One of the debates you hear as people talk about writing paths is whether or not writing conferences are useful. Me? I admit it. I’m a huge fan. I think the fact that I’ve gone to writing conferences has a lot to do with where I am on my own path, with the steps I’ve made toward becoming a serious, committed, professional writer.
Of course, many of my “reasons” may very well be an excuse for the fact that I just have a great time at conferences!
I do think, though, that we can have very different needs or goals for each writing conference we attend, depending on where we are on our paths. It’s not quite a “stages” thing, but I think there are several different reasons a writer should go to a conference.
- To spend a day or two surrounded by “your” people, reminding yourself that you are a writer and that being a writer is wonderful
- To learn more about the writing craft and improve your writing skills
- To connect with other writers for a specific reason–learning more about a genre, doing research about someone in the publishing business, networking to locate one or more critique partners
- To meet an agent or editor and to pitch a specific writing project, hopefully taking your path one step closer to publication
For me, there has been a progression in the why (and the way) I attend writing conferences. I’ve been an attendee, just happy to escape from daily life, attend workshops, and mingle. I’ve been a volunteer, judging contest entries, arranging flowers, passing out water bottles. And I’ve been a speaker, finding out just how cool it is to wear a Faculty badge, to have another writer come up and thank me for something I said in a workshop. Someday, soon, I see myself actually sitting behind a table, signing copies of The Critiquer’s Survival Guide and, hopefully, other books, too.
I’ve also had the bad times–the pitch to an agent that felt flat, the foot-in-the-mouth with someone I had hoped to connect with, the interaction with the attendee who isn’t having a good experience and can’t help taking it out on somebody, anybody.
For me, though, I give writing conferences a ten out of ten. I’m a writer and a reader. So much of my life is just about words. There isn’t much better than being surrounded by a crowd of people who feel the same.
Don’t take my word for it, though. I did a little browsing, and found a few other “takes” for you on the whole writing conference question.
- Wendy Nelson Tokunaga tells a few things she likes about a few different types of conferences.
- Corey Blake talks about whether conferences are important.
- Grumpy Old Woman at Fiction Writing and Other Oddities encourages writers to attend conferences, but has a few warnings to pass along as well.
- Jessica McCurdy-Crooks has an article with specific advice and recommendations for attending a conference.
What about you? Have you gone to any conferences? What do you like/dislike about them? How do you think going to a conference might help you move forward on your writing path?