In my blog of May 25, 2016, I invited folks to submit ideas for future blogs. Today’s blog is to respond to Rebekah Love Dorris’s question: “As a busy parent of young children, I scramble to find time to even write. How necessary is it to attend conferences if I study the writing craft as much as I can here and there?”
I know it’s not easy to attend a writers’ conference. For one thing, it takes time, and many of us, like Rebekah, don’t have much time to spare. And it takes money. Something even fewer of us have. (Hey, we’re writers!) And then you factor in the stress of travel, the being around people for days on end, the being away from family and daily responsibilities…
I get it. Going to a writers’ conference is a big deal. But here’s the thing. Writers’ conferences aren’t just about learning how to write. They’re far more about learning what it means to be a writer.
Okay, let me break it down. Here are just a few of the benefits of going to a writer’s conference:
Time-tested instruction on the writing craft. The folks who teach at these conferences are professionals doing what you want to do. And then there are the people on the critique teams, who are ready, willing, and very able to help you with personalized suggestions for improving your writing. And they all are are there for one reason: to help and guide you.
A Reality Check. This is what I meant by learning what it means to be a writer. There’s no better way to gain a solid understanding of the realities of the world of publishing than at a writers’ conference. You won’t find sugar coating there, and that’s a good thing. You need to know the realities of what you’re getting into. But here’s the beauty of a conference: you’ll also find an abundance of encouragement, real-life tips and advice, and support there. Sure, some of the realities of publishing are hard to take. But hey, what better place to learn about them than with those who’ve gone there already and can empathize with and help you in your journey.
Resources you will use for years to come. These come in the form of handouts, recordings of workshops, and reference books recommended by the above-mentioned professionals. Not because they make money on those books, but because they have used them and know they help.
Face-to-Face time with Editors and Agents. The obvious benefit of this is that you have an opportunity to see if these folks are interested in you and your work. But that’s not actually the greatest benefit of these face-to-face encounters. One of the best things you can do, if you want to be published, is get to know the editors and agents in the industry. As professionals, yes. But more than that. As people. I have treasured longtime friends who I first met at a writers’ conference. Yes, I acquired some of them when I was an in-house editor, and yes, I offered a few representation after I became an agent. But what I cherish most about them isn’t our publishing relationship, it’s the friendship we built on the foundation of our shared love of words.
Community. Let’s face it, we writers are a hinky bunch. We’re…odd. At least in the minds of the nonwriters out there. Many of which are our family and friends. But when you’re at a writers’ conference, you’re surrounded by folks who understand you and your “quirks,” because they are just. like. you! There’s something uplifting and healing in being with a community of likeminded folk. Especially writers.
So is it worth it to take the time and effort, and to spend the money, to attend a writers’ conference? Absolutely. And for a lot more than just learning how to write.
Now I’d like to hear from those of you who attend writer’s conferences. What makes it worthwhile for you to attend?