The Importance of Writers Conferences

Last June I was awarded a scholarship to attend my very first writers conference via Wyoming Writers, Inc. I was nervous, unsure of what to expect, and completely alone when I arrived at the hotel hosting the conference. I knew of only one person who would be there, John Nesbitt, but I knew not where he was or when he would be arriving.

On a dare to myself I had signed up for the first evening’s critique tables where I shared the first chapter of my paranormal comedy. It was terrifying, exhilarating, and everything I needed to start my experience off in the right direction. My table partners were informative and kind – filled with great ideas and their own intriguing stories.  I made my first friends here and we were rather inseparable throughout the rest of the weekend. This table gave me the confidence to go boldly into seminars by myself because I knew I was on equal ground with all in attendance. It was perfect… and addicting. I have my eye on next year’s conference and I cannot wait to participate in many others in the area.

Below, I have compiled a list of fifteen things I learned from that first conference. I hope they help you along your way:

1.) Go to as many conferences as you can! Not only will you be surrounded by like minded people, but you’re also likely to learn a thing or two. It’s a great place to network, learn about your craft, and stretch your comfort zone.

The Tall Mom, blogger and writer.
2.) Write every day. This wasn’t said so much as what I observed the successful people around me did out of habit. Write a poem, an essay, a letter to your mother, a review of a recent dining experience. Anything! Just write.
3.) Editors are very approachable and most will be eager to help you along your way. They understand this is a numbers game and eventually the right person at the right time will reach your manuscript. Keep moving forward. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, form connections, build a network.
Patrick Thomas of Milkweed Editions

4.) Submit to contests all over the world (but don’t worry about the ones who ask you to pay an arm and a leg to participate. $20 is a good max.)

5.) Read books from all genres – even the ones you don’t like very much and especially the ones who carry a similar theme to your own works. You’ll eventually need someone to compare to when pitching.

6.) Do NOT begin your sentences with participles – it leads to telling rather than showing the reader the world and is much weaker, even lazy, writing. “Walking into the room she turned on the coffee maker.” vs. “She walked into the room and turned on the coffee maker.” Be direct, stop skirting around the subject!

7.) Connect with editors, authors, and writers outside of your genre. Even if they are unable to buy your idea, they may know someone who can! Networking without boundaries is vital.

Tiffany Schofield, editor of Fivestar Publishing
8.) Sleep is not as necessary as you might think during a conference. Attend every event, even the 7am breakfast. Every minute spent within the community is a benefit.
9.) Find beta readers who are unfamiliar with you to receive honest feedback which you can use critically.
10.) At every opportunity, share your work. Open mic, paddle panels, critique tables, everything! The more comfortable you become reading your work the more confident you will become speaking about it. You never know who will be listening and what advice you can glean from your audience.
Open Mic Night – terrifying, but incredibly liberating.

11.) You don’t always need a filter like “she saw” or “he heard.” You can simply state the action observed. “She saw the cat jump into a bag too small for its mass.” vs. “The cat jumped into a bag too small for its mass.”

12.) “The strongest line in a paragraph is the last one.” – Kent Nelson

13.) To create a strong first page: “Go read the first 10 paragraphs of 10 great books. Decide which one you like best and retype it… See how elegant those lines are.” – AaronAbeyta

14.) Pitch the synopsis of your book to strangers. “Hey, just real quick can I get your opinion on a book?” *break into pitch* See how the individual reacts, ask for quick feedback.

Tina Ann Forkner, author
15.) Whatever you are afraid to do at a conference – GO DO IT! If you do not feel confident in your introduction take the seminar that will tear it apart. If you are intimidated by public speaking, jump in front of a mic. If pitching makes you sweat go pitch to as many people as you can whether they represent your genre or not!
My treat for participating in the critique panels. Yes, Dove, I really am.
Now go! Do! Get signed up for your first conference and have fun!
I’d love to hear about some of the tib-dits you’ve picked up along the way.

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Jaymee is the creative director and writing force behind Beaux Cooper Media. She loves to collaborate with other writers and journalists across the genres. Jaymee lives on the beautiful coast of Rhode Island with her cat, Ada, and dog, Bean.

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