How to Attend a Writers Conference; Part I: Choosing a Conference

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All over our country (indeed, all over the world) writers, agents, editors, and publishers come together periodically to share information, encourage one another, make connections, and discover the next literary star. If you write (or if you dream of writing), conferences can be an important aspect of your professional development.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Why to go to a writers conference:

  • To learn the craft
  • To see presentations by authors you admire
  • To hear about trends in publishing
  • To pitch your work to an agent or editor
  • To network with other writers

The first conference I ever attended was put on by American Christian Writers near my home.  It was an excellent opportunity for a beginning writer to quickly learn important information about the writing life. Over the decades I’ve gone to small local conferences and writers workshops as well as large national ones, such as the Mount Hermon Christian writers conference; Desert Nights, Rising Stars writers conference at Arizona State University; and the legendary Maui Writers Conference (now defunct). As many as I’ve attended, I’ve always learned something new, or been reminded of things I’d forgotten, or come away with new ideas and excitement about writing.

How to choose a writers conference

An online search for writers conferences will turn up thousands of results. The Poets and Writers website maintains a comprehensive database of conferences.

Each conference offers one or more kinds of events: workshops, book signings, critique sessions, publisher roundtables, dinners, keynote speakers, agent panels, pitch opportunities, freelancing seminars, and/or more.

Determine what you want to get out of the conference, and then chose one that matches your needs. For example, if your dream is to write essays for periodicals, don’t go to SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators).

Here are some other important factors to consider:

  • Cost. A small, local, one-day conference might cost as little as $50 for three workshops. A large, national, multiple-day conference will cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Generally, the bigger the conference, the greater the price. Add to that the cost of travel, meals (sometimes included), and lodging, and you’re talking major expenditure. Only you can decide whether it’s worth the investment.
  • Location. A nearby conference can reduce or eliminate the costs of travel and/or lodging. But the conference that features the author, agent, or editor you’d like to work with might be several states away. Maybe you have a friend in that city who’s been inviting you to come for a visit. Maybe it’s in a spot you’ve always wanted to vacation in.
  • Lodging. If you go to a local conference, you have the option of commuting from your own home. If you want to go farther away and can stay with friends, find a way to express your gratitude, whether it’s bringing a gift, taking them out to dinner, or staying an extra day and babysitting their kids so they can have some alone time together. If you must go to a hotel, remember that you are not usually required to stay at the hotel where the conference is; sometimes an alternative is a lot less expensive, but maybe not as convenient. When I went to Maui, I could have had free transportation between the airport and the host hotel; instead, I rented a car and stayed at a nice but less extravagant hotel and saved almost $200. But I also had a Mustang convertible to go to restaurants, stores, the beach, and other places I wanted to see while I was on the island.

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  • Presenters. Are you familiar with the authors who are giving talks? Do you admire their work? If agents will be there, do you know the authors they represent? Are they looking for manuscripts like yours? Will editors of your dream publications attend?
  • Classes and workshops. Some conferences offer all-day (or multi-day) tracks in specific genres, so you might be able to sign up for several workshops in the fiction track or the poetry track or the biography track and so on, some with “homework” assignments to be completed during class time or breaks. Be sure they’re offering what you want to learn about. Other conferences offer one-hour classes on many writing topics, such as freelancer bookkeeping, common grammar mistakes, futuristic world building, writing love scenes, or how to conduct an interview. Make sure there are at least as many offerings that interest you as there are sessions, so you don’t have big blocks of time with nothing to do.

Coming Saturday: How to Attend a Writers Conference; Part II: Before, During, and After.

Monday Morning Wisdom #190

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Every King Holiday has been a national “teach-in” on the values of nonviolence, including unconditional love, tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation, which are so desperately-needed to unify America. It is a day of intensive education and training in Martin’s philosophy and methods of nonviolent social change and conflict-reconciliation. The Holiday provides a unique opportunity to teach young people to fight evil, not people, to get in the habit of asking themselves, “what is the most loving way I can resolve this conflict?” ~Coretta Scott King, on the meaning of the MLK holiday.

