Tag Archives: Writers’ conference

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


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.

brown wooden triangular tables and gray rolling chairs inside room

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.


  • 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.

Video of the Week #182: Quick! Pitch that Book!


In Praise of Writers’ Mini-Conferences

In Praise of Writers’ Mini-Conferences

From time to time I hear about one-day writers’ workshops and mini-conferences given in local libraries, churches, and bookstores. I try to go to at least one a year. Even if I think I already know everything that’s going to be discussed, it’s rare that I don’t learn something new.

The Saturday before my hip surgery, Changing Hands Bookstore, an independent bookstore in Phoenix, offered a conference for YA writers. The presenters were local authors (and some are also professional writing instructors) Stephanie Elliot, Abigail Johnson, Bill Konigsburg, Tom Leveen, and Amy Trueblood. I’d met most of these lovely people before and knew how knowledgeable and talented they are.

Some things I never knew that I learned at the conference:

  • On YouTube, there are BookTube channels where people talk about books they’ve read. There are also AuthorTube channels where authors talk about their books, their writing processes, and their publication journeys. Am I the only person who’s been writing for decades who didn’t know that?
  • Comicons offer writers’ workshops. I thought Comicon was an opportunity for comics fans to dress up and nerd out on comic artifacts and superhero actors. Apparently, it’s so much more than that. Who knew?

Content ideas for author newsletters:

  • Writing tips
  • What I’m reading right now, or lists of favorite books or authors
  • Musical inspiration for stories, or writing playlists
  • Short stories using book characters
  • Warning: if your newsletters are nothing but sales pitches, readers will unsubscribe or delete them without reading

Things I knew, but appreciated being reminded:

  • Write a quotable first line. (Don’t worry about this on your first draft, or you’ll never get started. Even the second or third draft is too early—a lot can change. But when you’re getting ready to query, look back at the first sentence. Can you do better?)
  • On the very first page, what’s unique about your story must be apparent. (For example, if your main character is a flea who lives on General George Washington’s horse, that needs to be revealed on page one. The parenthetical notes on the previous hint apply to this one, too.)
  • Is the story happening to the character, or is the character making the story?
  • Add external conflict to make your story a page-turner.
  • All dialogue should have a purpose.
  • If you’ve made up a world with unusual names, a pronunciation guide is a helpful resource for your readers. So is a glossary of terms which might be unfamiliar.
  • Description should flow from the character’s point of view.
  • To help your reader connect to the scene, use your emotional memory. When did I feel as my character feels now?
  • If you’re a pantser (or even if you’re a plotter), write a 10-page story synopsis before you start. It may change, but for some reason, it’s easier to write a story from a synopsis than to write a synopsis from a story…
  • Get to know your local librarians. Many consider regular patrons’ requests when buying books for the library. Many also give priority to local authors. You can call libraries and ask if they have your book. You can also donate copies to the library.

Do you attend small, local writers’ conferences? What’s a good one you’ve been to? Share your experience in the comments below.

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