On Saturday I attended the first ever Write on the Red Cedar writing conference, hosted by a relatively new writers group in the area, the Capital City Writers Association. The featured speakers were writer, blogger, and literary agent guru Chuck Sambuchino and literary agent April Eberhardt. Both were friendly, gracious, funny, informative, and accessible. In fact, everyone was friendly and fun to be around. It was a great group of both established writers (like Lori Spielman) and beginning writers.
But why go to a writers conference? Why spend the money? The time? I’m glad you asked. Here are 5 good reasons:
1. Network. Writing may be something you can do alone, but publishing and getting your book into the hands of readers is not. Even if you self-publish, you need a network of people who can help you along the way with everything from editing and cover design connections to endorsements and book reviews. So much of publishing success lies in who you know. So you need to get out and meet people.
2. Hone your craft. Working in isolation can make us fall into lazy writing, even bad writing. Yes, you can read books (like this one) but it’s also helpful to get jolts of focused advice in one-hour portions. I went to a workshop once that was about where to start your story, with much of the class focused on just the first sentence. It was extremely helpful.
3. Make new friends. I know you have friends, but having friends who are fellow writers is awesome. Writer friends spur you on, cheer for you, complain with you, and know what you’re going through. They read your drafts and give you constructive criticism. They go to the next writers conference with you. They are special.
4. Learn insider tips and tricks. When you go to a conference attended by professional writers, editors, agents, or anyone else involved in the Industry, you get priceless insider information about how publishing really works on the ground level. I gave out a lot of such information at both Breathe, where I was a speaker, and Write on the Red Cedar, where I was an attendee.
5. Meet agents and/or editors. Nothing can substitute for positive in-person interaction between a new writer and an agent or editor. Cold calls and queries just don’t carry the same weight as a handshake and a great conversation that will make you real and memorable. Not every conference or retreat has agents and editors attending, but even if they don’t, people you meet there can lead to meeting agents or editors in the future. You never know who someone else has connections with.
If you’re just starting out on your writing journey, I can’t recommend good writers conferences enough. Just being around that many other people committed to improving their writing and helping each other along the way is energizing and encouraging.