My first real conference as a self-identified writer was the Atlanta Writing Workshop on February 20, 2016. It was only a few hours’ drive from home, so I booked a room in the same hotel hosting the conference and took my family down to Atlanta for the weekend. I had no idea what to expect as I’d never been to one before, but I will tell you this: I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Here are my 5 reasons why you should attend a writers conference ASAP:
1.) Birds of a Feather (Pen) Together…
The first thing that excited me was the chance to be surrounded by like-minds. Writing is such a lonely life most of the time. Sure, I have a great bunch of writerly friends online, most I have never met in person, but that doesn’t change the benefits of our friendship. In reality, though, when I sit down to write, I’m writing alone. I’m caffeinating my way through those dark hours after the kids go to bed, listening to one of my handful of motivating playlists on Spotify, oftentimes losing myself in my characters’ world. Sometimes, though, a huge invisible wall stubbornly blocks me from that beautiful, devastatingly conflicted world and nothing I can do will grant me passage. The only thing that has helped me break through that wall is to be able to bounce ideas off of another creative mind; but it’s not often our schedules line up that way. Most of us are racing deadlines to make the grades for that coveted English degree, others have 101 responsibilities that demand as much attention as our yearn to write, and some of us are juggling all of that and a bag of chips. So I don’t know what I expected when I walked into the conference room at the Hyatt House, but I was pleasantly surprised to be amongst some 100+ other writers, many more advanced in their skill and career than me, many on my level: the newbie trying to learn as much as she can to make her way in the world of storytelling. Everyone I met was more than supportive and actually interested in what I had written. Can you imagine that? Not just a “Oh, that’s cool!” but a “So, what do you write (because we should be writer friends forever!)?” Network, people. Network!
2.) You Will Learn All the Things.
The conference I attended was relatively small compared to what some can be, so I was lucky to be able to sit in on all lectures. If you happen to attend a larger conference or convention, plan your day ahead of time to make sure you’re in the right place at the right time so you don’t miss any of that information gold. We were lucky enough to be addressed by Chuck Sambuchino of Writers Digest. If you ever have the chance to hear him speak, GO. Yes it was a long day, but he’s funny and his lectures are decently interactive. I took a few pages of notes that I will share in my next post. LEARN FROM THE MASTERS! Chuck sells books. Chuck networks with as many people in the industry as possible. CHUCK KNOWS WHAT HE’S TALKING ABOUT! I already owned two of his books prior to attending the conference which I can happily say have been put to good use.
Things Chuck Covered:
- “Your Publishing Options Today”
- “Everything You Need to Know About Agents, Queries, and Pitching”
- “Writers Got Talent: A Chapter One Critique Fest”
- “How to Market Yourself and Your Book: Writers Platform & Social Media Explained”
- “How to Get Published: 10 Professional Writing Practices That You Need to Know NOW to Find Success as a Writer”
(See my next post for my notes from the workshop.)
3.) You (May) Have the Option to Pitch an Agent Face to Face.
Who knows the industry better than the literary agents who pore through query after query, sample after sample, and select only a handful to represent on the market? They have the inside scoop through connections with editors, publishers, and other literary agents. They know what sells and what doesn’t. Even if your pitch doesn’t go as well as you dream it would, use it as a learning experience. After all, what better way to find out what agents are looking for in a pitch? The agent I pitched to was super nice and the questions she asked about my manuscript were insightful. Not just that, but she also asked that I send her a query with ten sample pages. I honestly didn’t think I’d get that far – so I’m going to make sure I put everything I learned to good use and polish up my submission before it gets to her. Literary Agents have the same number of hours in a day that the rest of us do – so I don’t want to waste it. So pay attention to the agents in your pitch and any that speak during lecture; they are there to inform. You’d be a fool to take nothing away from that. 😉
4.) You Want to Improve Your Craft.
We don’t spend our evenings pecking away at the keyboard or scribbling in notebooks for nothing. We write because we have something to say. The only way we’ll be able to say it is to be read, and to be read, we have to be published. If we want to be published the traditional way (which seems to offer an air of validation about it), then we must impress the experts. The fastest way to destroy our own careers before they begin is to think we know it all. We don’t – but we are willing to learn!
5.) This is Your Dream.
Aside from the select few who’ve had it really easy in this life, if you want your dream to come true, you’re going to have to work for it. Don’t let people push you down without showing you the way to pick yourself back up again. When agents, editors, or publishers say ‘No,’ learn from them. Regroup, and get back in the game. That’s the only way you’re going to get where you want to be.
Have anything to add? I’d love to hear it!!
**I am not compensated by mentioning either the Workshop or Chuck Sambuchino.