One of my favorite things to do as a writing professional is to attend writing conferences. I am a true nerd by definition—I love learning or the sake of learning, so much so that I actually cried with sorrow, not joy, when I graduated from college. I love to dip my toe back into the pool of focused learning, and I do it whenever I get the chance. Writing conferences are so much fun for me that I would go just for the atmosphere, if nothing else.
Unfortunately, when it comes to deciding if I should attend a conference or not, there are a few cold, hard facts about life that I can’t escape. Conferences can be expensive, and my budget (like most of yours) is terribly limited. I have a lot of responsibilities—even when I’m not teaching because of school holidays, I still do a lot of planning and preparing; I also have children to feed and raise, a small menagerie of pets to care for, and a house to clean and keep in running order. To top it all off, I am an ambivert with strong introvert tendencies, so it can be painful to place myself in a room full of strangers.
When these reasons are piled all together, I can very easily talk myself out of attending a conference. I can justify just about anything and, if left to my own devices, I can use any of the above factors to prove to myself that attending a writer’s conference is a selfish indulgence on my part—a frivolous extra that I don’t really need, especially since I have to be responsible with my time and money. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Image courtesy of Nikolay Georgiev from Pixabay.
If you are a writer at any level, writing conferences are essential to your career. Here’s why:
Continued learning about the craft of writing - If you are a new writer, it seems abundantly clear why you need to attend a conference: the classes you can take to learn how to master a skill, or to learn about an aspect of the industry, make the cost worthwhile many times over. However, even multi-published authors can benefit. As a teacher I am required to obtain a certain amount of continuing education each year, in order to improve my skills and to ensure I continue to provide my students with a quality education. Many other professions require the same thing. It is no different for a writer; there is always something new to learn. Even if you’ve mastered a given technique, listening to someone else teach that technique may lead to fresh insight, which could breathe new life into your next work.
The chance to meet with agents and editors - Most conferences offer the opportunity for writers to meet face-to-face with, and pitch their work to, agents and editors. More and more of these industry professionals only obtain new clients through appointments at conferences, so attending a conference can be crucial for the advancement of your career. These one-on-one meetings also come with a bonus: feedback. Instead of receiving a bland standard manuscript rejection, most agents and editors will not only tell you why your project is not right for them but will also provide insight into how you can improve.
What if you’re independently published? Instead of conferencing with agents and editors, you can connect with other authors who are independently published and learn what works and what not to do from their experiences.
The opportunity to build a tribe - Another extremely valuable aspect of writing conferences is networking—getting to know people in the industry as individuals. I love the experience of sitting next to someone in a session, striking up a conversation, and really connecting on an individual level only to find out later that he is an agent from such-and-such literary agency, or she is an editor with some major publishing house, or they are both New York Times bestselling authors. These personal connections, where I am not asking anything of anyone but am rather focused on building honest relationships, are my favorite aspect of writing conferences, especially when they deepen into friendships. This is what networking is all about, and it is not something you can do very well in the comfort of your own home.
While summer seems to be the height of conference season, there are a variety of writer’s conferences happening at all times of the year, and all around the world. If you are at a spot in your writing where you don’t know how to move forward, I recommend you find a conference that fits your needs and budget and sign up. (If you're looking for a conference to start with, I'm a huge fan of Realm Makers). For those of you who are at a good spot in your writing right now, attending a conference can still be a significant investment in your career.
What do you guys think? Are there any conferences you just can’t live without? Or are there any other reasons you can think of why attending conferences is an essential rather than a luxury? I’d love to hear your observations and remarks in the comments section below.
This post originally appeared on Lauricia-Matuska.com on 28 July 2017.