Last month I went to a craft fair. While admiring the jewelry at one of the booths, I started talking to another woman and was delighted to hear that she was also a writer. She handed me one of her cards. Red-faced, I dug deep into my purse until I finally came out with a pathetic-looking, dog-eared card of my own. Even though she took it with a smile, I was almost ashamed to give it to her.
Since then, I've visited with my other writer friends about times when they got caught with their literary pants down, and I've--well, we've--put together this list of 10 necessities writers should always have with them.
1. Business cards. There's no excuse for not having a business card, especially when you can make them on your own computer or get them practically free from Vistaprint. While you're buying cards, take time to invest in an inexpensive card holder so that your cards will always be at the tip of your fingers and in mint condition.
2. Brochures. Always try to carry at least two or three business brochures along with you in case you run into a potential client. Like business cards, low-priced brochures are available at Vistaprint.
3. Copies of books you've written. Have you ever lost a sale because you didn't have a copy of your book immediately available? I have, but I'm never going to let it happen to me again. Now I always carry at least two copies of Hospice Tails and Visiting Grandma. If you've written a lot of books, bring along copies of your most popular ones and your newest ones, and if you e-publish exclusively, get some postcards (I won't tell you where) listing the titles and a brief summary of your works.
4. Cell phone. Indulge me on this one. I didn't grow up with cell phones, and I'm all to adept at leaving mine on the charger or under a desk or chair--wherever the cats have batted it. But that's not smart. You can't afford to be cut off from client communications when you leave the home, so make sure to stick it in your purse or briefcase.
5. Laptop. You don't have to take your laptop every time you run to the store for five minutes, but if you're anticipating an off-site writing marathon, having your laptop will make life much easier.
6. Pen and paper. I always outline my articles before I write them. I also like to have a way to jot down an item on my "to do" list or to take notes if lightning (or the fickle muse) strikes my imagination while I'm out.
7. Something to read. For instance, I read most of my copies of The Writer and Writer's Digest while I'm waiting at my doctor's office or stuck in line at the bank or the post office.
8. Camera. You never know when you'll find a shot that will go perfectly with one of your articles or blog posts.
9. Recording device. Of course you'll want to bring along a recording device if you're going out to do an interview, but I generally bring mine along everywhere, just in case I stumble upon a good story. Remember to be polite. Never record a source unless you have asked and received permission to do so.
10. Batteries for #8 and #9. It is so embarrassing to run out of batteries just when you're about to do an interview or take a picture. I always carry a small baggie filled with AAs and AAAs in my briefcase just to be sure I'll have what I need.
11. Small gifts. I usually carry some self-stick pads with my name, logo, and contact information discreetly printed in a corner. If I want someone I meet to remember me, I'll offer him or her a pad of notes. After all, everyone uses self-stick notes!
Calling all writers: Is there an item you can't leave the house without? Do share!