Sunday, July 17, 2011

Get Organized for a Writers Conference

For those who’ve known me for any length of time are aware that organization isn’t my strong suit—at least not in the conventional meaning. My desk is covered in stacks of paper and the walls of my office are papered with rainbow hued sticky notes. It’s a system that works for me—but I quickly discovered it didn’t translate when I went on the road.

So I found another way to keep myself on track when I’m away from the office and my conference notebook was born.

It’s really pretty funny. The moment people see my notebook they immediately assume I’m this ultra-organized whiz. Actually, the opposite is true and my notebook is just a last ditch effort at self-preservation. Another thing I’ve noticed is that this notebook works well no matter what your natural bent toward organization.

The primary idea for this notebook is that it contains everything I need at a writers conference so I don’t have to dig through bags or be constantly returning to my room for something I’ve forgotten.

So let’s get to it!

First, I choose a one and a half inch three ring binder. Mine is green because green is my favorite color. I make sure there’s a sleeve on the front cover to slide a cover into because it hold my contact information if I should lay it down and leave it somewhere.

Next, in the front I have a small zippered pouch with a couple of pens and some paper clips. I can also slide in a small lipstick, some band-aids and tissues.

After that, I have a neat insert that holds several different size and colors of sticky notes.

Then, I add 4 pages of clear business card holders. I use the kind that are the size of a full page, so I have plenty of room to add business cards. I keep the first three empty and use them to store business cards I get from others. The last page is full of my personal business cards, so I always have plenty to hand out. (Don’t know what to include on a business card? I posted a blog on that here.)

The next part is divided into sections with tabs. Each project I’m pitching has a section. Here’s what would go into a section.
  • A clear plastic sleeve containing my one sheet for that project. (Don’t know what a one sheet is? Click here for a post on one sheets).
  • An outline for the project—if it’s non-fiction.
  • A synopsis for the project—if it’s fiction.
  • A sample of my writing for the project. This can either be a couple of sample devotions (for a devotional book) or the first couple of chapters in a book (fiction or non-fiction).
I have several copies of my one sheet, outline, synopsis and sample—just in case the person I’m showing it to wants to keep it or mark it up with suggestions.

Finally, after the section for projects I stock the back of the notebook with notebook paper and extra clear plastic sleeves and tabs.

Extras, you can include in your notebook might be a bio sheet, a list of topics if you're a speaker or even a list of articles you might want to pitch. The nice thing about this kind of notebook is you can personalize it to fit your needs.

With this notebook, no matter where I run into an editor or agent, I’m always prepared. I literally have everything at my fingertips. During a conference I NEVER go anywhere without my notebook.

So what have you found to help keep you on track while at a conference? We’d love to learn from your experiences too.


  1. What a great idea! I'm so going to run with this for the ACFW conference this year. :)

  2. Ralene, this notebook has been my lifeline at conferences for almost 7 years now. Thanks for dropping by - I'll see you at ACFW in September!