The Value of Writers’ Conferences, Both Small and Large

DSC00856Fifteen thousand words into my first novel, I decided it was time to connect with others out there who were working toward the same goal. Of course, at the time, I knew nothing. Nothing about the craft of writing, had no idea there were more than a handful of souls out there who’d independently come up with the idea of writing a book–besides the obvious ones who were successfully published and well-known. I was blissfully ignorant. I knew nothing.

I researched writer’s conferences online and discovered a first novel, small-group conference on the West Coast. I live on the East coast. Over a thousand dollars, it was likely one of the most expensive conferences available to writers at the time. My husband was trying to be supportive, but asked, “Why do you need to fly across the country and spend that kind of money to do this? Isn’t there something closer and less expensive?”

I assured him there wasn’t. Remember, I knew nothing. I coerced my sister-in-law, who was also writing a book in a different genre, to join me in my folly. Fortunately, the conference was legit. It was pitch-intensive. The coordinator brought in well-known agents, editors and authors of books on craft. We wrote pitches, practiced pitches and pitched to agents. I was fifteen thousand words into my first novel.

I got my first request for a submission upon completion of my novel. I’d used the word “horseshit” in my pitch. I cringe now in remembrance. I completed that novel in six months. I sent it right out to that well-known agent and was offered representation. First novel, first submission. Cha-ching. 

Folks, if you’re in this business, you gotta be shaking your head right now. This NEVER happens. I’d hardly mastered point of view; the work was littered with all the great big, nasty no-nos the craft books warn us against. But it was different, it was fun, Southern and penned with the absolute joy and abandon of one who knows no stinkin’ rules.

Surprise, my book didn’t sell. But my former agent, whom I still hold love in my heart for for believing in my raw talent, had suggested immediately that I join RWA and my local chapter, Georgia Romance Writers. That’s where my education of this whole writing world began. I learned about critique partners, connected with others who were writing in my genre and attended conferences where I’ve learned from brilliant authors and teachers how to craft fiction. It’s an ongoing process.

I’ve been to Thrillerfest in New York City, a pitch fest in NYC, several national Romance Writer’s of America conferences all over the U.S. and many regional RWA chapter conferences. They all offer something different and unique. From each of these, I’ve never failed to come away with new friends with whom I stay in touch, a fresh perspective on my writing and fun experiences that continue to enrich my life.

I’ve had some recent success, and things are definitely looking up for me and my writing. But I don’t think I would ever stop attending conferences. They’ve been too valuable in too many ways.

Have a lovely holiday season, no matter how you celebrate!

Susan

4 thoughts on “The Value of Writers’ Conferences, Both Small and Large

  1. Ignorance TRULY is bliss when it comes to writing. I know I’m proud to be in that Quartet of babes in the photo. Having a tribe of other writers to sympathize and/or kick your ass when needed is important.

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