Planning Ahead

Conference season is coming to a close as we approach the holidays. Our local Lowes store had Christmas trees up last weekend. Does this mean I’m already too late for fall cleaning?

Because a budget of time and money is involved in considering whether to attend any conference, it’s not too early to think about your travel in 2019.

  • Don’t miss early-bird savings that conferences may offer. Another advantage to early registration is that if you’re asking for editor and agent appointments, early registrants often secure their first-choice appointments.
  • Consider your goals. Plan to attend the conferences that weigh toward your kind of writing. You’ll find conferences that emphasize fiction as opposed to nonfiction and books versus magazine articles. Some will offer writers a little of each. Choose wisely.
  • Know that conferences don’t tend to change radically. Many won’t post much information about faculty and workshops until fairly close to the conference dates. However, you can still choose to attend conferences based on last year’s program. If you would have benefited from the 2018 program, chances are you’ll benefit from the 2019 program.

I’ve only touched on the basics, but I hope this has encouraged you to think about and plan for the future.

Your turn:

Are you planning to go to a conference in 2019?

What do you look for in a conference?

What planning tips can you offer?

27 Responses to Planning Ahead

  1. Avatar
    Janine Rosche September 27, 2018 at 4:51 am #

    I am starting to think through spring conferences now. I’d love to try out Mount Hermon!
    I’ve found that some smaller conferences don’t necessarily offer me new information about writing. Rather, they offer me an opportunity to encourage writers a step behind me—to be a blessing the way others have blessed me.

  2. Avatar
    Damon J. Gray September 27, 2018 at 5:32 am #

    By default, I attend the West Coast Christian Writers conference in Livermore, CA, every February. Two that are on my radar are Mount Hermon (never been) and the Oregon Christian Writers conference.

    As for what I look for, I really don’t concern myself so much with who is Keynoting. It will be good no matter who it is. I’m more interested in reconnecting with friends I see all too infrequently, and with networking with new friends I have yet to meet. I want the chance to encourage others and to be encouraged by others.

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    Hilary September 27, 2018 at 6:01 am #

    I’ve attended many social work conferences but never a writing conference. I just joined the ACFW and hope to attend their 2019 conference.

    Boise, Idaho is putting on their first writing conference in April 2019, which is only a half hour away, so I’m definitely going to that one!

    I’ve also debated the RWA conference, but we’ll see. I’m so excited to be able to finally attend some this year! I love the energy that a huge group of people all interested in the same thing brings to an event.

    Thanks for the advice!

  4. Avatar
    Cherilyn Rivera September 27, 2018 at 6:12 am #

    I have only been to one conference, so I am trying to pick one for 2019 that will be most beneficial and affordable!

  5. Avatar
    Amanda Wen September 27, 2018 at 6:39 am #

    There aren’t a lot of conferences near me, unfortunately, so I can’t to go a lot of the smaller ones. But next year’s ACFW is only a 9 hour drive…

    • Avatar
      claire o'sullivan September 27, 2018 at 11:17 am #

      Ha, same here. We have sparse conferences — no wait. No conferences near me. I am about 9 hours away from Seattle where there is a PNW Christian writer’s conference.

      Admittedly, I am saving up for joining and for attending. Determining which buses will travel there, what hotels are in my budget, etc.

      This year I plan to attend my first conference. Any and all tips would be much appreciated!

      Great post!

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray September 27, 2018 at 11:17 am #

      Oh my, you are courageous! Always love seeing you, though!

  6. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser September 27, 2018 at 7:09 am #

    Now go thee ahead without me
    and accompanied by my cheer;
    I’ll raise Heaven’s roof for thee
    and for thy goals so dear.
    May love’s bright laughter always be
    found in the hand-clasp of each peer
    and may each meeting form a tree
    of hope where God draws near.
    My friend, may this Irish blessing see
    in grace, and see off fear:
    May you be with the Holy Family
    beside a lake of beer.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray September 27, 2018 at 11:17 am #

      So funny, Andrew!

    • Avatar
      claire o'sullivan September 27, 2018 at 11:20 am #

      always a great blessing. The Irish have it down. However, no beer or alcohol for me! Bleh! Also, I pass out after an ounce, so there is that. Sparkling cider it is…

      I hope to attend a conference this year, but if not, I raise a hand and Heaven’s roof with ya!

  7. Avatar
    Loretta Eidson September 27, 2018 at 7:48 am #

    I’m already looking ahead and tossing around which one(s) I will be able to attend. It all depends on distance, airline fees, conference fees, hotel costs, etc. I love refresher courses, learning new updated information, and reconnecting with fellow writers.

  8. Avatar
    Rebekah Love Dorris September 27, 2018 at 8:00 am #

    I’ve not yet attended a conference. If I could go to any conference (which I can’t, or won’t, as long as people at home want and need me here), I would look for a conference loaded with magazine editors so I can get to know them before I pitch. I’m exhausted from spinning my wheels scouting people who have a killer slushball for wadded mail.

    That, and one where you’d cheerful face would be! I’d love to meet you in person, get your autograph, get a buddy selfie, shout to the world I met the fantabulous Tamela Murray who’s an AGENT! A real live AGENT! Oh yeah! lol

    I really would like to meet you, all kidding aside! God bless 🙂

  9. Avatar
    Kay DiBianca September 27, 2018 at 8:20 am #

    As new writers, my husband and I attended the Mt. Hermon and ACFW conferences this year, and we hope to attend both of them next year.

