Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Jenny: What a Conference Can Do For You

My area writers’ group, DFW Writers’ Workshop, is gearing up to host its annual event, so conferences have definitely been on my mind. If you’ve ever been to one hosted by another stellar organization such as SCBWI or RWA, I probably don’t have to explain you how worthwhile they can be. But if you haven’t ever registered for one, let me convince you to get thee to a conference like DFWcon.

1.  A conference can connect you.

Writing can be a lonely pursuit. Between you and the page, there may be nothing but a sense of isolation and creeping doubt. But when writers get together to learn from professionals and from each other, bonds are formed. Beyond the panels and the pitch sessions, there are endless opportunities to interact with other like-minded folks. I can’t tell you how many of my friends--online and IRL--I’ve met at conferences. I love that my circle of friends grows larger and more interconnected with each event!

2.  A conference can equip you.

If you’re like me, you’re always looking for learning opportunities. You’re always stretching for the words just beyond your reach. Conferences and workshops expose you to new ideas and experiences, elements that are crucial to a writer's development. If I had a dollar for every lightbulb moment I’ve had during a DFW event, I’d have more than enough cash to buy lattes for life.

3.  A conference can motivate you.

Have you been working on the same book for years? Are you stuck in revision hell? Have you started seven short stories and three novels, yet never quite finished anything? If so, saddle up and register for a conference with agent and editor faculty. The thought of pitching a polished project may be just the kick in the pants you need to get writing again. (Have I mentioned fabulous Sara, my own agent, will be fielding pitches and speaking at DFWcon????)

3. A conference can inspire you.

Few writers scribble out eighty thousand words and stumble into instant success. Publishing is a tough business, and writers often need more than mental toughness to make it very far. Conferences foster a sense of community and they help writers develop a strong support system--one that’s able to sustain them through setbacks and rejection and one that’s also able to spur them on. Many a workshop friend or panelist has inspired me to keep doing that impossible thing--to keep writing no matter what.

These are just a few of the many things a conference can do for you.

I’m fortunate to live in the Dallas area, where I can enjoy the camaraderie and the rich learning environment of both DFW Workshop and DFWcon. If you’re able to join us, Sara and I will be participating in a few sessions, and I’d love to meet you! If not, why not give another conference a try? Check out what SCBWI and many other fabulous groups have to offer--you might find yourself in the midst of something amazing. You may find a place in a vibrant community of writers.


13 comments:

  1. A conference can also leave you broke. Dang they are pricey!

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    1. Adam: Yes, you are right. They can be pricey. If it's too much, there are many writers' groups that are free or charge a very low fee per year or per event. Also, you get what you pay for--DFWWW is a non-profit org, but bringing in 20 or so NY agents and editors and hosting dozens of sessions and critique opportunities and providing parking and included meals for 200 plus people isn't cheap. (Although as a member of an organization, the conference is less than half the non-member price--good reason to join workshops like DFWWW or SCBWI, I suppose.)

      I hope you find the right fit for you and your budget. Cheers!

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  2. #1 is in many ways the thing that's hardest to accept and may not have the most immediate results, but networking is so so so important. Because the people you meet at a conference can also provide you with motivation and inspiration down the road. It's not about making a connection that will get you published (though that happens and is nice). It's about not being lonely once you LEAVE the conference. We all need champions and we all need to give encouragement as much as we receive it.

    As someone with social anxiety disorder, I feared I would not be able to make the necessary social connections to feel less alone as a writer, but I've found ways to overcome. I hope other writers will do the same!

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    1. I love that perspective, Evan! It's good to know that conferences have value for all kinds of writers, whatever their needs may be. :)

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  3. I recently attended the London Book Fair and I completely agree with your list. Great post!

    http://emcastellan.com/2012/04/10/a-guide-to-attending-international-book-fairs-for-would-be-published-writers-the-london-book-fair-2012/

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    1. Oh, wow, EM. Boy, do I wish I could attend the London book fair! (Or visit London, at all, for that matter.) :)

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  4. Last year's DFWcon was the first conference I ever attended. I was absolutely blown away by how much I learned. Plus, it's wonderful to meet fellow writers who-probably unlike most of your family and friends--are as geeked out about books as you are. :) YAY DFW!

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  5. Janet, DFWWWW loves hearing those kinds of stories. I know the conference board works a lot of long hours, and it's awesome to see how it pays off for folks like you!

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  6. I'm heading to my very favorite conference this weekend! And I totally agree with everything you said. Conferences are the best! I love love love them. There's nothing like being surrounded by people that love this thing we do every bit as much as we do.

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    1. Peggy: AMEN. I love, love, love them too. :)

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  7. I'm attending my first conference this year, and it happens to be DFW Con. I can't wait. I think it will be a great experience. Great post.

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  8. Jenny, great post. I'll be attending DFWCon and I can't wait! As a write-from-home mom, I've battled (am battling, actually-- present tense) the loneliness and isolation inherent in a writing career. Thank God for other writers, and the encouragement we can be for each other!

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