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Al Pucci/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

 

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From the Creator’s Heart #186

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Hiking in South Mountain Park, Phoenix

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Hiking in South Mountain Park, Phoenix

My daughter Carly spent seven and a half weeks in Israel last year, six of those weeks in Hebron (I guess, technically, in Palestine) studying Arabic. She wants to go back this summer, and suggested I go, too. It’s been on my bucket list for thirty years.

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Carly warned me, “I don’t understand how this is possible, but I swear every street in Bethlehem is uphill.” I promised her I’d train. I’ve been walking the treadmill at an incline, and I will gradually increase my speed and my height. A friend who’s been to Israel recommended bringing a trekking pole for uneven ground and cobblestones.

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Working out on the treadmill is nice, but maybe it’s not realistic. I bought some hiking boots and a trekking pole and headed out to South Mountain Park.

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South Mountain Park/Preserve is one of the largest municipal parks in the United States. It encompasses more than 16,000 acres at the southern edge of Phoenix, Arizona.

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I used to drive up to the summit of the park with my children when they were young. There’s a cabin-like structure at the top where you can sit, eat a picnic lunch, and enjoy a panoramic view of the entire “Valley of the Sun.” But I’d never hiked there, except for one brief excursion with my kids when they begged to go home after 15 minutes.

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So, now I’m a sixty-six year old beginning hiker with two artificial hips. With the help of Hike Phoenix, I determined that the Kiwanis Trail would be a good place to start.

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Thursday late morning I parked my car at the trailhead and looked around. If you follow ARHtistic License, you may have caught on that I love the desert. It’s so much greener than I’d expected when we moved here from New Jersey. I love the rugged rockiness of the desert mountains.

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There’s a profound silence in the park, except for the chirping of birds. And the sounds of the jets en route to and from Sky Harbor International Airport, not too far away. And barrages of gunfire from a nearby shooting range. And the disconcerting buzzing of bees busy pollinating the yellow brittlebush and taking detours around my head.

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In the 1990s, Africanized honeybees invaded Arizona, and from time to time we heard reports of people and dogs being severely stung and even killed by swarms of the bees in Arizona, and at least one in South Mountain Park. Not so much lately, though.

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I discovered I really like the trekking pole. It helped stabilize me on the steeper sections of the trail, and even a gentle push on the pole helped boost me up a big step. I will definitely take it to Israel.

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Even though there were quite a few cars in the parking lot, I didn’t see many people on the trail. Part of that might be due to the fact I was there on a weekday; also, I brought my camera with me, and I stopped every few feet to take another picture. The desert looks different every time you change your perspective.

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At one point, all I could see ahead of me was a jumble of rocks. Uh oh, I’ve lost the trail. But a couple steps later, I saw it again. I guess my stature of five feet nothing was to blame for my limited vision.

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I never reached the end of the trail. After forty minutes, I decided I’d had enough for the day and turned around.

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I found coming down the trail more challenging than going up. Again, my trekking pole helped me keep my balance while stretching beyond my normal stride, and kept me from stumbling when my heel caught an outcropping or I landed on a lose rock and almost twisted my ankle. I made it back to the car in twenty-five minutes, taking few pictures on the way down because I needed to concentrate on my footing. (I ended up with a total of 95 shots!)

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I will definitely be going back, without my camera next time. I want to enjoy the hiking without any distractions. I am so blessed to be able to immerse myself in the beauty of the desert.

Creative Juice #124

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Creative Juice #124

Great ideas to get your creative mojo going this weekend.

  1. Two quilt shows.
  2. Cuba in photographs.
  3. Beautiful paintings and drawings by David Harrison.
  4. Lovely tangles.
  5. Paper creatures.
  6. I don’t understand all these artsy apps, but they’re cool.
  7. Reading aloud to older children is beneficial, too.
  8. The stuff at thrift stores just keeps getting better.
  9. Stephen King takes a stand in favor of book reviews in the local newspaper, and his fans support him—and subscribe to the newspaper.
  10. Design trends for 2019.
  11. Photos of forest fauna in Finland.
  12. When life gives you snow, make a snow sculpture.

In the Meme Time: Meaningful Writing

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Dear Writer Friends, I have a favor to ask…

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If you have gotten worthwhile writing advice from ARHtistic License, would you please nominate me for a best writing blog award? I try to include at least one helpful writing article each month, and I would like to attract some new readers. Thanks!

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