Starting Your Own Writer’s Conference

No, you don’t need to start your own writer’s conference, but the headline sounded attention-grabbing to me.

Every writer needs to intentionally put themselves in a position to learn and be challenged in a variety of areas. The formal environment for that is the professional writer’s conference. Click here for a list, but you need something more consistent and ongoing as well.

Not everyone lives in an area surrounded by publishing companies or a large number of writers or can attend more than one writer’s conference per year. So what I suggest is something applicable for anywhere you live.

Because authors are expected to be marketers, speakers, bloggers, social media gurus and reader customer service representatives, they should regularly get together with people who can help grow their intuition and expand their understanding in a wide variety of areas.

I am not talking about a manuscript review group or even something publishing-specific.

Once every few weeks, get together with a “challenge group”. (I just made that up so don’t look for any deep meaning in it) Again, not a manuscript review group, but a vision-building group with 3-5 people from diverse backgrounds. Think of friends who might be:

Someone who manages a website for a company

Someone who works in a retail store

Someone who is really good with Facebook

Someone who writes copy for an ad agency

Someone who works in customer service

Someone who has a great website

Someone who sells a lot of stuff on Ebay

Someone with 50,000 real Twitter followers

Someone with 50 Twitter followers

Someone who knows everything about Apple products

Someone who knows nothing about Apple products

Someone who loves eBooks

A youth leader (they love coffee)


For years I have gotten together with the same three guys for breakfast, once a month. Each time we meet, we end up discussing something of common interest, even though we are not in the same type of work.

If you had a group that consisted of three friends other than yourself, let’s say, a youth director at a church, a web developer for a car dealer and someone involved in customer service with a company, you might end up talking about getting and keeping meaningful communication and engagement with people, from youth to adults. Each of you could point to a specific facet of the issue and learn something. You each would have a unique perspective.

The purpose of the group is to identify principles that are universal. The very best groups are when each member is open to the same kind of visionary, always- learning approach to life. One week, you might get more out of it than the web developer. Another time, the youth director learns something from the Apple geek.

This group is not about you, but about the group. The common bond being mutual education and illumination.

One time you might come away with new ideas how to interaction with people who are having problems and get an idea for your novel.

Another time you might hear about what youth are struggling with, which might inform the direction of your next book.

In the movie “The Karate Kid,” you’ll remember how a young teen wanted the sensei to teach him karate, but ended up painting the fence, sanding the floor and polishing his car. He felt like it was all a worthless waste of time until discovering that the same motions of painting, sanding and polishing replicated perfectly the various karate moves. When the real karate lessons started, the moves were second-nature.

The same principles apply for writers regularly having breakfast with a few friends.


16 Responses to Starting Your Own Writer’s Conference

  1. peter June 9, 2015 at 4:39 am #

    Dan I value this idea. I guess I have always had such groups, informally, and the words or inputs gleaned from them often found their way into my writing. I also test ideas, again informally rather than as by direct solicitation i.e. I engage in meaningful fellowship around a topic that is currently on my heart. The ensuing debates have often corrected my understanding but they also provided the counter-points that I will need in defense of my writing. More importantly, coffee shop engagements with so many fascinating souls gave me the threads of my writing tapestry and the ability to grasp what God was trying to get through to my rather stubborn, willful soul. Above all, it normalized my personal crisis and gave me hope that God would do for me what He has faithfully done for countless generations.

  2. Sue Raatjes June 9, 2015 at 5:22 am #

    Glad to see your blog posts again, Dan. I enjoy your entertaining writing style & your insights. Keep ’em coming.

  3. Donna K Rice June 9, 2015 at 5:51 am #

    I loved this idea! I’m printing the post so I can think about who might be a good fit for a challenge group. Thanks for the morning inspiration!

  4. Lisa June 9, 2015 at 7:08 am #

    …you had me at – starting your own writer’s conference!! Yes – that is me, but I can totally see how the breakfast is exactly that….the learning. The new perspectives. Seeing life from all viewpoints. it can be an invaluable resource to have the input from someone other than a writer…writer’s conference here I come!

  5. Davalynn Spencer June 9, 2015 at 8:16 am #

    Great idea. But when? Okay, like most great ideas, we must sacrifice to implement them. This one’s worth doing.

  6. Harold Thomas June 9, 2015 at 8:30 am #

    Great ideas, sometimes hard for authors to implement, who tend to be solitary creatures.

    One idea being considered here is to create an authors’ Toastmasters Club. The techniques used for effective public speaking also lend themselves to effective writing.

    • peter June 9, 2015 at 8:33 am #

      i agree

    • peter June 9, 2015 at 8:33 am #

      i agree – impromptu, prepared speech, evaluation, grammar check

  7. Jeanne Takenaka June 9, 2015 at 9:46 am #

    That’s a great idea. I have friends in different fields, stages of life, and with different interests, but we don’t get together on a regular basis. I love this idea. Definitely worth pondering and implementing.

  8. Teresa Pesce June 9, 2015 at 10:54 am #

    What I especially like about your suggestion is keeping the subject open to any subject it turns out to be for those people, for that month. Great things could come from that.

  9. m. rochellino June 9, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

    I dunno Dan. Find 3 to 5 friends, that’s a pretty tall order. We are writers after all.

    Just kidding of course. Your humor and wit renders your content very enjoyable reading. Your last post was a three chuckler for me. Your style brought me back. I daresay, I think I’m witnessing a great voice emerging.

    All rhetoric aside these ARE great ideas. I have always listened to what others had to say regardless of social stature, age, gender etc. Doesn’t mean I always accept it but you never know where the next gem is buried. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. THANKS!

    • Dan Balow June 9, 2015 at 2:03 pm #

      Wait, your quote about the broken clock…I thought I was the only one that used that.

      Need to come up with a new “life verse.”

  10. m. rochellino June 9, 2015 at 2:29 pm #

    Uh oh, busted! Well they do say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

    I do have a life verse I made up some years ago. It came from frustration in dealing with people that would not consider any opinion other than their own no matter what. (some times these were people who liked to spread a message contrary to God or His Son). I haven’t ran it across the PC (politically correct) meter lately.

    “I Thank God for stupid people because think of how hard a time WE would be having if it wasn’t for them.”

    In theory, this should only offend someone that considers themselves stupid. My apologies in advance to anyone that does.

  11. Linda McKain June 9, 2015 at 3:48 pm #

    Great idea. I would love to meet with 2, 3 or even 4 for a breakfast pow-wow.

    My end result would possibally add fodder for a book abt how to gather 2, 3 or even 4 for breakfast. lol

  12. Jenelle. M June 9, 2015 at 4:26 pm #

    I’ve used that Karate Kid clip when the lessons come together numerous times to get the point across of focus, obedience and process. “Wax on, wax off, don’t forget to breathe, very important.”

    Dan, your point of this blog is spot on. Personally, I’m pretty sure I need to spend less time socializing and more time writing. It’s a balance I continue to pray about. But oh the life experiences and support in community is a wealth of information! And mostly free except when I meet with chums at Peet’s coffee 😉

  13. Angela Breidenbach July 21, 2015 at 3:17 pm #

    Or…you might want to start your own writing/brainstorming retreat like I did 😉 Come up and visit me for the MT Pages Writing Retreat in Montana Aug. 7-9, 2015. You can see details and sign up at

    I’d love to see my fellow Steve Laube authors and agents 😀

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