As writers, we spend many hours in solitude, pecking away at the keyboard, looking up information on the Internet, or researching at the library. Conference season gives us the chance to come out of the office and get with like-minded writers.
Depending on where you live, how much time you have available, and how much money you can invest, there are many conference choices available. Finding a conference is never the problem-choosing which one or two or three to attend is.
Here is a checklist to consider as you read conference websites, newsletters, and brochures:
- Where is the conference being held, and have I always wanted to go there? If you can tie the travel to the conference in with your current work-in-process or perhaps the next planned novel, that is even better.
- Is the keynote speaker someone I’ve always wanted to hear? If so, perhaps this conference is for you. Research author credibility, publishing history, genre, and personality if you don’t recognize the keynote speaker.
- What do I expect to learn from the workshops? Repeating the same workshops conference after conference won’t be the best use of your investment. Don’t automatically sign up for workshops because they fit your genre-consider sitting in on some classes that you wouldn’t normally choose. At one conference, I went to a class on writing horror and discovered some really spooky traits to add to my antagonists even though I write suspense.
- What else can I accomplish while I’m there? Perhaps there is an afternoon of workshops that you aren’t particularly interested in. Use the time to visit museums or attractions that work into your novel. Plan to arrive early or stay after if you absolutely must attend every class.
- Does the conference include sessions where I will write or do homework? If so, this is probably a good choice. Imagine: a writers conference where you actually write.
Suppose you have two conferences but can only afford to go to one. How to choose without making money the only deciding factor?
- Mark every class at both conferences and see which one offers you the most opportunities to learn.
- Does one conference offer their sessions on CD or DVD while the other doesn’t? If so, perhaps attend the one and buy the CD’s of the other.
- Have you attended one of the conferences several times? Sure, it’s nice to renew old friendships, but perhaps this is the year to step out and make new friends.
- Are you looking for an agent or a publisher? Which conference offers your more opportunities to make that connection?
No matter which conference(s) you attend this year, be sure to have fun, talk to people you don’t know, take lots of notes, and come home recommitted to finishing your project and moving on to the next one. Never get so busy going to conferences that you don’t have time to write.