A Writers’ Conference is a place where writers gather together to celebrate the craft of writing. Writers are inspired, educated and are able to connect with other writers of all levels (beginners to advanced). A conference provides writers with the opportunity to network with other professionals: writers, authors, editors, agents and publishers. It also encourages writers to write, to publish, to promote and sell their own work.
New writers fear attending a writers’ conference.
“I’m not a real writer. Conferences are for real writers, they’re not for me.”
Published writers avoid writers’ conferences.
“I’ve been published already. I could teach every one of those workshops listed on the schedule. I don’t need to go to a conference.”
I disagree. Writers’ Conferences are for ALL writers. There is something beneficial about attending a conference at least once a year. I was lucky enough to attend two writers’ conferences this past year, and one was a newbie conference, so it had it’s issues, but overall, there was something awesome for me at both of them.
10 Reasons to Attend a Writers’ Conference
- Networking. Meeting other writers and authors is a huge opportunity to discuss various aspects of writing. There are so many stories of how each one climbed the ladder of success. Better yet, is the story about how an author failed while climbing the ladder of success. Hearing about their 27 rejections before they landed an agent and a million dollar contract. These people are better than searching the internet for answers. It’s quicker to ask an author, “How did you get a free $15,000 grant to finish your novel?” or “How did you get your agent?” Fact: Writers love telling their story… just ask them something.
- Learning your craft. At the next Ontario Writers’ Conference there are several workshops offered on subjects that go hand-in-hand with writing that you may not know anything about. Example: Terry Fallis is leading a workshop on Podcasting your Novel. If you don’t know Terry Fallis, you should. Terry had trouble finding an agent or publisher that was interested in his novel, so he released excerpts from his novel in podcast format, which became a huge hit! This turned into a Print-on-demand company, which then turned into McClelland & Stewart/Penguin Random House Canada republishing it. That was FIVE novels ago.
- Blue Pencil Sessions. This is the perfect gift of opportunity to sit down for 10-15 minutes of uninterrupted time, with a writing mentor and discuss three pages of your own writing. You will receive feedback on your work. Or, you can discuss other areas of concern about your writing process, your writing life or any other issues pertaining to writing.
- Practice Pitch Sessions. This is a huge opportunity to present your “30 Second Elevator Pitch” to a Literary Agent, after they receive your first page of your manuscript and a quick synopsis of your novel. You get to hear feedback on what they think about your work. Could they sell a story that you are describing? Are they interested in receiving a few more chapters of your work? Maybe even the whole manuscript? They may provide you with secrets or tips on how to polish your work and present it to an agent for representation. You can chat with the agent about your writing, the publishing process and how/where to proceed on your writer’s journey.
- Inspiration and Motivation. Listening to a successful novelist, an editor for a huge publishing company or a Literary Agent speak is inspiring. You can feel the spark of desire to write more often. Find the time to finish that novel. Submit something. Be successful. When you are gathered together with hundreds of other writers, who are all passionate about writing, just like you, you can’t help but feel motivated to write faster and better than ever before.
- Be a winner. Most writing conferences have writing contests. You should enter. Someone has to win, why can’t it be you? Winning a prize, whether it is chocolate, money or just the prestige of being labelled the winner is a bonus to any conference. Not only that, conferences often have door prizes as well. Last year, I was shortlisted for a free writing contest. I made the top three in my category. It gave me more publicity being on the Ontario Writers’ Conference longlist…and then the shortlist, than I had all year using my blog. People knew my name, even though I didn’t win. Also, I walked away with a beautiful sapphire and diamond necklace worth a few hundred dollars! Can’t complain about that.
- New Opportunities. You learn about other options for your writing. Just because you are a novelist, doesn’t mean you can’t submit an article to a magazine seeking freelancers or write an inspirational short story for Chicken Soup for the Soul. They will pay you to print your story and it’s a publishing credit towards grants and scholarships. Worth looking into.
- Connections. Making new connections with people is similar to networking with other authors, except in this case, you are connecting with people who may be able to help you in the near future. You could meet a bookstore owner who offers to stock your book in her store and she may even offer a signing event or book launch? Many bookstore owners love to promote local authors.
- Festival of Authors. Often, writing conferences bring in “big named authors” to give talks about their experiences, their struggles and successes. Meeting these authors and being able to talk with them, ask them questions, and get their autograph is like the ultimate gift for a fan. Let’s face it, writers LOVE other writers, especially famous, successful authors. I’ve met many this year, most recently, I spoke with Nino Ricci, Wayson Choy, Andrew Pyper and my favourite was Terry Fallis… he sat with me, chatted to me like I was his sister, and let me take photos with him. So patient with me, considering I’m a lunatic of a fan!
- Chat Time. My favourite part of any writers’ conference, is the chat time with my writing friends. Sometimes, these chats take place over breakfast, while shopping in a local bookstore, during lunch, enjoying many cups of coffee, while devouring several pizzas, having a glass of wine in the hotel after a long day or during a five hour car ride back home. During these chat sessions, we discuss each other’s current writing projects and come up with several different scenarios, making our novel outline rock solid and our plot holes disappear… and creating the best kickass ending any novel ever had. Then, all there is left to do is rewrite and edit until our fingers fall off. Sounds easy enough.
Writers’ Conferences are expensive, but when viewing the benefit of everything overall, they are worth every penny. The investment in your writing career is something you NEED to do. Bonus tip: When you finally sell some of your writing, you can write off the conference on your income tax as a business expense. Some day, I hope this happens for you.
If you are interested in attending a Writers’ Conference in 2015, I have just signed up for the Ontario Writers’ Conference in Ajax on April 24 & 25, 2015. They have Early Bird Pricing in effect until Christmas Eve, December 24, 2014. You can find out more information about the conference here.
If perhaps you want a peek at what last year’s conference was like, go here. I highly recommend going at least once, to see what all the fuss is about.