    We found both conferences to be well-organized and inspirational. Having the opportunity to meet and engage with editors, agents, and publishers was very helpful. It was fun to share experiences and offer and receive encouragement from others who are also excited about writing.

    As far as planning tips, I learned a couple of things that Tamela mentioned in her article: Decide on your goals for the conference and register early.

    In addition, enter contests provided by the conference. Submit a sample of your work if the conference takes advance submissions. It seems to me that this indicates you are serious about meeting deadlines and getting feedback. (Tamela, is that a good assumption?)

    For many people (like me) who are introverts, being at a big conference can be overwhelming. But I think it’s a worthwhile goal to determine to meet as many people as you can, exchange contact information, and offer support for their writing dreams. And then stay in touch after the conference is over.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray September 27, 2018 at 11:20 am #

      Kay, I’m so glad you mentioned entering contests. Yes, that’s a great idea, especially when the contests are well known! Some contests ask judges to offer feedback and others do not, so I wouldn’t necessarily assume an author would earn detailed feedback. However, seeing scores alone is a help!

  10. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D September 27, 2018 at 11:10 am #

    Tamela, it was great to meet you in Nashville this past weekend. The ACFW conference was a treasure trove of great ideas. I filled two notebooks. I’ve been to academic conferences where I didn’t take any notes at all.

    I try to meet new friends at conferences like ACFW. I’m already planning (and planning to save) to go to San Antonio next year!

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray September 27, 2018 at 11:21 am #

      I was so happy to meet you, too, Sheri! I appreciate you for being part of the blog community. I’m also thrilled to learn that you benefited from ACFW. See you there next year!

  11. Avatar
    Linda Riggs Mayfield September 27, 2018 at 12:26 pm #

    I’ve only attended one conference–Write to Publish in Wheaton, IL, outside Chicago. I learned something valuable from virtually every workshop and speaker. The best advice I can give newbies is “TAKE advice.” Based on advice I had read, I submitted a manuscript for pre-conference review. I studied the bio and agency of each agent and publisher before I went and narrowed them down to several who were a good fit with me and what I was pitching. I would ALWAYS recommend doing that–list in hand, I was able to sign up for appointments with all of them within a few minutes after arriving and not waste my time or other agents’ time by meeting with ones who weren’t a good fit.

    I also followed the advice to have 1-, 3-, and 5-minute pitches prepared ahead of time. The first day, I was walking across the Wheaton College campus to lunch beside well-known writer and agent Ann Byle. I was a bit star-struck, but she graciously invited me to pitch something to her, and I was ready. She asked a few questions, realized she had already read the three-chapter pre-conference submission I had sent in for the book I was pitching, and liked it, and invited me to submit a full proposal.

    I received seven invitations to submit proposals from my seven appointments and walk with Ann, and came home euphoric and began preparing proposals according to their guidelines. But the publisher who liked my Bible study proposal asked me to combine the teacher’s guide, student workbooks, handouts, and content of 25 slides for each of the 12 lessons into one (gigantic) book, on spec, and I haven’t done it. One publisher’s web site had so many errors, I was put off and decided not to further pursue publication there. Two agents “loved” my historical fiction, but not the Mormon context, and passed on it. Another was okay with that context piece, but required a significant platform before signing, and I did not and still do not have that.

    So I’m still not represented and have no books published–just several more articles in print, a new blog, and two or three more doctoral scholar clients with their degrees :-). But the conference gave me the direction toward book publication that I needed and showed me the path, and the rest is up to me and the Lord. My advice is, “Definitely go to a conference if you can!” I hope to go to another one in 2019 and pitch something new. 🙂

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray September 27, 2018 at 12:45 pm #

      Linda, thank you for sharing your experience with enough detail really to be helpful to others.

      Your comments show a teachable spirit. I believe that once you write a manuscript that a publisher can run with, you will go far.

      I hope to see you soon!

  12. Avatar
    Ann Coker September 27, 2018 at 3:55 pm #

    I plan to attend the 2019 writers conference at Taylor University — August 2-3. It’s geographically close and has reasonable rates. At this year’s Taylor conference Hostetler gave me some good next steps after I gave my pitch. The workshops included fiction and non-fiction. A writer friend and I roomed together. Years ago I attended Write to Publish at Wheaton University. Great!

  13. Avatar
    Kathy Bailey September 28, 2018 at 5:25 am #

    Good morning Tamela, nice meeting you in Nashville.
    My first goal is to return to an ACFW conference if the Lord supplies. I liked the ambience and the traditions, and would love to put more pins and ribbons on my lanyard. If ACFW isn’t feasible I’ll look for another that is do-able. I’m at the point now where I need to concentrate on book-length fiction (sorry, no old ladies writing poems about their cats), so I’ll look for something with a sharper focus.
    I’m “sold” on conferences for so many reasons!

  14. Avatar
    Debra Torres September 28, 2018 at 5:57 am #

    This year I attended my first writers conference and had an amazing time. I was nervous about going at first and didn’t really see how it would benefit me. I soon found out that there were so many advantages in going – and that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Not sure if I’ll be attending next year, but if I get the chance, I’m in!

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