Just in case you’re still wondering whether a writer’s conference is worth your time and money, here are some of the benefits you’ll gain from your conference experience.
Image courtesy of mrsdkrebs on Flickr Creative Commons
- Inspiration. Building a writing career might be easy to begin, but some days it’s a bear to stick with it. Sometimes, you need to hear a rousing Keynote address from the likes of Donald Maass to remind you that someone needs to write the books that his little boy will read.
- Writing Craft Education. If you’re serious about your career as a writer, you need to invest in continuing education to improve your craft. Although you can gain a lot of great information from reading books, in a face-to-face setting you can ask questions, get examples, and obtain a deeper understanding of different aspects of writing craft.
- Feedback. Conferences can provide you with feedback on your work-in-progress or opening pages, in the form of manuscript critiques, first pages sessions, and workshops.
- Marketing Ideas. As Jane Friedman explains so eloquently in her article “Should you focus on your writing or on your platform?”, marketing is a task for writers at all stages in their careers. A conference is a great place to hear from working writers who are out there doing what you want to do—visiting schools, for instance, or figuring out how to set up an author’s website. Come prepared with questions!
- Connection. Need a critique group? A mentor? Or maybe just a writing friend? Conferences are where YOUR PEOPLE—other kooky writer-types—congregate. Come meet the people who are like you! Be encouraged and affirmed by others who GET you.
- To meet more experienced writers. This is a special aspect of “connection”: a writing conference enables you to pick the brains of those more experienced. Not only can they answer your questions, they can answer the questions you didn’t know you needed to ask.
- To help less experienced writers. If you’re farther along on the writing path, what are you waiting for? A writing conference is the perfect path to give back to the community that supported you when YOU were starting out as a writer.
- Open publishing doors. Did you know that many agents (such as Elana Roth, who accepted submissions from conference attendees following the 2011 RMC-SCBWI Fall Conference) and editors who normally don’t accept unsolicited submissions (READ: submissions they haven’t specifically requested and submissions from unagented authors) will look at manuscripts from writers they’ve met at a conference? Some will accept manuscripts from anyone who has attended the conference—check specific conference info for details.
- For example, unless I’m reading the submission guidelines for Penguin Young Readers Group incorrectly, Viking Children’s Books does not read unsolicited submissions; however, Viking Children’s Books editor Kendra Levin accepted submissions from RMC-SCBWI Fall Conference attendees as well. Elizabeth Law, vice president and publisher of Egmont USA, similarly accepted submissions from attendees following the 2010 conference.
- Reality Check. Hear from authors who have “made it” for insight on what it takes to become a successful writer—and insight into what being a successful writer actually means. At this year’s Pikes Peak Writers Conference, bestselling author Robert Crais had the audience in stitches during his inspirational address, reading his “fan” mail. Dear Mr. Crais, You need to learn the difference between “bring” and “take.” Dear Mr. Crais, I feel the need to point out that you are using the words “bring” and “take” incorrectly. Dear Mr. Crais… He moved us to tears as well, when he shared an email from a soldier in Afghanistan, thanking him for the story that provided a much-needed escape from stress and fear.
- Discover focus or direction. One of the valuable aspects of a writing conference is that it gives you a glimpse into all stages of the writing process, including both pre- and post-publication steps. It provides a broader view of the different directions a writer’s career can take—and allows you to figure out which paths are most appealing to you. In addition to writing/rewriting, editing, and selling a manuscript, a book writer’s job may also include
- School visits
- Social media
- Presenting workshops for writers
- Presenting workshops aimed at your target audience
- Writing articles for magazines and websites
- Mentoring other writers
- Editing and critiquing others’ manuscripts
- Creating a podcast
- Working a day job
Still not convinced? Read yesterday’s post for more :).
What sort of writers’ life do you want to build? What vision do you need to discover? Who do you need to meet? I’m guessing you might find the answers at your next conference.