Experiencing a Writing Conference

Last year, I attended two writing conferences. I went with no clear goal in mind, merely trying to absorb what I could and learn as much as possible. Although I was a squirming novice attendee, I did gain much. This year I will return to those two conferences, this time with a careful plan to make the most out of them.

The first writing conference had no published authors in attendance; the second one had several — which was a bit intimidating. As someone without a book deal, I was in the majority, but we were a silent majority. The verbal minority had all published books.

At the first conference I was dismayed to learn that only three percent of writers make their living by writing full time; the rest need a “day” job to pay the bills. At the second conference I was further dismayed to meet a published author who has cranked out nine books in five years — he, too, needs a day job. By the way, he is not an obscure author either. I had heard of him and two of his books prior to the conference.

At the conference, he taught a class on memoir writing (teaching, incidentally is his day job). A few of my book ideas fall in that genre and he helped me clarify my objectives and develop a better vision. I was also fortunate to have a 15 minute personal consultation with him, where we discussed a specific book idea. He was most supportive.

At writers’ conferences there are always a plethora of books to buy. Each speaker will plug at least a couple. Knowing my proclivity to buy books faster than I can read them, I limit myself to one book per conference. This time I bought one of his memoirs. At our consultation, I asked him to sign it. He simply wrote, “Thank you for buying my book.”

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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