Top Ten Reasons to Attend a Writers’ Conference

Oops! I seemed to have forgotten that just because it’s a long weekend here, it isn’t necessarily everywhere else, so my apologies for being so late posting on a Monday. I’ll try to be more prepared next time, and belated Happy Victoria Day Long Weekend, Canada!

I’m already looking forward to the RWA National conference in July, which inspired this blog. It’s aimed at all of you out there who have never attended a writers’ conference, or have wanted to but the price seemed prohibitive, or have never seen what all the fuss is about. I, too, was a conference virgin, and attended my first (again, RWA) last July. It only took one to be hooked, which led to the second in October (SiWC), and plans greater than my pocketbook will allow.

The prospect of attending a conference – especially a very large one – can be nerve-racking. Indeed, they do tend to be rather pricey, as well as the fact you have to get there, and once you’re there you have to have somewhere to sleep, never mind discover ways of feeding yourself. While these are all worthwhile concerns, they aren’t the focus of this post. What I want to do is inspire you to get that far in the first place.

So, as promised, my top ten reason to attend a writers’ conference:

1)      Meet industry professionals, network, pitch. Many conferences offer pitch sessions or the opportunity to try to convince editors and agents your manuscript is worth looking at in person, without the pesky query letter. While this is a great benefit, if this is your focus or what you really want to get out of conferences, I’d advise smaller or regional ones with fewer attendees which often means greater opportunity to network and make more pitch appointments.

2)      Reaffirm your belief in the future of the world. Okay, it isn’t precisely a utopia. Most fellow attendees (at least in my experience) will be very friendly and as excited and eager to chat as you are; just ignore the other ones and approach any minor glitches with a good attitude. Instead, look at this reaffirmation of the future since these people, like you, want to continue literacy into the future, and do not believe either the book or the English language is dead.

3)      Return to the excitement and fun of youth, which likewise can return this to your writing. Get a roommate, and if you choose, this can be like a big knowledge-sharing slumber party. Like out on the playground, say hi, mix and mingle with others between workshops and at meals; you never know what this could spark.

4)      Learn. Workshops offer a great opportunity to learn new things, whether it’s honing your craft or learning more about the industry. Some won’t be for you, but there will be at least one which will make you want to leap to your keyboard!

5)      Feedback. Some workshops offer opportunities for immediate feed-back, like blue-pencil sessions where you sit down with an agent, editor, or published writer who looks over a few pages of your work with you there and offers critique and impressions. This is something you rarely find when just querying from your computer.

6)      Meet people so interesting and at times darn-right unusual, often the most imaginative writer couldn’t have dreamed them up. Sure, you can meet them out on the streets, but let’s face it: writers, a.k.a. people who tend to make up stories and talk to characters in their heads, can be a rather unusual group. And, while there’s a wide array of “unusual” you can meet some fantastic larger-than-life characters literally walking around the conference (most of them are fellow writers).

7)      Socialization. As writers, we often spend a lot of time plugged into our computers, pounding away in solitude. This is not entirely healthy, and we need to lift our heads up and meet other people every so often. Where does the conference take place? Many could be somewhere you’ve never been before, so do be sure to take time to explore a bit, too. By greater outside experience, opening ourselves to other people and events, our experience and muse inhale, which makes us better writers. Isn’t that what we all want and need?

8)      Books. Sometimes there are free books, other times just books offered for sale, but outside of a writers’ conference, there is rarely a time you will see so many books dedicated to the craft and career of writing than displayed and for sale. DO take advantage. DO seriously think about that book you picked up which was exactly-what-you-were-looking-for-but-you-put-back- because-you-could-get-it-later; often, it will cost you more to get it later.

9)      Inspiration. This was unexpected for me. But think of it this way: you’re together with tons of other writers, many of whom are in your level, some higher, some lower. Give and take inspiration from them, whether this is in the form of hearing the remarkable things they have achieved, or brainstorming your next book.

10)   Interacting with people like you. We have family and friends who love us and support our writing, but there is nothing like interacting with people in YOUR industry, who actually do the same thing you do, even if they don’t write the same genre or are in different stages of their career path. These are people who you automatically have something in common with!

So, are you ready to sign-up for a writers’ conference? No, not every one will be perfect, and yes, there will be glitches at even the best. But, go with a good attitude, be ready to search for the positive, and you’ll find it. Did I miss anything? Are there some fantastic benefits to writers’ conferences I missed? I’d love to hear from you!

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