Writer’s Conferences have evolved

Last week I attended the Write To Publish conference. And I’ve watched it evolve over the decade plus I’ve been an attendee. Most conferences have followed the same pattern of evolution according to some friends who attend various ones across the country.

Then:

Back in the day everyone brought paper copies of proposals and articles along with ready pitches memorized. I had a three-inch notebook with sleeves to hold all my clips and proposals. Before that, I had six copies of my proposal, each in its own thesis binder.

I carry my clips and samples in a three ring binder with plastic sleeves.

Now:

This past week I had three folders. One had one-sheets and the other two were copies of my proposal. Two publishers requested my proposal to be emailed to them. And every magazine I pitched to did not even want to look at clips. Instead they’d prefer emailed articles.

Then:

Two contests

Now:

At this year’s conference there were more contests to enter for several genres—for both published and unpublished writers. Contests are a great way to support a conference and give authors and would-be authors wonderful accolades. Entering contests for unpublished authors challenges entrants to polish their work and practice submitting according to guidelines. For those of us who are published and win, it adds credentials to our by-lines that open more doors for future publication.

Then:

Ninety-nine percent of the classes offered were about writing in a variety of genres including articles and poetry. One class on proposals and query letters.  Another on marketing and over time one on marketing using the internet which evolved into social media. A class or two on a speaker’s platform usually rounded out the schedule.

Now:

Classes on website building, blogging and successful marketing on a myriad of platforms are offered alongside fiction and nonfiction writing classes, including articles both for the web and periodicals but no poetry. Speech classes cover more than live talks, adding podcasts and YouTube videos. A writing career is more than putting words on paper, and conference class offerings are reflecting that more and more.

Always the same

One aspect of conferences that hasn’t changed is the kinds of attendees. You will see the alumni who network with faculty and conferees alike with grace and encouraging words. Among them are the returning unpublished alumni showing more confidence from their experience in the past, anxious to reconnect with friends who get-them as a writer. And the first-timers whose faces are overshadowed with a bit of terror as they look around at a room of strangers.

 

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Jodee Starrick and I became BFF after meeting at a conference a few years ago.

 

By the end of the conference those newbies have found friends and made valuable connections and those of us who attended every year are encouraged and refreshed with a notebook full of notes and requests for our words.

How have you seen conferences change? How are they the same?

 

 

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Book signing and a Class Reunion

When my husband first signed us up to attend his 50th class reunion, he suggested I do a book signing at the local library. I was hesitant because library things can often be a bust. People go to the library to borrow books, not buy them. But I wanted to honor my husband’s request. He announced it on his class website and kept them in the loop. I was listed as an event for the class along with other activities that day. I’d placed a press release in the town paper to be sure others knew about it.

 

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My book signing visitors.

 

The library is a transformed school. My wi-fi connection for my square wouldn’t work in the old structure. We arrived early and set up, book trailer playing on the laptop, nice table cloth, bookmarks and posters. My table was in an out of the way place. That concerned me. As I said libraries are not the best places for book signings.

 

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Signing books

 

At the start time people came. To my surprise and delight my husband’s cousins had driven up from Arkansas to participate in the book signing.  Salem, Illinois is four plus hours from their homes in Arkansas.

An 80-year-old from a neighboring town had seen my press release in the paper. Judy Trader had never been to a book signing and decided she was coming. Two of Charley’s classmates came as well.

 

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80 year old Judy Trader at her first book signing

 

I did a reading from both books, and we had a wonderful time of discussion. Everyone bought both my books, which is always a plus.

 

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Reading from New Duet

 

That evening at the reunion festivities, the MC announced I was there with my books, and I sold several more sets. I guess being a woman in her sixties achieving her dream made me a celebrity. A strange feeling indeed. I sat at our table and classmates would come up and purchase signed copies. No special table covering, no fanfare. Another new experience. And thankfully my square found a connection in that location.

 

Cindy and me

Charley and I at the pre-reunion gathering where they insisted I needed to bring my books to the reunion festitivties the next night.

 

Everyone signed up for my newsletter because they wanted to keep up with my writing journey.

I almost refused to do it because I didn’t want to distract from Charley’s reunion festivities. But he was as excited as I was over the response. Visiting with his cousins later after the book signing was an unexpected treat.

I plan on taking other opportunities to present my books in new and different venues. Maybe my own 50th reunion, five years from now.

 

Where are some unusual places you’ve had book signings?