I Have to Stay Home from the Conference

As I mentioned in several recent posts about conferences, sometimes your best decision is to stay home. Not to worry! You can become a traditionally published author, or maintain your momentum, without attending a conference. Although I started writing books many years ago, I never went to a conference as an author. The first one I attended was an ACFW (then ACRW) conference, as a literary agent. This was years after I’d become a bestselling, award-winning author. And I didn’t have the advantages of email or social media, so your chances of succeeding with a similar path are even greater. Here are a few steps you might consider when attending conferences won’t work for you:

  • Join professional organizations such as RWA https://www.rwa.org/ and ACFW https://www.acfw.com/.  I am a member of both. Many other excellent professional organizations specialize in specific types of fiction and nonfiction. Do your research and see which ones are a good fit for you. Look for those that offer lots of ways for authors and other publishing professionals to interact online so you can minimize travel.
  • Follow agent blogs such as this one to learn about agencies and individual agents. When you interact with agents through their blogs, they become familiar with you and your name will mean something to them when you submit your proposal.
  • Interact with others on social media to forge and strengthen relationships. While professional friendship is your top priority, these relationships can grow and you may find that you feel comfortable offering published authors’ names for possible endorsement.
  • Find a mentor through your professional organizations. Many offer specific mentoring programs, meaning those who offer to be mentors expect to spend time nurturing new talent. This is a more linear and probably easier path than making friends with an author and hoping that author will have time to mentor
  • Join local chapters of your national organizations. Often those are much more low key and intimate than the national chapters can be. Some offer small conferences that might be realistic for you to attend. But even if you can’t, you can still make and keep connections.


Your turn:

What tips can you offer the author who can’t attend a conference?

What professional organizations do you recommend?

What is your favorite way to interact with publishing professionals online?


38 Responses to I Have to Stay Home from the Conference

  1. Avatar
    Rebekah Dorris July 6, 2017 at 5:40 am #

    This is so encouraging, Tamela. The Blue Ridge conference happened the day after I left vacation in North Carolina, and my dear friend went and came back with incredible stories.

    Honestly, I was happy to hear how it went rather than go during this season of diaper changes and junior high humor. It was incredible hearing how God threw open doors for her she hadn’t even considered knocking on. It reminded me that “my times are in His hand” and God has perfect timing for each of us. If I ever do get to go, I suspect I’ll enjoy it even more now that I’ve longed to go for so long. 🙂

    In answer to your question, I’ve found an incredible community of writer friends at the Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s like a never-ending conference you take at your leisure. Jam-packed with constant goodness! And the friendships I have made are deep and strong.


    I also love that this blog is available for people like me who want to understand the publishing side but haven’t made it to a conference. Thanks so much to all of you for the time you put into it. God bless!

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray July 6, 2017 at 8:33 am #

      Thank you for your kind words, Rebekah! Yes, I would also recommend Jerry’s group.

  2. Avatar
    Melissa Ferguson July 6, 2017 at 5:56 am #

    Thanks for this post, Tamela!
    For the author who can’t attend a conference, I’d recommend becoming part of a local ACFW chapter. While there are many benefits of interacting with writers online, there is always going to be something extra special about building those face-to-face relationships. I love the group I’m a part of and the way we encourage one another, pray for one another, keep each other up on the latest industry news and helpful writing/publishing tips, and lecture about ways to better our writing.
    Someone may also find a great mentor at a local group as well! At the very least, they’ll gain some great cheerleaders.

  3. Avatar
    Damon J. Gray July 6, 2017 at 6:51 am #

    Very helpful insights, Tamela. Is there a Christian NonFiction organization you can recommend? I find a plethora of Fiction groups but do not see NonFiction.

  4. Avatar
    Jeanine Lunsford July 6, 2017 at 7:19 am #

    Truly, your words have been a great encouragement to me this morning, Tamela. Until I read this, I was almost certain that an aspiring author would have to attend at least one conference to even dream of having a chance of becoming a published author. I have appreciated your series of posts on attending conferences, gleaning knowledge from each one of them. Thanks, thanks, thanks!

  5. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 6, 2017 at 7:24 am #

    I’d suggest that the most important thing one can do if conference attendance isn’t on, is to find a way to keep up with current trends in the genre in which one has chosen to work…through a local ACFW chapter, through a book club…whatever.

    I didn’t do this. When I started writing seriously I did not know what a blog was until I stumbled across Rachelle Gardner and Nathan Bransford. I had no idea that conferences existed, and did not know that there was ABA and CBA; my thought about Christian fiction was that it was populated by Andrew Greeley and William Barrett, and that Beverley Lewis was more a regional writer.

