11 Tips for First Timers at The National Writers Conference

Emerging writer, emerging writers festival, what is an emerging writer, young writer, your writers, australian writers blog, blogger or writer

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The National Writers Conference is on again and I’ll be returning for my sophomore year as a Festival Blogging Partner.  Last year I received a crash course in how to attend a writers conference.  Much of what took place over those two days in Melbourne happened fast and took me by surprise.

This year I’m going to be prepared.

2014 I went online to buy tickets to the weekend events only to realise I had brought tickets to something called The National Writers Conference instead.  I quickly checked the program again.  I was fairly certain I’d brought the right tickets, but part of me had no idea what was going on.  I was excited and a little over whelmed.  Had I chosen the right events?  What was I going to miss out on?

I started to FOLLOW The Emerging Writers Fest on Facebook and Twitter.  The social media feed moved quickly and I felt like I was already behind.  Everyone was chatting among themselves and laughing at each others jokes, #ewf14 #amwriting #hashtag #paythewriters #amazingbabes.

In the weeks before the festival opened, I had articles, reviews, event details, and program outlines all opened in multiple tabs in Google Chrome.  Each night I carefully saved them all by closing my laptop without shutting my browser down.  I was convinced I had to read them all before I flew to Melbourne.

I became panicked. ‘I haven’t written a book, I’m not even an emerging writer yet.  I need to head to the Unemerging Writers Festival.’  Needless to say there was a little bit of insecurity creeping in.

Below are a few tips for first timers to the Conference so nobody makes the same mistakes I did.  Hopefully you’ll ease into your first National Writers Conference far better than I did.

11 tips for first timers at this years festival

1. If you can only make it to one event

If there is only one event you get to this year, make sure it’s the Conference Special Event: 5×5 RULES OF WRITING.  This event is a crowd favourite and opens the National Writers Conference in Melbourne’s Town Hall.  Everyone goes, even people who don’t have tickets to anything else.  It’s an inspiring, informative and succinct presentation from the five festival ambassadors ‘dishing out the tips and tricks’ on what works for them, and what might work for you’.  Bring a pen and plenty of paper because you’ll want to write down every word.

2. Get to know the Ambassadors

…if you don’t already.

Emerging writer, emerging writers festival, what is an emerging writer, young writer, your writers, australian writers blog, blogger or writerOslo Davis is an illustrator who has worked with the New York Times, The Age, The National Gallery of Victoria and The Melbourne Writers Festival amongst others.  He is also an acclaimed animator.  I thought I wasn’t familiar with his work until I saw his signature – @oslodavis.

William McInnes is an Australian celebrity.  He is that actor from Seachange, Blue Heelers and the guy that cheated on Claudia Karvan in Time of Our Lives.  He’s also written twice as many books as I thought think he had.  ‘William McInnes is established in his ability both as a columnist and author in writing pieces that celebrate life whilst encompassing the wide emotions and situations being human can bring.’  I’m very excited to meet him – WILLIAM McINNES

Sulari Gentill is the author of the award-winning Rowland Sinclair Mysteries. Under the name S.D. Gentill, she also writes a fantasy adventure series called The Hero Trilogy.  She has ABC bookclub and appears in heaps of youtube videos – @SulariGentill

Kylie Ladd is a novelist and psychologist. Her works include After The Fall, Last Summer and Into My Arms. Kylie’s latest novel is Mothers and Daughters.  I personally have a soft spot for Kylie Ladd since she is one of very few writers to have toured through the Far South Coast on NSW.  I met Ladd at CANDELO BOOKS in Bega during the Wordy Women tour.  Kudos for the trip Kylie! – @kylie_ladd

Anna Poletti is a Lecturer in Literary Studies and Director of the Centre for the Book at Monash University. She is the Chair of the Sticky Institute management committee.  If you are not sure what the STICKY INSTITUTE is then you should definitely check it out.  Sticky Institute is an entirely volunteer Artist Run Initiative fusing an exhibiting and open resource working space with a non profit retail environment in Melbourne – @poletti_anna

3. Bring a phone / laptop charger

Lots of the National Writers Conference happens online.  Twitter chatting is fast and consuming.  There is no fear of missing out at the Conference as you can literally be in two places at once.  Those from the other rooms tend to tweet the discussion live.  You’ll catch all the great quotes and feel completely immersed.

