Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Storymakers Essential, Must-Have, Seriously Don’t Ignore This Stuff We Know What We’re Talking About, Packing List

By DeNae Handy, unless you hate this piece, in which case it was written by Annette Lyon

Already packing for your first trip to Storymakers, I see. Well done, you! As far as I’m concerned—and seasoned writers, back me up here—any activity that prevents you from actually writing is an activity worth doing, and worth doing well. No worries; you’ll get back to that manuscript as soon as you finish loading your steamer trunk (and cleaning out the fridge, and delousing the cat, and…um…doing the fridge thing again…).

And since I, too, am very professionally avoiding work—in my case sorting through the eleventy billion revisions on my book (working title: “The Stupid Jerk Novel That Refused to Write Itself”)— I would like to provide you with a packing list to make your procrastination more productive. Amateur procrastinators believe that all you have to do to procrastinate successfully is ‘anything but the thing you’re procrastinating,’ but we experts know that it takes a lot more skill, training, and trips to McDonalds for Diet Coke and fries (the only true and living junk food combination on the earth today, I so testify) to really make your procrastination sing.So…

The Packing List
·         Business cards. You’ll want to order at least 50,000 business cards—ten to hand out to people who might even keep them, and remember that they met you, talked to you, and took an interest in your life’s work for the fifteen minutes you sat together at lunch, and 49,990 to stuff into a t-shirt to make a pillow when you discover the hotel lost your reservation.

·         Adorable bookmarks. I simply can NOT say enough about the bookmark distribution subculture that springs up at every writers conference. Done right, collectors may never have to fold another page corner again for the rest of their lives. I don’t accept bookmarks myself, but that’s only because, no matter how carefully I place them on the page, they still fall out of my Kindle.

·         A 200-pound laptop. People who take notes with a pencil and a little notebook are not the kinds of people you, a serious writer, want to associate with. They are so Jane Austen. Be sure to install a battery that only lasts four minutes, and a really short cord, so you can spend the entire conference sitting on the floor, tethered to an electrical outlet and suffering for your art.

·         A tablet. I’m referring, of course, to tablets of the technology ilk, and not the variety you might need when your laptop-toting neighbor brains you with her computer while swinging into the seat next to you. Tablets, and their übersophisticated Bluetooth wireless keyboards, are another way of telling those around you that you mean serious business vis a vis the whole ‘writing career thing’, and not, as some pencil-scratching Philistines might infer, that you are merely pretentious.

·         Super uncomfortable shoes. I can’t fully explain why these are so important, but they must be, since I bring at least twelve pair. The ones with really high heels and pointy toes are the best. My motto has always been, “If your shoes don’t cripple you from a sitting position, you really need to go shopping again.” I’ll admit: as a motto,that needs work.

·         Forty copies of your manuscript. That’s right. Pack forty copies of your WIP, because the one thing everyone you meet wants to do is read someone else’s unfinished book. Oh, and don’t forget twenty or thirty ‘first fifty pages’ packets, rolled into cylinders suitable for handing off to passing agents like they do in relay races and spy movies. They’re also excellent for fending off the bookmark distributors.

·         A giant mop. This is for your ego when you realize that every single person in the room besides the wait staff and me is a YA Fantasy writer, just like you, only they’ve been doing it since Stephenie Meyer was in diapers. Don’t panic. You’ll be fine, really. I’m sure it only looks like that market is stuffed to the gills with LDS authors trying to make it big. And hey, if YA Fantasy doesn’t work out, you could always write something like ‘Just Who the Heck was Habakkuk’ or ‘The Apocrypha for iPad Users’. Pretty sure that niche is wide open, at least at Deseret Book.

·         JayKay, DB peeps! Please don’t call down fire and brimstone on my head to the third and fourth generations, which I totally know you could do if you felt like it.

And naturally, pack a sense of humor, an open mind, and the ability to admit you still have a lot to learn about this business. Even if the only things you return home with are thirty-nine copies of your manuscript, a million bookmarks, and a new appreciation for Dr. Scholl’s, the tips and tricks you’ll accidentally pick up along the way will be well worth the price of admission.

As will be attending my class, “Blaming Your Computer When it Doesn’t Just Barf Out a Pulitzer Winner While You’re Playing Words With Friends and Goofing Off on Facebook.”

I’ll admit: as a class title, that needs work.

For other helpful conference tips, check out these links:

How To Choose Classes:
How to Dress for Storymakes
How To Pitch to Agents/Editors:


  1. LOVED IT! I was laughing so hard just at the opening line about Annette having wrote it if we hated it.

    Love me some witty writing!

  2. That is hilarious, DeNae! I have to admit that I wish laptop bringers would leave theirs home or in their hotel rooms. I've been to several classes sitting close to a typist, and all the key clacking was really distracting.

  3. Oh, ouch. That YA fantasy bit hits a little too close to home. :)