    It took me awhile to figure out what genre meant.

    As a result I wrote the kind of stories I wanted to read, and got pretty good at it, with (I am told) a distinctive voice and clean dialogue and action. The only problem is that the stuff I like to read was written 30-70 years ago!

    It’s OK; it’s been fun, and I wouldn’t discard my stories and characters for ones that play to the current style…but as a commercial endeavour, I would have done better (perhaps!) by writing to a defined market, instead of that Market Of Me.

  6. Avatar
    Joey Rudder July 6, 2017 at 7:27 am #

    Thank you, Tamela. I was so discouraged when I realized I couldn’t attend the conference this year, but you’ve given me hope…not to mention a lot of ideas on “where to go from here.” Thanks again. 🙂

  7. Avatar
    Loretta Eidson July 6, 2017 at 8:05 am #

    Very encouraging post, Tamela. Thank you. I often wondered if attending a writers conference determined your possibilities of becoming a published author. I was like Andrew. When I began, I had no clue what genre meant and I didn’t know how to pronounce the word.

    I agree with ACFW, RWA, and the Jerry Jenkins Guild. All are exceptional. ACFW offers classes via email and Jerry Jenkins Guild offers a wide range of video lessons. There are so many online options these days.

    Finding a local writers group can be encouraging as writers press forward without attending big conferences. It’s energizing hanging out with fellow writers.

    I try to attend at least one conference each year, but it doesn’t always work out…and it’s okay. The key is to connect with other writers, check out online courses, find a mentor, and a critique group, and believe in yourself.

    As my mom always said, “You can do anything your set your mind to.”

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murrayt July 6, 2017 at 8:39 am #

      Conference connections last a long time, too. Writers don’t have to go every year, even. Thanks for your insights, Loretta. Very helpful.

  8. Avatar
    Carol Ashby July 6, 2017 at 8:32 am #

    The biggest value of a conference in any field is the networking opportunities. Meeting people who share your interest and finding new friends is the best part, but the info gleaned from many of the talks is valuable, too. Many conferences sell CDs of the presentations for a fraction of the registration cost. You can get the benefit of the talks without time and travel expenses that may impossible at the moment.

    Writing is a business, and there are many excellent free webinars on the business aspects: proposal writing, market analysis, platform building, etc. I’ve take more than 20 of those. They play a big part in the level of success I’m having right now as an indie, but many would be just as valuable for someone seeking traditional publishing.

    I LOVED being involved in local chapters of tech societies, and I’ve been trying to get a NM chapter of ACFW started. In a huge state with a small population, it’s been a challenge to get critical mass of ACFW members who can participate, but having a local group might encourage many to join who aren’t members now. My latest attempt got delayed by 3 cracks in my pelvis and a broken rib before Christmas and then a wedding and some family trips, but I’m about to try again for a first meeting in August/early September. If you’re non-ACFW but might like to be if there were a local chapter, let me know.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray July 6, 2017 at 8:40 am #

      So glad you’re on the mend! Yes, it can be hard to get a critical mass, even in populated areas that have the opposite problem of too much traffic! Thank you for offering opportunities to writers through your efforts.

      • Avatar
        Carol Ashby July 6, 2017 at 9:03 am #

        Thanks. I feel totally mended now. If it weren’t for the truck missing from the driveway, I wouldn’t know it happened. If you have to be t-boned right on your door by someone running a red at low highway speed, I recommend being encased in the steel of a 1-ton pickup.

    • Avatar
      Teresa Haugh July 6, 2017 at 3:22 pm #

      Love the term “critical mass.” There are nine ACFW members in Alaska, or one per every 72,936 square miles.

  9. Avatar
    Jennifer Deibel July 6, 2017 at 9:01 am #

    I, too, have found this post highly incouraging. I know I’ve said it before here, but in our current season, the money and time away are difficult and possibly unwise to spend.

    But I’ve recently joined ACFW and I’ve been warmly welcomed into the local chapter’s activitities before I was even a member. (like attending a conference with Karen Ball that was so wonderful!).

    I would still love to find an in person critique group, but that is a bit slower going.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray July 7, 2017 at 4:49 am #

      Maybe some of your new ACFW buds will be open. When I was writing, I found one dedicated and loyal crit partner often worked better than a group. Just a thought!

  10. Avatar
    Rebekah Millet July 6, 2017 at 9:11 am #

    Thank you for such an encouraging post! I might suggest for those who can’t attend, to follow along on the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram postings of someone they know who is attending a conference. Published authors are always posting pictures/videos so we can “see” what’s going on. It’s a lot of fun and helps to feel somewhat connected to the action.

