by Karen Jurgens
What is the benefit of a large writers’ conference versus a small one? Understanding which kind best meets your needs can make all the difference.
My first major event was at a huge She Speaks conference a few years ago in Charlotte, North Carolina. It combined both speaking and writing classes, along with appointments for book publishers, agents, and editors. Big-named authors spoke, and the conference rooms were packed out. A prayer chapel, staffed with available counselors, remained open all day. Along with the excellent praise-and-worship in the mornings, the evenings concluded with international speakers or with Lysa TerKeurst herself.
The food at the hotel was beyond delicious (I had forgotten, living in Texas, that there was anything tastier than Mexican), making the hours spent sitting and absorbing information just as palatable. The air conditioning in the hotel couldn’t be adjusted, but as long as you came prepared with warm sweaters and jackets, the cold was tolerable (I have always been a freeze-cat). Post conference, attendees could buy Lysa’s books, which she personally autographed, as well as sign up for optional online opportunities that avail writing resources and encouragement every month.
Another large conference I attended took place in Dallas last year—ACFW, or American Christian Fiction Writers. Again, classes on various topics ran throughout the day. The main hub of interest congregated around the appointment desk to see agents, editors, and publishers. Encouragement and excitement buzzed as these professionals met with both seasoned and brand-new writers who pitched their novels’ story lines.
The food was absolutely five-star gourmet and did Texas proud. Praise-and-worship happened after breakfast, and there were major speakers after evening meals, culminating with formal award ceremonies on the final night. People networked, exchanged business cards, and made many new friends (I even met Harriet, one of my fellow crew members, at breakfast one morning after randomly choosing a seat beside her).
But small conferences are also just as wonderful. A few months ago I attended WordWyse Exposytions for Indie authors. A hunting lodge in east Texas hosted the intimate two-day event, and its huge stone fireplaces roared with warmth from early morning to dark night. The setting was idyllic—a pond surrounded with towering trees, dotted with deer, birds, and other wildlife coming to drink.
There were no individual classes, but different authors and marketers took turns speaking to the entire group. The marketing suggestions were invaluable, especially for those just entering the world of indie publishing. Caryl McAdoo provided a notebook full of all the information presented, so that we could have a permanent record of the online resources available to us.
The meals at the lodge included smoked meats—some from fresh kills in that area—along with homemade Texas cooking. The group was informal and small enough so that we could exchange cards, circulate, and meet everyone by the conference’s end.
Whatever your choice—from massive and glitzy to intimate and cozy—writers’ conferences are full of new opportunities for personal growth and professional enrichment.
Writing Prompt: Which type of writers’ conference do you prefer? Why?