5 Reasons to Go to Writing Conferences

Identify why you go to writing conferences in order to realize the greatest value from them

5 Reasons to Go to Writing ConferencesA couple weeks ago I attended a writers conference, my second of the year. My goal is to attend two a year, but for 2016, I will make it three. While the reasons people attend writers conferences vary, such as an excuse to travel, a chance to see friends, or a means to meet with agents, I go for other reasons:

Learn About Writing and Publishing: My primary reason for going to writing conferences is to improve as a writer. I want to pick up pointers on how to write better and more effectively. I also seek to gain a deeper understanding of what it is to write for a career and learn more about the publishing industry.

Hang Out With Other Writers: I often think the only people who really understand writers are other writers. While our family and friends do their best to support us and give us space (my wife is amazing in this regard), only other writers actually get it. It’s good to spend time with people and not have to explain our self or our career.

To Meet People: Over the years I’ve made many friends at writers conferences. It’s great to reconnect with them each year (and throughout the time between). Plus I’ve been able to work with some of them in various capacities because of first making a connection at a writers conference.

Schedule Appointments: Many writing conferences make provisions for time to meet individually with editors, agents, and publishers. These times are invaluable. In addition you can meet informally with specific people or groups after the end of the day’s schedule.

A Break: I don’t take my computer to writing conferences. I’m not there to write; I’m there to learn. I will write when I return home. A short breather from writing is good. Plus it lets me know that I won’t die if I go a couple of days without writing.

So after a two-day respite from my normal routine and with a lot of great tips and ideas, I’m now back from my conference and striving to catch up from being gone. I have all of my follow up work done, except for one item. (Though I am still working on my list from my earlier conference this year.)

It’s great to go to conferences and great to return home and begin applying all I learned.

4 Reasons You Should Attend Writing Conferences

Being in a creative environment offers writers many benefits not found elsewhere

4 Reasons You Should Attend Writing ConferencesA few weeks ago I attended a writers conference, the Festival of Faith and Writing. Setting a record, there were over 2,100 attendees who invaded the campus of Calvin College. I wasn’t planning on going and then changed my mind at the last minute. I’m glad I did.

Rather than reporting on specific things I learned, I’d like to share some general observations as to why I advocate going to writers conferences, which this one exemplified:

  1. Supportive: Non-writers don’t understand writers, so most everyplace a writer goes he or she is among people who don’t comprehend the writing life: the joys, the struggles, the motivation, the isolation, the rejection, and so forth. A writers conference is one place writers are surrounded by likeminded people. There writers don’t need to explain themselves or guard their words; they can be themselves and be accepted for who they are.
  2. Encouraging: A writers conference is a supportive environment. There we see other people who have found success in the writing world. Sometimes it is widespread acclaim, but usually it’s more moderate accomplishments. They show us what can happen and motivate us to do the same. Writing conferences spur us to persist in our work.
  3. Diverse: Writers conferences offer variety in both attendees and presenters. By being exposed to a diversity of backgrounds and ideas, we expand our perspectives and open our minds to new possibilities. This informs our writing.
  4. Educational: Of course we go to writers conferences to learn about the craft of writing and the business of writing. This is valuable, but I list it last because to me the other items are more valuable. Still the educational lessons I learn stay with me.

I go to two writing conferences a year (though this year I’m making an exception and will attend three). A couple a year is enough to help keep me fresh and focused. If I go to too many it would actually get in the way of my writing, and I can’t allow that.

If you’ve gone to a writers conference that didn’t provide this type of environment or offer these benefits, maybe you picked the wrong one. But don’t dismiss all conferences just because one left you wanting. Instead pick a different one and try again. You will find the right one.

What writing conferences do you go to? What do you enjoy about them? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

The Breathe Writers Conference

Last weekend I was at the Breathe Christian Writers Conference. It was my fifth year attending and my third as a speaker. (I shared tips on getting started as a writer and how to use WordPress.)

Breathe is simply the finest writers conference I’ve ever attended. And this year it was the biggest one yet and, in my opinion, the best ever.