  11. Avatar
    Edward Lane July 6, 2017 at 9:34 am #

    Thanks for sharing, Tamela!

  12. Avatar
    J.D. Rempel July 6, 2017 at 10:11 am #

    Thanks for the encouragement. I have health issues and at this time I’m unable to attend writer’s conferences. The West Coast Christian Writer’s Conference offered all of their classes and sessions on a USB so I was able to purchase them.

    I’m wondering though how you would recommend finding a mentor?

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray July 7, 2017 at 4:51 am #

      ACFW has an active mentor program. I’m sure other organizations do as well. Otherwise, perhaps someone you already know might be willing to take the time.

  13. Avatar
    Jerusha Agen July 6, 2017 at 9:50 pm #

    Great tips, Tamela! It’s encouraging to hear that it’s possible to make career headway without going to conferences, if one cannot. Thanks for this reminder of what to do all throughout the year, in between conferences, as well!

  14. Avatar
    Eva Marie Everson July 7, 2017 at 5:04 am #

    Sometimes with groups such as ACFW or RWA you have to find enough local writers who write only fiction or only romance fiction. Allow me, please, to tell you about Word Weavers International, which is open to all writers of every level and every genre. Word Weavers began in 1997 with five wanna-be writers sitting around a dining room table. We are now 20 years older and much wiser. We have chapters all across the US, our “online pages” allow those who live remotely or who are home-bound to be a part of a traditional critique group, we are all about education in writing, we own Florida Christian Writers Conference, and we are currently approximately 600 members strong.

    But what I am most proud of is this: editors and agents recognize us at conferences. We are known for our professionalism and the polished work we bring to the table.

    If you’d like to know more about Word Weavers International, go to http://www.Word-Weavers.com. We’d love to have you join us.

    Eva Marie Everson

  15. Avatar
    Kathy M Storrie July 10, 2017 at 11:46 am #

    The four writer conferences I’ve attended locally (can’t travel) were mostly a disappointment. The few big names spoke over my head. The traditional agents bad-mouthed self-publishing; and, self-publishing agents trashed the traditional. One author gave out used booklets w/ old info and wanted them back. I yawned through a lecture that had nothing to do with writing, agents or anything. I only met one novice agent who wasn’t taking anybody. I paid to pitch my novel and lost my train of thought when she kept making me start over. A presenter of fiction vs. non-fiction was more interested in selling her book. There were two teacher authors that brought the writing world down to my level. One wrote AND, BABY WILL FALL that became a movie on Hallmark. I tried a local book club, but one woman kept hogging the conversation, and the leader didn’t know how to keep rude people under control.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray July 10, 2017 at 1:24 pm #

      Kathy, that is a nightmarish list. I am so sorry! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a writer submit a list of such negative experiences with such few positive ones. One place for good resources that I’m not sure has been mentioned yet here is Christian Writers Guild. That’s a good place to start.

      It also sounds like working through online groups would benefit you. As have been mentioned, Word Weavers and ACFW are among the groups that have superb online helps. I recommend beginning by visiting each site. While I know the leaders of both and I have many friends in each organization, I am not selling anything through my recommendations. I felt I probably needed to state that!

      Of course, keep following our blog and posting questions. I’ll help here as much as I can! I want you to feel loved and supported.

  16. Avatar
    Wendy L Macdonald July 10, 2017 at 2:00 pm #

    Tamela, thank you for sharing this encouraging post with us. When I read this a few days ago, it was the day after finding out about a family emergency. Reading this affirmed the nudge I knew I needed to obey. God always provides for us when we trust Him. He’ll open the conference door for me when it’s supposed to be opened.
    Blessings ~ Wendy

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray July 10, 2017 at 2:03 pm #

      We’ll be there!

      Praying all will be well and your family emergency will come to a successful and quick resolution.

  17. Avatar
    Angela Breidenbach July 11, 2017 at 7:31 am #

    I like to buy the conference sessions when there are workshops I’d like. I learned a lot about the people who taught them and then looked up those websites to learn more.

  18. Avatar
    Paula Rose July 11, 2017 at 4:55 pm #

    ACFW does have an At-Home Writer’s Conference where you can learn and meet other writers too. It is a cozy forum all done online.

  19. Avatar
    Carol Loewen August 1, 2017 at 9:37 pm #

    Love your post here. I attend the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference when I can; but I also find tremendous help, input and support from a critique group I facilitate. If the purpose of the group is to help each other become better writers (not just affirm each other without critique!), the “other eyes” can point out discrepancies, challenge for clarity or power, and/or tell where the writing works.

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