I missed an email about a professional critique session.
I will do another post next week demystifying Pitch Slam, to include critiques and making sure your pitch is the best it can be.
#2 - Where Should You Stay?
New York is an incredibly expensive place to stay, but if you are on a budget, it isn't impossible to find a decent place to hang your hat during WDC. However, if you are able to splurge to stay in the conference hotel, I would recommend it.
This year, Tyler and I stayed in an Airbnb on 49th St and 8th Ave. I took the subway to the conference each day (once in the wrong direction). I could have probably walked but it was spicy hot outside. The place was great and it had a kitchen (a great way to save on food, but we like food a lot and couldn't control ourselves so we still ate out every night. ) BUT it only had a window A/C which was a new kind of torture for me in the New York heat. I would do it again, but something I didn't know was that Airbnbs in New York can be sketchy in a totally different way than you think- they can be illegal.
When we got there, our host was very friendly and accommodating, but he said that if anyone asked we were just his friends. Not people paying to stay there.
It turns out that if there is a complaint made against the Airbnb by another person in the building, you can be turned out on the street and the host doesn't have to refund your money. This didn't happen to us, but it was a risk I might not take again.
Another option for the budget conscious is to stay in a neighboring hotel. I had several friends and acquaintances staying a few blocks away in hotels with smaller price tags.
Finally, something I did not even THINK of and probably wouldn't do because I enjoy my privacy (i.e. I sleep in a coffin and need my space to perform rituals by the light of the moon), there are other conference attendees staying in the hotel who are looking for roommates. A great place to reach out for that is #3...
#3 - The Conference Facebook Page / Genre Groups
When you register for the conference you immediately get access to the WDC Facebook page and you should definitely join it. Like I said in #2, if you are looking for a roommate, this is a good place to do it. Here are some other great reasons to do so even if you aren't on the hunt for a roommate.
The WDC Facebook page is FULL of information that will help you get the most out of the conference. People ask questions, provide advice, and even make plans on this page. So if you aren't on the page, you are missing out on a lot of opportunities for learning and meeting new people.
In particular, if you are planning on participating in Pitch Slam, or if you aren't sure you should, there is quite a bit of activity regarding that event.
Additionally, if you want to connect with your specific genre this is a great place to connect with people who write what you write. Sometimes there will even be additional groups formed that you can join and find out about meet ups during the conference.
#4 - The King of Conference (and writing) Social Media: Twitter
Are you a writer? I would think so if you are reading this blog post, but to each their own. Are you on Twitter? If you are, in fact, a writer and you are going to WDC, you should be.
Much like the Facebook page, Twitter is a great way to connect with other writers before and during the conference. It is also a bit more fun than Facebook.
Additionally, you can follow the agents and instructors you will be seeing to find out more about them (stalk them basically).
The hastag for the conference is generally WDC and the last two digits of the year. For example, this year's hashtag was: #WDC18
Using this hashtag will put out in the universe that you are going to the conference and you want to connect! Easy peasy.
#5 - Pre Conference Classes
Whether you are a standard over achiever or just someone who REALLY wants to learn more about the craft- I highly recommend pre conference classes.
This year I paid for Story Trumps Structure with Steven James. Which meant that I had to be in NYC a day early and I sat through a 9-5 class on Thursday. I don't regret it one bit, I would do it again right now in a heartbeat.
I learned so much in that time that would not have fit in the general conference AND it helped me a set a course for the rest of the sessions I chose that weekend. It helped me identify huge gaps in my writing knowledge that I didn't even know were there and I was able to tailor my experience going forward based on that.
So if you are on the fence about it- JUST DO IT.
And if you are interested in Steven James' Story Trumps Structure, I highly recommend his book by the same name. https://www.amazon.com/Story-Trumps-Structure-Unforgettable-Breaking/dp/1599636514/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1534958655&sr=8-1&keywords=Story+Trumps+Structure
#6 - Choosing Classes During the Conference
When you register for the conference, it has you choose the classes you are going to go to. At the time I did it, I was in a hurry and there were quite a few classes that had not been annouced yet.
Don't let this make you panic- you can go to any classes you want and you can even move between them if the class you started in isn't a great fit.
I do recommend that once you get your conference bag with the full schedule, you go through the classes and pick your favorites for each time slot. Also, there are screens outside each room that tell you what is going on in there at each time, but knowing where you are going (as in what room) will save you valuable time.
#7 - In the Business of Writing
This was something I thought of very last minute, but I am SO glad that I did. Make sure that you bring business cards with you to the event. They should have all of your website, social media, and other relevant information attached.
Make sure that the cards are not too dark and that they are uncoated so you can write notes on them if you need to.
Additionally, you may want to go above and beyond and put a little blurb about your current project on them!
These cards will mostly be passed around to other attendees (which is a great way to connect with people after the conference), but sometimes (RARELY) an agent will ask you for it during Pitch Slam.
You best be ready for anything.
#8 - Unexpected Expenses
Have a budget for unexpected expenses. This was not something that I thought of before the conference, but I so wish I had!
Most of the people teaching at the conference are published authors and their books can be purchased out at the bookstore for SIGNINGS! I don't know about you, but I love having a signed copy of a book.
Additionally, your keynote speakers can be pretty big (this year Cassandra Clare spoke) and they will also sign books. So just be ready to spend a little moulah in all of that excitement.
You are allowed to bring your previously purchased copies as well, but I forgot. Also, you may discover some new favorites while you are there!
#9 - What to Eat
I'm going to make this one short and sweet. There is a lot of great food in NYC and if you so desire you should sample it all. However, if you are on a budget, the food trucks outside are a great option. I heard they had $1 water bottles, which honestly sounds like a lie, but it might be worth checking out.
Also, apps will tell you general price expectations for restaurants. For example a great $ place to stop is Melt Shop (and they have gluten free and vegan options) if you are looking for lunch and a drink under $15.
#10 - MAKE SOME FRIENDS, YOU LITTLE INTROVERT
I am an introvert. The thought of going into large crowds of people that I don't know AT ALL makes me almost break out in hives. I'm fine once I know somebody, or can at least pretend to know someone, but prior to that it is a STRUGGLE.
However, people are at WDC to connect. They genuinely want to meet you and hear about your story and share theirs. And they are so interesting.
Do yourself a favor and make some friends (you can even start on Twitter to break the ice). They will be invaluable to your experience.