Like earning a writing degree, or joining a writers’ group, attending a writers’ conference can be a terrific way to procrastinate and avoid the hard, solitary work of writing. However, assuming you’ve nailed this prerequisite and your writing discipline is in place, the writers’ conference can be a very valuable addition to your writerly life.
I attended my first two writers’ conferences this year. The first was AWP 2018 (https://www.awpwriter.org/awp_conference/) and the second was Taylor University’s Professional Writers’ Conference (https://taylorprofessionalwritersconference.weebly.com/).
Here is what I found:
Exposure. I’m not talking about exposure for my work (although the open-mic was a great opportunity), I mean exposure to the writerly universe. Differing perspectives on craft. How writers, presses, editors, and agents promote their work and interact. A demystification of the industry and a knocking of the gatekeepers from our imagined pedestals.
Challenging Ideas. Talks on craft. Navigating the publishing world. Teaching. Building and maintaining a writing career. You are poked and prodded by lectures and panel discussions that push you to question your work, your approach, and your writerly priorities. The result? You have the opportunity to gauge where you really are in your development as a writer and to build or refresh a vision for where you hope to go, or not go.
Budding Relationships. It is possible, I suppose, to attend a conference and hold a conversation with no one, to float through like a leaf riding a river and drift from opening keynote to closing keynote having avoided speaking with a stranger. But this would take some real effort. Nearly without trying, you find yourself in conversations with people who share your passion, who can and want to help you succeed. Where else can you sign-up for a one-on-one with an editor/agent/publisher, walk up to the table of your favorite press, or chat with representatives from a university writing program?
So register and go. You’ll have a list like this one.