There are plenty of people out there who will claim how essential it is to attend at least one writer’s conference a year. I originally balked at this idea, now I embrace it. If I could afford it, I would seriously attend, like, fifty - a year.
Why? A writer’s conference provides tremendous opportunities for any writer at any step of the game. Whether you’re a newbie toying with a book idea, or you’ve written one and are submersed in revisions, or perhaps you’ve got that baby polished and you are ready to dazzle agents with your writing brilliance. Well, a writer’s conference is a fabulous learning adventure.
First, the workshops—usually a wealth of options. At the South Carolina Writers Workshop Conference last October, I attended sessions on query letters, writing synopses, dialogue tagging, and marketing. I hit a slush fest, learned what works in writing middle grade, and attended a YA panel where I could ask questions of industry gurus. In a nutshell—I learned—a lot.
At the Backspace Agent-Author Seminar in New York, I hashed out my query letter and first pages—with agents critiquing. And listened to their advice on the queries of others in my group. Can we say insightful? On top of that fabulosity, I attended panels on voice, what agents are looking for, the road to getting published. SO much. Still sparking from that electric encounter.
The writeoncon conference just finished up and it would seriously take the next fifteen blog posts to recap all I took from that. PS—won’t do that to you, but I will highlight it’s fabulousness on occasion.
So, yeah. Writers conferences are great learning experiences.
Another faboo aspect of the writers conference—you can get your work critiqued! By people that know what they’re talking about! I’m attending one in Myrtle Beach in October and am utterly stoked that an agent will critique my query and my first thirty pages of my book! Yes—I’m paying for this, but you can’t get better feedback than from the people you want to represent your work.
Speakers? Dude. Steve Berry (best-selling author) freaking rocked it when he served as keynote speaker in South Carolina. He didn’t get picked up until his fifth book and said that if he would’ve quit, he wouldn’t be standing where he was today. Empowered much? He was a-maz-ing.
And the networking opportunities. Aaaahhhh! Wowzers! Oh—and just so you know—networking for me gets lumped in the same category as shooing wasps out of my house and teaching rational expressions in Algebra II. I HATE introducing myself to people (seriously voted “shyest person in my high school class”) and to have to talk about my wonderfulness on top of it—ugh.
BUT—I forced myself to talk to agents, editors, authors and other writers in the past year and have gotten soooo much out of it. And honestly, my best experiences came from my networking with other writers. Whether it's crying about that total flub up with an agent over drinks or laughing over your ghetto business cards, hanging out with other writers is probably the best thing I took from my conferences.
As a result of one conference, I met one of my closest friends and uber-beta (the fabulous Ricki Schultz—check out her amazing blog). Backspace gave me a whole new family of critique partners, and well, let's just say I have an amazing writers group due to befriending other writers. I've even found a family of writers in former students and former classmates. Being able to connect in such a wonderful way with so many other people going through the same thing - so totally cool. Writers - we’re a distinct family who totally get each other, support each other, celebrate with one another. Okay—moving on cause I’m getting all teary-eyed.
If you’re a writer—at whatever stage—try to go to a writers conference. Google them. Google them with your genre. Find one. NOW. I am counting the days to my next one. And I’m sure there’s a fantabulous experience out there waiting for you too.