Breathe is full of inspiring presentations, informative workshops, networking opportunities, helpful people, nurturing situations, and great food. Aside from all this, the best part for me is talking with people. Some I meet for the first time, others I reconnect with each year, and many who I communicate with throughout the year but only see at the conference. Each year my list of friends who I see at Breathe grows.

At Breathe, we’re able to celebrate finished books, agents procured, book deals, and published books. More importantly, however, is those who don’t realize such grand results are not reduced or left languishing but are encouraged to persist.

Writing is a lofty calling and Breathe is a valuable resource to help us become what we yearn to become. Breathe is my “can’t miss” writers conference each year, and I hope you’ll make it yours.

Next year’s conference is October 9-10 in Grand Rapids Michigan.

What did you like about Breathe? What other writers conferences have you attended?

Writing Conference Update

I’ve just returned from a two day writing conference, the best I’ve ever attended.

Last year, I set a goal for this year’s conference, which I was able to meet.

I also had a long list of things I was looking forward to and every one was met and most were exceeded.

As a bonus I had a privilege to lead one of the conference sessions. I was blown away by the number of people who opted to attend my talk instead of the other options. I was even more blown away by all the positive comments and words of appreciation I received. It is so good to be able to give back.

I’ve already marked my calendar for next year’s Breathe Christian Writing Conference: October 18 and 19, 2013. (I’ll post more information here as the dates become closer.)

2012 Festival of Faith and Writing Conference

Last weekend I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing conference. It was in Grand Rapids at Calvin College. With 2,000 in attendance, it is by far the largest writing conference I’ve attended. At three days in length it is also the longest.

There were sixty presenters and since I am currently working on two memoir-style books, I attended many sessions covering memoirs. As a special treat I attended an offsite reading, courtesy of my critique group, featuring River Jordan and Amy Julia Becker.

Overall, I heard ten authors read their work. They were most mesmerizing. I wanted to buy a book from each one. And though I didn’t, I did break my “one-book-per-conference” rule, purchasing a book by both River and Amy Julia. I also won a book from one of the exhibitors, so I ended up with three.

The Festival of Faith and Writing conference is a biannual event, and I recommend you plan on it for 2014.

After the conference, I posted a press release on PRlog about my attendance.

This is the first of two writing conferences I will attend this year, with the other one being Breathe.

Festival of Faith and Writing Conference

There is a writing conference that I’ve been hearing a lot about lately, the “Festival of Faith and Writing,” held at nearby Calvin College. It first came to my attention just after the last conference.

My friend Gerald the Writer, a follower and frequent commenter of this blog, has been three times and speaks highly of it, as has every person who mentions it.

It is on my calendar and will be one of the two conferences I plan to attend in 2012. (I limit myself to two writing conferences per year and even removed one from my schedule to make room for this one.)

Here is the 411:

Festival of Faith and Writing
Calvin College
April 19-21, 2012

If you attend, let’s do lunch!

Buy One Book, Get Two Free

At the Breathe Writers Conference, I attempted to follow my self-imposed limit of one book per conference — a practical step given my proclivity to acquire books faster than I can read them.

I bought the latest book by our keynote, Caryn Rivadeneira. Her book, Grumble Hallelujah, was just released in August. I classify it as a memoir style. Yet one person bristled at that characterization, preferring the label of spiritual development. Caryn writes in a conversational and accessible style, with enough self-disclosure to draw in and connect with readers.

Her speaking style is much the same. I noticed that in both of her presentations, she read her introductions, but delivered them with such skill and pacing as to be largely unnoticed. Then she would segue to an outline for the rest of talks. Her transitions from script to notes were imperceptible.

When I asked her to sign Grumble Hallelujah, we had a chance to talk a bit. I complimented her speaking style and she surprised me by professing to be an extreme introvert. I guess most writers are, but I would have never guessed it with her.

The next day, at a lunch session with Timothy Burns about writers groups, I answered his opening trivia question and was awarded a free book: Your Exceptional Life Begins Now. It is a collection of stories, one of which was written by the speaker. (Can you ask a contributor to an anthology to sign the book? If so, on the title page or the chapter they wrote?) The question I answered was “What were the Inklings?”

