Connecting Through a Conference

by Betty Owens

Cuenca, Ecuador may seem a long way to go from Louisville, Kentucky to attend a writer’s conference. But yes, they do have them.

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That’s me teaching the novel-writing class in Cuenca, Ecuador!

I learned this when I went to Cuenca on a recent mission trip. While there, I taught a four-hour workshop on novel writing. In the process of planning and researching ahead of this class, I stumbled on a conference that meets annually in their late summer (February). I was able to recommend the conference to those who attended my class.

Why do you need to attend conferences? This was a point I touched on in the workshop. Here are my reasons:

  1. To connect with other writers, especially those writing in a similar genre
  2. To learn more about the craft of writing
  3. To meet agents, editors, and publishers
  4. To practice telling others about your writing

Notice my first item on the list is to connect with other writers. Living, breathing humans with a definite pulse. Yes, you can meet other writers online. You can “friend” them on Facebook or “follow” them on Twitter. But it’s just not the same and not quite as effective as meeting someone face-to-face. I’ve made some very important connections at writers’ conferences. Many of these led to lasting friendships. This is vital to your survival in the writing world.

coffee-break-1177540_1280Are you nervous about that face-to-face thing? Anxious about meeting new people? You’re not alone. Many of us feel exactly the same. But you need to put yourself out there, because—how will you ever manage to sell books if you’re afraid of meeting people? There are only so many family members and close friends. After you’ve sold to all of them, where will you go?

The people you meet at the conference probably won’t buy your books, but they can help you get the word out. I’m a lot more likely to share a book on Facebook if I’m acquainted with the author. I’ll invite those writers to post on my blog or do an interview. Hopefully, they will return the favor when I have a new book out.

Another way those connections with other writers can work for you—they can inspire and encourage you. Writers are some of the most giving people I know. They don’t hoard their knowledge. They give freely to others. And they have been where you are. They know how to talk you through the tough times. I don’t know about you, but this kind of thing is precious to me.

TeacherItem two is learning about the craft. Where else can you sit in a class taught by one of your favorite authors? Hear them tell how they got their start and how they honed their craft. What do you most need to learn? You can probably find a class on that. Even the smaller, regional conferences offer good classes. They offer them because this is how they keep writers coming back every year.

Agents and editors go to writing conferences to teach classes and to meet new writers. They’re always on the lookout for new talent. That could be you. Again, face-to-face is better than an email. Maybe you’re not ready for an agent or an editor. They can advise you. And friendship with an agent, editor, or publisher? Priceless! Just remember to be respectful of their time. They are busy, busy people.

The last item on my list is learning how to talk about your writing. Practice the “elevator pitch.” That’s the mini-version of your work-in-progress. Don’t give all the details. Only tell the juicy stuff. Keep condensing the story until you’re left with a sentence or two. If you don’t know how to do this, there’s probably a class for that at one of these conferences. 🙂

typewriter-1248088_1280So you want to attend a big conference, but money is tight? Go for one day. You can usually pay a smaller amount and attend one day’s classes. Then head home. Do what you have to do to get the knowledge to compete in our crowded environment. Yes, there are a lot of folks out there doing the same thing we’re doing. Writing their stories and vying for attention. This is why you need to stay on the edge. Learn the latest. It’s continuing education in a fast-moving world. You need to keep up. The writers conference can help you do that.

Writing Prompt Imagine yourself entering your dream writers conference where you immediately make the acquaintance of your favorite author, who asks for your help. Tell us where you are, who the author is, and what they’ve asked you to do…in story form.

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