Why Serious Writers Attend Conferences

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Lunch with Steve Barclift from Kregel Publishing

It’s conference season. And for any serious writer, it’s time to compose those proposals and get those pitches ready. If a yearly writer’s conference isn’t in your budget it should be. Conference expenses are tax-deductible and are a more economical education than a college degree.

Face to Face

There are opportunities to meet other writers and share information and wisdom. This is one place you can have a face to face with a publisher who would not bother to look at your proposal unless you have an agent. And it is also the place to acquire an agent.

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Bob Hostetler was both a general session speaker and a workshop leader for the 2013 WTP Conference. He was on my must attend list of workshop choices that year.

Classes

The classes are varied and there is something for everyone. The publishing world is constantly changing so there is always something new to learn. Each year there are different speakers and class focuses giving writers a chance to expand their writing knowledge.

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Arthur Cynthia Ruchti often leads a critique session. She is always kind and inspiring.

Critiques

Manuscript critiques and appoints with published writers are available. You don’t know what you don’t know or where your writing is weak until you’ve had your pages marked up by a professional.

Grow your network

The conference experience and the continuing education you attain can help you grow your platform and writing credits faster than going it alone.

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Editor Susan Baganz, is a great one to connect with if you are an introvert.

Introverts connecting

I’m told most writers are introverts. (Except for me. 😊 ) Introverts come out of their shell when they are around others who understand them. Fiction writers find kindred spirits who love to talk to their characters. Non-fiction writers interact with others passionate to get the word out regarding things they feel called to write.

Writing is a solitary task. It requires hours alone creating each day. Conferences force us to spend time with like-minded people to refuel and refresh.

Rowena Kuo, Acquistion Editor of Light House Publishing of the Carolinas and I developed a great friendshipover the years that eventual lead to my current contract.always looks casual but classy.

Rowena Kuo is an editor I developed a friendship with over my years of attending conferences eventually leading to my novel publication.

Best reasons

The best connection for future book sales and freelance opportunities are at these events. And the bookstore is jammed full of craft books and CDS. You’ll find the speaker’s books and other conferences work for sale.

Fun, fellowship and education all rolled into one.

Whether you attend a large or small conference the value gained as a writer is priceless.

More to come

Next week I’ll begin a series of post from other writers sharing their best, humorous and ah-ha moments in their conference experiences. You won’t want to miss them.

My favorite conference is Write To Publish click her for more details.

Tell me why you love to attend conferences.

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Conference Tip #10 Notes, Books and CDs, OH NO!

Shopping at the conference and having enough paper for note taking are two subjects dear to a conferencees heart. Photo By Charles Huff

Shopping at the conference and having enough paper for note taking are two subjects dear to a conferencees heart. Photo By Charles Huff

Here is my last piece of advice for a successful conference. This answers the biggest quandary writers have at conferences.

Note Taking Needs

I had a friend email asking me how many notebooks she should take to the writer’s conference. My response—one. Think back to high school. It took a few weeks or longer to fill up a spiral notebook with notes from any given class. Most conferences run from two to four days. Often handouts are given with many of these classes. I’ve been given a three ring binder at conferences with outlines to fill in. One notebook or some loose leaf paper to slide in the binder under the classes you are taking is usually enough. If you’re still afraid you won’t have enough paper, then buy a larger notebook. Some people prefer legal pads or steno pads. Whatever you’re most comfortable with.

I’m seeing more people bring laptops and tablets. I find myself editing my notes as I type so I haven’t taken the leap to technology for note taking. But those who have lightening fingers on the keyboard do well with it. This is especially nice if a website is recommended. Once typed in your notes, it usually creates a direct link.

Paper or tablet is up to you. What you do with those notes after the conference is the key. Do you review them throughout the year? Rewrite them to help you remember. Or shove them in a file folder or on a shelf marked 2015 conference and never look at them again? Hold that thought. Determine to take more thorough notes on the things you really find helpful and fewer notes on things you’ve heard before. Hit the highlights and new revelations. Why? You are more likely to review those notes again.

Buy CDS????

