4/28/09

Writing Tip Tuesday: Attend a Writers Conference

One of the best ways to sharpen your writing skills—after writing and reading, of course—is to attend a good writers conference.

A good conference will send you away with lots of new ideas and remind you of things you know but have forgotten. The information you glean at a conference is worth its weight in gold. (Including the repeated advice to avoid clich├ęs.) The creative energy at a conference can help spark new story ideas, get you unstuck if you're blocked, and inspire you to keep going.

Another great reason to attend a good writers conference is the networking with authors and industry specialists. Talking to like-minded people, sharing stories about your writing journey, meeting people willing to help and support you—invaluable!

Of course, as with any good thing, you can overdo it. Don't go to so many conferences that you don't have time left to write. Look around in your area and see what's available, then pick a good one or two to attend.

How do you know which conferences are good? Ask your writer friends who've attended conferences to recommend some. Or just go—knowing that it's a gamble—then keep going to the ones that you like.

As a writer, I like to attend between two and four conferences or workshops a year. This keeps me going when I get stuck and disheartened. As a publisher, I would often attend as many as eight to ten conferences a year. I've been to some good ones and some pretty bad ones.

I have no official connection with LDStorymakers—I'm not a member—but I'd like to say that from both a writer's and a publisher's standpoint, they have the best conferences I've ever attended. The atmosphere is one of support and encouragement and the classes are wonderful. If you ever get a chance to attend one, do it.

Readers, what are some other regular conferences and workshops that you attend that you feel are worth the time and the cost?

16 comments:

Th. said...

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The writing for young people conference at UVU is always excellent.

Carolyn V. said...

Storymakers was excellent and I'm glad I went.

I've also attended BYU's Writing and illustrating for young readers workshop, which I would highly recommend.

Like you, I have also attended conferences that weren't so well put together, but I'll keep those to myself. =)

Anonymous said...

How many of you out there, who are conference goers, think the LDS-storymakers (I can't bring myself to use the "s" for both LDS and Storymakers) is the "best" writing conference? Are there any better in Utah Valley? In Utah? In the western US? USA? The world?

I don't do the writing conference thing. I figure I can get the information online, in a how to book or at the library in a scholarly or trade publication. So besides the hob-knobbing, the networking, the socializing, and the pick-me-up-when-I'm-sad-or-blocked-or-need-a-friend feeling which doesn't seem to be worth a red cent in a business that is so, well, individual--either they like your stuff or they don't no matter how many stuffed avacadoes, twinkies and frape you buy the editor--do we really need to go to these conferences to socialize? I mean, get me a conference ticket and feed me for a day. Get me a good how to book and feed me for a lifetime (or as long as the book doesn't become outdated).

What da ya think?

Anonymous said...

I will tell you this. I have a very good friend who writes fantasy. She met with an editor that asked for her first three chapters at a conference. An editor that works with the publishing company she has wanted to publish with since she started. I don’t know if she would have had an opportunity like this any other way.

There are also awards that you can earn if you submit first chapters, etc…which if I understand correctly; you can place in your query. (Please correct me if I’m wrong).

If you go to a conference, usually editors and agents will let you submit (over the slush pile) for a certain amount of months. Thus making your work looked at and not just glanced at.

Another friend of mine got published just by asking a published friend to ask another friend to look at his ms.

Going to a conference can put you ahead of the other (just as talented) writers and lets you meet the right people at the right time.

Melanie J said...

I belong to the local RWA chapter here in Orange County, CA. I went to the national conference in San Francisco last summer and I found the Storymakers conference to be MUCH better. But I do really like the monthly workshops on specific elements of writing that my local RWA chapter does. I choose the ones in areas I need help and it's good to for refocusing.

Rebecca Talley said...

Anon, you stood me up at the conference!

I think both points are valid--attending a conference can do for you what reading a how-to book can't. Being able to bypass the slush pile and/or meet with editors/agents for feedback on your manuscript is invaluable. Being able to interact with those that have already traveled the path to publication can also provide valuable insight. Attending classes and being able to ask questions to clarify a point is something you can't do with a book.

However, having some great how-to books is also invaluable. Being able to turn to a passage that explains POV or setting or characterization can help you all the time, not just during conference time. I have numerous books that I keep handy and reread regularly to help me.

I loved the conference. I loved the energy of the published and pre-published authors. It was a blast seeing friends and making new ones. I loved talking about writing (instead of diapers and boogers) for 2 days and being around people who also have characters that live inside their heads.

I think the Storymakers conference is incredible. It's professional, fun, and invigorating. Definitely worth the trip for me.

Conferences and how-to books go hand in hand in my very humble opinion.

Anonymous said...

Rebecca:

Who are you and why are you trying to be my friend?

Noble M Standing said...

I have attended LDStorymakers theree times and League of Utah Writers round up once. I also attended a day conference at Cedar Fort. I am going this saturday to another at CF. I loved everyone of them.

