Mary DeMuth

Mary E. DeMuth is an expert in Pioneer Parenting. She enables Christian parents to navigate our changing culture when their families left no good faith examples to follow. Her parenting books include Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture (Harvest House, 2007), Building the Christian Family You Never Had (WaterBrook, 2006), and Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God (Harvest House, 2005). Mary also inspires people to face their trials through her real-to-life novels, Watching the Tree Limbs (nominated for a Christy Award) and Wishing on Dandelions (NavPress, 2006). Mary has spoken at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, the ACFW Conference, the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, and at various churches and church planting ministries. Mary and her husband, Patrick, reside in Texas with their three children. They recently returned from breaking new spiritual ground in Southern France, and planting a church.

ABCs of Conference Attendance

• Amazing memory for names: Work on remembering names now, so that when you’re at the conference, you’ll remember the names of people you meet. When you receive a card from someone, jot something on the back that will jar your memory about that person. Then follow up later.

• Business cards: First, be professional, starting with a photo. Then put it on your professionally printed cards (do not print them from your computer). (And if you have books, put your picture on the back.) Some good printers:,, or And Got Print is professional looking and very reasonable.

• Cards: It’s ever so nice to have a stash of thank-you cards with you. During down time, you can write a quick thank-you and give it to the editor you had a great appointment with. Or you can write them on the plane ride home.

• Dependable shoes: I know we all want to look lovely (I’m speaking to the guys here, right?), but a lot of conferences are at retreat centers or camps. Heels and hills do not mix well. Neither do brand-new shoes you haven’t broken in yet.

• Ecumenical eyes: Most Christian conferences have worship and prayer time. Not everyone adheres to your particular flavor of Christianity. See that as a cool opportunity to understand the beauty of the breadth of the body of Christ. It’s not a time to criticize.

• Favorite chocolate: This helps endear you to your newfound friends, soothes you when rejection happens, and if it’s dark chocolate, nourishes you.

• Great attitude: Come to a conference as a learner with a listener’s posture. Don’t hang your mood on an insatiable need to be noticed. Instead, notice others. Praise others. Listen to feedback. Don’t argue back with an editor. Be teachable, learning to rejoice in others’ successes.

• Hats: Not actual hats, but an understanding of the different hats you’ll wear at a conference. You may be a conferee, an encourager of another conferee, a helper, a writer wanting publication, a follower of Jesus, a possible friend to someone new. Don’t simply wear “a writer wanting publication” hat.

• Interest: The people I enjoy most at conferences are those who are not merely interested in their dogged pursuit of publication. They’re interested in people, fascinated by their stories. Be interested in agents and editors as people. Be interested in the process of pulling off a conference. Be interested in the critique services offered.

• Jump drive: Having your proposals on a flash or jump drive is a nice idea. Some editors and agents won’t want that, but it’s a nice alternative to offer, as long as everything is virus-free.

• Kookiness: Going to a conference is not purely business. Be sure you bring some lightheartedness to the conference with you. Maybe throw a little party in your room or have coffee with friends.

• Lists of folks you want to talk to: After studying the conference brochure, decide which editors and agents are a good fit. Pray about getting an opportunity to chat with them. Do a little research outside the brochure (Web sites are a great start) to discover what agents and editors are looking for and what they never acquire.

• Money: You’ll need this if you want to buy coffee, snacks, etc. But primarily you’ll want to bring extra to buy books and recordings of the part of the conference you missed. Buying MP3s of the conference will greatly extend the conference’s influence in your writing life.

Read The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman and follow all his advice. This is an important chance. Don’t mess it up with errors in logic, bad grammar, or a slow, slow story.

• Novel chapters: Before you submit them to an editor or agent, be sure you’ve gone over them thoroughly. Have your critique group read them. Your spouse. Your dog, if he can read.

• One sheets: These are one-page documents that succinctly summarize one project. They’re a nice thing to have when you’re chatting with an editor or agent. • Proposals: Just bring a few, knowing that an agent or editor might want one, but don’t bring a suitcaseful.

• Query letters: You need these particularly if you’re pitching an article to a magazine. Be sure it grabs attention with the first sentence. Remember, it’s your first handshake with an editor. For more help visit

• Realistic Expectations: While it’s okay to dream, don’t rest there. Realize that this journey is a long one. It’s not likely you’ll get a publishing or agenting contract at your first conference. Go to learn. Accept each day and each contact as a gift. Understand that every bit of knowledge you learn is another step closer to publication. Don’t despise obscurity.

• SASEs: (Self-addressed, stamped envelopes) This is particularly nice for an magazine editor. If he or she is interested in your query, be sure you give him or her the query and an SASE.

• Thick skin: This is a tough business. Prepare yourself. The conference is merely the first step of many rejections all along the publishing journey. Learn not to take things personally. And take any criticism or rejection seriously, determining to go home and improve.

• Understanding of the appointment process: Before you go, understand how the conference manages appointments. Are you responsible for making them? Do you get two automatically assigned to you? Do you have an opportunity to meet with folks at their dining tables?

• Vitality: Try to bring some energy and joy with you. Editors and agents want to see passion. They want to know you’re wired for the project you’re pitching. • Warm clothes: Even if a conference is held in Dallas in the summertime, bring some warm clothes. Conference rooms are notoriously frigid.

• Xtra sleep: File this away in the hopeful category. If you’re dragging one night, please, do yourself a favor and turn in early. You want to be fresh and alert for the days ahead.

• Yearning to grow goal: Make it your goal to grow the most you possibly can as a writer and industry expert. You will be less disappointed if you don’t land an assignment or contract.

• Zealousness for the craft: Above all, remember this is a writing conference. It’s your prose that will get you noticed. Be sure what you bring is polished and shiny, your very best work.

Mary DeMuth