Making My Pro and Con List before Attending a Writer’s Conference



Tammie Edington Shaw was a great encouragement to me at last year’s Write-To-publish conference.

Last month I had to make a hard decision. Would I attend a writer’s conference this year? I had happily anticipated attending every year for the past five. This year I had lots of negative things weighing me down. Some were of a writerly nature others were not but all demanded a place on my decision list.

On the con side

I hadn’t reached my writing goals this year. Yes, I published but the pay was small. The guest blogging I did paid nothing. I wanted to finish all the rewrites on my novel but still have some edits to do. I wanted to have a rough draft of my next novel finished rather than the few chapters and character sketches I managed to complete. The articles I planned on sending out based on appointments with publishers at last year’s conference are in various stages of completeness waiting in my computer. The short stories I sent got rejected and the devotionals have yet to be acknowledged. All of this is embarrassing and a little depressing.

After leaving the Army my oldest son and his family now live in my home. This makes it easier for him and his wife to attend college. Now I have grandchildren responsibilities. My elderly parents also live nearby. The days I don’t have to be at my part-time job have gotten filled with doctor visits and running errands for them. This time in my life is wonderful fodder for lots of articles on multi-generational family life but I haven’t had time to write them.

My brain has gotten fried by various dramas including the dryer breaking twice, the water heater being replaced, serious work done on our car and the AC on the fritz cutting deep into our finances. The death of my baby sister after a four year battle with liver cancer proved the most devastating. Now I am back on track with this nagging feeling it is too little too late.


Losing my little sister Carol recently was the most devastating thing to happen me this year.

The pro side

The whole point of a writer’s conference is to sharpen my skills to be a better writer. They will only remain dull if I let the chaos of the past year put training on hold.

I need the input from the workshops, the inspiration from the speakers and the encouragement from my fellow-writers. Writing is a rocky path to follow and gets quite lonely and at times discouraging. I need the refueling the conference will give me. Perhaps all those unfinished articles will find a home and my experience with a too full house will find expression on paper because of a divine appointment or word of encouragement.

My decision

I registered for the Write To Publish conference anyway. Despite the odds weighing heavily on the do not attend side I choose to nourish the gifting God has given me. I found confirmation in Philippians 3:14 “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

What benefit have you gained from going to a conference even when it’s seems difficult?

Three reminders for writing conference success

Debut novelist John Turney did all the right research before attending conferences. His novel Innocent Blood  found a publisher because he did his homework.

Debut novelist John Turney did all the right research before attending conferences. His novel Innocent Blood found a publisher because he did his homework.

I received a weird phone call at my day job this week. The caller wanted to set up a blood drive. As the receptionist for a blood collection facility in the Chicagoland area I can easily direct calls like this to a marketing person in their area. However, as I gathered more information it became apparent we were not going to be able to help this young lady. She was calling from Canada. Although our blood supply is low at the moment Canada was defintely out of our service area.

As I prepare for the Write To Publish conference next month this call sparked a reminder in the writer’s side of my brain, a matra that writers need to adher to. Read the guidelines before submitting your manuscript. The extra time you take to fill your tote bog or briefcase with the specifics an agent may request before an appointment makes you appear professional. Don’t hand over the whole manuscript if only the summary or first three chapters are needed. Do your homework before setting up an appointment with an agent or publisher at a conference.  Coming with a proposal or pitch for something they need gives you a better chance for success.

Don’t try to do something new and dramatic.

An agent friend told me he once had a writer drive to his home to present a manuscript in person. The guidelines on his website clearly stated electronic submissions only. He took the manuscript and wrote his rejection note on the cover and handed it back. Ouch! But the guidelines were clear. In the publishing business submitting out of the box gets rejections. The same applies to conferences. No colored paper or funny font sizes. Double spaced, 12 point Times New Roman is  the publishing standard.

Had a great appointment with Susan Baganz, Acquistion Editor for Prism Book Group at the 2013 Write To Poblish Conference.

Had a great appointment with Susan Baganz, Acquistion Editor for Prism Book Group at the 2013 Write To Poblish Conference.

Details, details, details

My young caller probably found my company in a google search but may not have gone to the company website. Had she checked out the website she would have not wasted time calling us based on geography. Click on the link for the agent, publisher or magazine to study the details. Your article on time-management may not fit the theme for magazine A’s upcoming edtions but magazine C is clamoring for it. If your Amish fiction has a scifi twist Publisher Q will be open to your pitch. However, Publisher X has all their Amish fiction slots full and you wasted one of your precious appointments because you missed that detail.

What are some other reminders you find important before attending a conference?