But all this tweeting and link following will take a toll on your battery and data.  There are power points around the rooms to recharge but these fill fast so be kind and share the love.  Be prepared to run at 50% and then hand it over.

4. Don’t buy any books until the afternoon

You might be tempted, as you arrive at the National Writers Conference to pull out all your saved cash and lay it straight down on the book table.  You’ll walk over to the table, look down and reach out for the book you recognise.  You’ll tell yourself that you deserve it, as a memento of the day or as a tax deduction!

The thing is, each one of those novels on the table have been written by people you are about to meet (if you haven’t already).  By the end of the day you’ll walk out of the Conference knowing the names, stories and publishing history of almost every book on that table.  And you might just want to re-evaluate your choice.

5. Bring money to buy books

See above.

6. Everyone in the audience is a writer too

Unlike other writers festivals you may have been to in the past, The National Writers Conference is different.  Instead of being about writers, the NWC is actually for writers.  This changes the entire dynamic.   The National Writers’ Conference is for emerging writers to hear from leaders in the field, develop their skills, and meet other excited word-nerds.  Expect to leave the Conference with creative and attainable goals for the next year.

7. Expect to talk to strangers about your work

It is very unlikely that you will go the whole weekend without handing out your email and sheepishly discussing the book you’re working on with a complete stranger.  Expect to discuss your work informally with others and hand out your email address a lot.  Bring paper you can rip off and hand to people.

Talk to the person sitting next to you.  They are nice.  They are probably me.  Say hi.

8. Don’t prattle on too much, until the end.  Then go crazy

With that in mind, try not to prattle on too much about yourself.  There is an allocated time during the festival to flaunt your wears, YOU ARE HERE.  It’s a relaxed, hilarious and great end to the Conference.  By 4pm on Sunday, it’s the only room still running.  It’s where those still standing come together and say farewell.

‘Over the weekend EWF staff will be going around to find four audience members most keen to get up on stage and share what they write and what they’re going to go home and write after a weekend of inspiring conversation. ‘ So try not to squeeze too much of your own achievements into crafty but pointless questions throughout the day.

9. Go to at least one session in the Melbourne Room

There is certainly a main stage at the National Writers Conference where all the big ideas are being discussed.  It might be tempting to position yourself in a great chair, close to the wall with a power point in sight and not leave the room.

But every now and again a small crowd of people will stand up from their chairs and disappear upstairs.  Chances are they are heading to the Melbourne Room for an intimate and honest discussion with just one writer.

10. Come to the Blogging Discussion

If it turns out through rotten luck that you and I aren’t sitting next to each other during the Conference at any point, come by the Yarra Room on Sunday at 2pm and say hi.  SAM VAN ZWEDEN, MICHELLE McLAREN and I will be discussing blogging, writing online, and establishing a successful and enduring platform.

11. Anyone got a number 11

Anyone reading this who is an Emerging Writers Festival or National Writers Conference Alumni?

Share your tips and advice for Newbies below in the comments.



by Meg

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2 thoughts on “11 Tips for First Timers at The National Writers Conference

  1. Rachel says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for this article – I’m attending the conference for the first time this year, and I’ll be on my own. I’m feeling quite nervous (I’m shy!!) but your tips have got me feeling excited about it. 🙂 I’m planning on attending the blogging session on Sunday. Looking forward to it!

    • Meg
      Meg says:

      Wonderful news Rachel. I attended the festival last year on my own and had a wonderful time. I’ll see you there!

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