I have made friends, (and networked) attended classes where interaction gave me much more than a book could. It rejuvanates me when, like Rebecca, my daily life is kids and solitary time at a computer.

While books can teach you somethings, you can't give your elevator pitch and get a request for the full MS, to a book.
(Like I did on Saturday.)

NMS

C.S. Bezas said...

I think it is important as a writer to know what fuels your personal creativity.

For some that means staying home and actually writing; for others it is attending conferences to garner new materials, learn from those who've been in the industry longer, and to meet editors and/or agents face to face.

Attending conferences can bring about opportunities to pitch a manuscript to a publishing house that never would have come without that face-to-face opportunity with an editor, etc.

So it's all good. As each writer learns what he or she needs--and follows that path--so much the better!

For me personally, being around the creative energies of others at conferences fuels my efforts. It's a blast!

Jaime Theler said...

I have yet to read a book that jazzes me up like a good writer's conference, or that will offer a recommendation to an agent that only takes referrals. Books are great, but why limit yourself to one option when things like conferences can help as well? I want to write too much.

Anne Bradshaw said...

Sorry, Anon (who are you, by the way - no need to fear - we can all be friends even if we disagree) but I'm one who really enjoys soaking up the like-minded atmosphere of writing conferences.

I especially love Storymaker conferences, since they are so friendly, informative, and spiced with plenty of humor. Real spirit lifters. Something we can all do with at times, whether we write or not. Go Storymakers!

RobisonWells said...

I think there's definitely a point of diminishing returns of conferences, as far as what you get out of the various classes. I've been to so many conferences by now that I think 55 minutes out of most hour presentations is just rehash of stuff I already know.

However, I think that conferences are invaluable for networking. Anon, you can downplay the importance of networking all you want, but you're wrong. A perfect example is Brandon Sanderson: he got originally got published because of contacts he made at conferences, and now he's making gobs of money taking over for Robert Jordan.

Is it possible to be published and successful without attending writers conferences? Sure. But is it a lot harder? Absolutely.

Also: speaking from my own experience: people who view writing as a very individual process tend to write crappy books. Not all, but most. Good writers talk and share ideas and critique each other.

Charlie Moore said...

Everyone has an opinion about something and opinions differ. I agree with Anne that people whose opinions differ can still be friends, although I didn't really detect anomosity (sp) in any posts here.

I haven't been to a writer's conference, but that is due to distance, personal schedule and finances. I can see where many benefits would be available to those attending. Each person, I'm sure, goes away with something positive.

Stay positive and keep writing honorable books.

Charlie

Tristi Pinkston said...

It's true that not everyone will take the same thing away from a writers conference. I can only speak from personal experience, and that is to say that a conference will fuel me for the oncoming writing journey more than just about anything. Sure, I can get the same information out of a book, but books don't motivate me.

As far as Anon's question regarding whether the Storymakers conference is better than the others, I can only quote what we've been told time and time again by our 250+ attendees - that out of all the conferences they've attended, ours is their favorite. They tell us they enjoy our atmosphere because there's not a feeling of competition, and it's true. We genuinely want our participants to succeed. We are so happy for them when we hear they have landed a contract. I consider every participant a friend, and they happen to be friends who enjoy doing what I enjoy doing. It's a mutually beneficial experience.

Heather B. Moore said...

The 2009 LDS Storymaker conference was the best conference I've been to in Utah--so far. The 2008 conference was a close runner-up. I've been to a variety of conferences throughout Utah including several LUW, LTUE and RWA conferences. They have all had their strengths. Primarily what I loved about the 2009 Storymaker conference is the variety of LDS publisher/editor representation with the mix of national agent/writer/screenwriter presence. The longer I write and the more I learn about the publishing world, the more I realize how important networking is. You can't beat it in person. Although it's important to do both forms. I went from "meeting" agents and editors a few years ago, to having them know me by name even when I've ran into them at conferences in L.A.

Tanya Parker Mills said...

I've been to the Maui (now Hawaii) Writer's Conference twice (as well as the Maui Writer's Retreat), and the San Francisco Writer's Conference in its initial year. But then, I was aiming for a national market.

Of the two, I much preferred Maui (and it was as fun-loving as Storymakers), but both presented invaluable opportunities to meet with agents and editors to pitch completed works. And I'm still in touch with two of my fellow "retreaters." It's true that any opportunity to rub shoulders with fellow writers is a boost to your energy and confidence.

I didn't attend enough of the sessions this time at Storymakers to know for certain, but my every sense told me it, too, proved invaluable and that has been borne out by all the comments here. I will say this: If you're aiming for the LDS market, it's a must!

Writers tend to be solitary folk, but once they put themselves out there and mingle with others of like mind, the creative juices really tend to bubble over.

I do agree with Rob, though. There is such a thing as too many conferences. After all, our computers can only wait so long.