At the conference’s concluding session, my name was selected to win a book. Drawings had been occurring throughout the event, but the odds were not in my favor. With only a trio of give-a-ways remaining, my name was called. In this case I did judge the books by their covers. Two had prominently pink designs, giving off a distinctive feminine vibe. I grabbed the third, a novel by Nancy Rue, called The Reluctant Prophet. I can hardly wait to start it.

So, despite buying only one book, I came home with three.

2011 Breathe Writers Conference

Last weekend I attended the Breathe Christian Writers Conference in West Olive Michigan. It was my second year and the conferences’ fifth or sixth. Breathe is a value packed conference that is priced right. Although most attendees were from southern Michigan, some came from out of state, as far away as Texas. Interestingly, Breathe was founded and is organized by a local writers group, The Writers’ Guild, an octet of talented, published ladies.

In addition to main sessions, featuring author and keynote speaker Caryn Rivadeneira, there were 24 breakout sessions to pick from and a concluding panel discussion. The sessions I attended were:

  • Creating the Best First Line (Cynthia Beach)
  • Digital World 101 (David Frees)
  • Publishing Process Overview (Andrew Rogers)
  • Agenting 101: Finding an Agent (Karen Neumair)
  • Adding Market Value with Study Questions (Sharron Carrns)
  • Book Publicity 201 (Kelly Hughes)

Of course, there were 18 sessions that I couldn’t go to, many which held equal interest and pull. I also was able to talk with friends from prior conferences and meet with an agent. See what you missed?

My head is still spinning with all the information that was shared and the ideas that were generated. My to-do list is long and will keep me busy for quite some time.

Next year’s conference will be October 12-13, 2012 and it is already on my calendar. I encourage you to add it to yours — and hope to see you there.

What writing conferences have you attended?

Consider Attending the 2011 Breathe Christian Writers Conference

Last week I blogged about attending the ACW Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Coming up is another conference: Breathe Christian Writers Conference. I am in much anticipation of this event — and have been for the past year.

I thoroughly enjoyed last year’s conference and heartily recommend it this year. For 2011, Breathe will be October 14 and 15, again in West Olive Michigan (just south of Grand Haven, Michigan). It is priced right and is sure to be packed with value. Even if you need to travel a bit to attend, it will be worth it.

I encourage you to check out Breathe Conference and attend if at all possible.

I hope to see you there!

Attending the 2011 ACW Writing Conference

Last weekend I attended the Christian Writers Conference in Grand Rapids Michigan. It was my second time at that particular conference, with last year being my first writing conference ever.

Last year, I was the proverbial deer caught in headlights. I was overwhelmed with how a writing conference functions and the voluminous information — much of it surprising — that was poured into my brain. This year I knew what to expect in terms of content and what I needed to do to squeeze the most value from the experience.

Although attendance was light, the speakers were again excellent. For day one, I chose the non-fiction track, buying the CDs for the fiction track. On day two, I bounced between the many breakout sessions. I was also fortunate to garner 15-minute personal consultations with three of the speakers. All offered wise counsel, which was worth the price of attendance.

I broke my rule of only purchasing one book, instead buying a work of each of the two main speakers. In addition, I was given a third book: The Slave Across the Street, a powerful — and shocking — true story of human trafficking in the US. To win this book, I needed to briefly write: “Why I deserve a free book.” My response was concise: “I write, therefore I am.” Everyone who submitted something won a book, but I was pleased with my submission.

I didn’t pitch any of my book ideas at the conference, citing that a need to complete my dissertation and a biography project were more than enough for me to handle right now. However, I was encouraged to begin pitching my ideas anyway, for even if one were accepted today, it would realistically be six months before I actually could begin work.

I also questioned what type of writing to focus on. Should it be my many non-fiction ideas, my memoir style concepts, or a fiction series? The advice was to pursue all three and let the marketplace (that is, agents and publishers) determine which road to take at this time. You never know what someone is looking for or what direction may be taken, so multiple pursuits are a wise strategy.

Putting all that I learned into practice will keep me busy for quite some time.