Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Slice of Writer's Life

To Writer's Conference Or Not?

Unless it's in your backyard, the cost of attending writer's conferences these days is prohibitive for many writers of all levels. A conference is a unique experience and there are many pros and cons to attending. You've surely read or heard about the networking principle and how meeting other writers and attending workshops and panels with industry professionals usually contributes a great deal of positive energy and information to your work as a writer. But is it worth it in the long run to pay for transportation, hotel, food, the conference, and shipping your booty back home from the hotel? Short answer: yes, but you should choose carefully in order to get the most bang for your buck and time.

I've attended many conferences over the last twenty years. From small local gatherings to large meetings with 2000 romance writers standing in line at the ladies room, and I have never regretted going to any of them. Each one provided me with another notch of understanding what it takes to be a writer who can claim the ultimate label of published author. Sure, I had to wear the scarlett letter on my name badge for several years: Aspiring Writer, but the more I absorbed and the more I applied and the more I practiced the habits of published writers the sooner I ditched the 'aspiring' title and now proudly wear the published author name tag. I even hang a color photo of my published book covers from the bottom of my conference name tag to validate my status. But it took many years of internship at conferences before everything changed.

It wasn't just attending conferences that changed my status from aspiring to published. The more I circulated with other writers in the same boat or whose ship had come in, the more I learned how to behave like a published author. Like any good writer, I applied the practices we use to gather good material for our stories to attending conferences. I dressed like the published authors. I sat near them in the bars and restaurants and listened to them talk to their editors and agents. I volunteered to work for the conference and more than once helped famous authors set up their workshops or arrange for transportation. I struck up random conversations with editors and other aspiring writers about contemporary topics like the future of ebook readers and print on demand publishing. I attended sessions that included panels of editors, agents, and published authors. Although I heard the same information repeatedly, I filed it all away and eventually it all paid off.

Look for conferences that are within your budget and neighborhood first. Save your money and attend a big national conference every two or three years. Save the workshop materials in a file. Take a small notebook with you everywhere and make notes about what you see and hear at the conference. And save all your "aspiring writer" name tags for the scrapbook until one day you get the "published author" badge and everything changes. Just remember to be nice to all the "aspiring writers" you meet. You never know when one will be the next published author. It could be you!

Be well, write well,
Joy Held

I will be leading a workshop at the 2010 Romantic Times Booklovers Convention, April 28-May 2 in Columbus, OH. My workshop is titled "Your Brain On Yoga: How Exercise and Nutrition Make You A Better Writer."

Are you going to a writer con soon? Tell me about it!

1 comment:

  1. Great article, Joy! Like you, I have taken inspiration and education from every conference I've attended.

    I'm excited to be leading three workshops June 11-13, 2010 at the West Virginia Writers, Inc. Spring Conference in Ripley, WV. ( I'm even more excited to be counted among the amazing writers, poets, songwriters, agents and publishers who will be at this year's annual event.

    I'm counting down the days! Who else is "conferencing" this year? Do tell!