Buying the CDs of the conference are a great way to review your notes. A wonderful thing to listen to in the car and if you get MP3 format you can download them to other devices. But as I said in a previous post, don’t buy them if you know you will never listen to them. I have a few of those on my shelf gathering dust. Although you can get a great deal by buying the whole conference, it’s of no value if you never listen to all of them. Buy the ones you really feel you will benefit from.

Some conferences offer CDs from previous conferences. That’s a great way to get information on subjects not covered in this year’s agenda. And the cost is considerably less. Some speakers offer sets of CDs on the subject covered in their class. Often it covers more than the time they were allotted at the conference. Great chance to really grasp the topic.

Books, Books and more Books

There is always a bookstore at conferences. They contain books on every aspect of writing and marketing. Books by the speakers, teachers and other authors attending the conference. I have acquired a large number of books on writing craft as well as autographed copies of novels, devotionals and other fun books. Writers are readers. Successful writers are avid readers. This is a great place to stock up.

Now that you are salivating over the prospect of purchasing books I’ll add—rein it in. Choose carefully the books you buy. Take time to examine the table of content, read the back cover blurb, and check out examples in chapters. Otherwise you may be spending money on duplicate stuff. There are lots of how to books out there. Many contain the same information just presented differently. If you have a book on writing proposals you love, you probably don’t need a second one unless your first one is outdated, you really enjoyed an instructor and he mentioned a book on a related subject that you feel must be great because he said so. Still check it out. Is his writing style as engaging as his speaking style? Do you think the subject would be helpful to you?

If you are on a budget, decide which books you really want to purchase at the conference. Put others on a list to buy later from the author’s website, online or your local bookstore. Sometimes those books on your list never get purchased. Which might prove you really didn’t need all those books after all. And some may come on sale later. Who doesn’t love a bargain?

Newbie list

Rather than sweat bullets as a novice attendee, here is a short list of must haves. Some are general because there are lots of books on the same subject by wonderful authors. But the first few are must-have titles.

2015-2016 Christian Writer’s Market Guide by Jerry B Jenkins (Tyndale)

Writer’s Market (Writer’s Digest)

(These books list lots and lots of markets to submit to.)

The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style edited by Robert Hudson (Zondervan) Similar to the AP and Chicago books of style. A great reference regarding grammar, sentence structure and punctuation and other details in professional writing which change with time and cause confusion. Clarity is at your fingertips.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. & E.B. White (Allyn & Bacon) Some feel this book is outdated, but this small volume still has a lot of useful information about grammar and sentence structure.

The rest of my list has no recommendations. Talk with others at the conference and get their suggestions on which books in the following categories they prefer and why.

  1. A book on how to write proposals and query letters. Preferably one with examples and step by step instructions. (I showed pictures of two books I recommend in a previous conference tip post.)
  2. Fiction writers should have books on POV, character development, plot structure, and other techniques for writing fiction. You may have a favorite author who has published this sort of book.
  3. Non-fiction writers should have at least one book on the nuts and bolts of putting together a well-written book.
  4. A book about self-editing and rewriting.
  5. Marketing book that covers lots of different avenues for selling your work. This area is in constant flux and not everything works for everybody. You might decide on more than one if they come at marketing from different angles.
  6. If you write poetry, screen plays, greeting cards or are looking for help on your speaker’s platform then add a book on those subjects to your list.
  7. Fiction writes should buy at least one novel. Studying the style of another writer always helps improve your own. I never buy only one. (grin)
  8. Non-fiction writers should also buy at least one book for the same reason. Choose a book in a similar topic to the one you are pitching -devotional, Bible Study, parenting for example.
  9. A book on how to research.
  10. Pick up a magazine or two either on craft or ones you would like to submit to in the future to study the content.

Final thoughts

Let me mention to fill your tote with anything offered free. Usually its publisher’s catalogs and writing guidelines, bookmarks and backlog magazines. Take one of each and sort through it later. Sometimes it is autographed copies of books.

Don’t feel obligated to buy a book because the author is standing there when you look through it. Same goes for CDS. Enjoy the sale table and keep your notebook handy to create your buy later list.

What do you like to buy at writer’s conferences?

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Conference tip # 8 Choosing Classes and Workshops

Bob Hostetler was both a general session speaker and a workshop leader for the 2013 WTP Conference.  He was on my must attend list of workshop choices that year.

Bob Hostetler was both a general session speaker and a workshop leader for the 2013 WTP Conference. He was on my must attend list of workshop choices that year.

Now you’ve got all the tools in your toolbox ready to go. Get a cup of coffee and peruse the class and workshop offering of the conference you want to attend. Think about where you are in your writing life.

Newbies and Novices

Newbies should take beginner classes. If your favorite author is teaching an advance class don’t go. You’ll miss the basics and be overwhelmed by all the advance material. Try to sit at your favs table at lunch instead. Or introduce yourself during a break. Stay with basic classes for better success.

Questions for experienced writers

Is the class being offered in your genre something you need? If you’ve already attended fiction 101 in the past a few times you might want to attend a marketing class or an editing class instead.

Would taking a class outside your comfort zone be good?

You write fiction, only fiction. But let’s face it unless you’ve sold a lot, no one knows who you are. You might consider an article writing class. Millions of people may read an article you write as oppose to a few hundred who might buy your book. Articles help build your credibility as a writer. Non-fiction writers might find help with creating a more interesting book by taking fiction classes.

If you have a book for example about taking care of the elderly. You might consider a public speaking class to help you wade through all the steps of preparing a speech. Many non-fiction writers sell more books at speaking engagements than in book stores or online.

You’ve never written a children’s or young adult book. But you might gain insights into the mindset of these age groups for characters in your adult novel.

Classes to consider and other offerings to consider

Editing classes are always valuable. No one knows everything about editing, and no one is so good at writing they need no editing. You might want to discern if this is a grammarly kind of editing class or a content editing class. Pick the one that will benefit you the most.

Critique groups are wonderful opportunities to get input on your manuscript. If you are shy about sharing your work, you can take notes on those samples brought by others in the group and apply it to your own writing.

Panels: Agent, Publisher and Magazine panels give great insights into what they are looking for. Every conference I come away with a list of potential articles that never crossed my mind until an editor shares a need they have. I sometimes dust off something I wrote in the past that now just might have a place based on a publisher’s comment.

Workshops are usually a continuing education opportunity. Workshops are presented each day of the conference, and to get the most out of them you should attend every one. Skipping a day can leave you lost and confused. If the workshop is not what you expected, feel free to visit a different one that may be of more value. This is a good time to order the CD for the first day of the workshop you switched to. A side note: it is okay to change classes. No one will think you’re terrible. Finding your niche is encouraged.

Take full advantage

Unless you have an appointment be there on time. Take lots of notes and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you have time to linger after class, don’t shy away from getting clarification on anything you don’t understand.

Get CDs of classes you miss due to appointments or classes you want to attend that fall at the same time. Some people prefer to buy MP3s or CDs of the entire conference. If you are one who is disciplined to listen to CDs, often this is a great plan. If you never get around to listening, be honest with yourself and don’t waste your money. You might consider buying the whole set and sharing it with your writer’s group back home. This gives you incentive to listen a second time if you are not the carry-around-a-CD-everywhere-you-go kind of person. MP3s can be downloaded to any device. If you like to listen to music while you work out, listen to a conference class instead. (Just saying).

Value of General Sessions

Don’t skip general sessions. The keynote speakers always have wonderful insights about the writing world. And their encouragement may be what you need to step out of your comfort zone and be the writer you want to be.

Don’t be exhausted

Purpose to get the most out of all that is offered. But if you need to skip a class to regroup or take a nap, do it. Again order the CD for the class you missed. The conference is all about advancing your writing career and learning all you can. Get lots of rest each night, and don’t worry if you can’t wrap your mind around all the information you’ve heard. You can always review your notes later.

Final word

There will always be more workshops and classes than you have time to take so choose wisely. But most of all have fun!

What were your favorite workshops and classes at conferences you attended?

 

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

 

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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.

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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?