It’s Writing Conference Season. Are you thinking of attending one this year? Conferences are kind of scary, but they’re a big part of the writing and publishing scene. There’s lots of information out there on what to wear, how to do one-sheets, meet with editors, etc. I want to highlight how conferences can help us navigate to launch our creative ideas and keep them sailing.
I still remember my first conference. A friend, also a newbie, and I had seen it advertised in our group’s regional newsletter. We didn’t know what to expect—were we ready? Would people welcome such newbies? The one-day conference was doable though—not too far or expensive and on a Saturday, so we decided to take the plunge. On Saturday, with the sun and our hopes rising over the Hudson River, we drove south.
The day went by in a blur, but we had dipped our toes in the community of writing conferences and found the waters to be inviting and helpful. Here are 3 reasons attending a conference may encourage your creativity. You’ll also see lots more paintings by Winslow Homer and why I’ve included them.
Workshops at Conferences Help You Navigate the Seas of Publishing
My friend and I arrived in time for coffee and snacks (conferences always have lots of coffee and snacks) and to hear an encouraging keynote speaker. We then attended workshops taught by knowledgeable editors, agents, or experienced authors. I knew about picture books, chapter books, and middle grade books. What I didn’t know was how to write for different age groups and the word counts for these. What an eye-opener.
At other conferences I’ve taken classes on big topics like marketing strategies, the need for careful research with reliable sources, and all the publishing options available these days. Our own recent Write 2 Ignite conference gave more insights into how to craft better hooks, queries, and proposals.
I’ve learned smaller but still important stuff, too–that a picture book author needs to leave room for the illustrator’s work, and that some editors don’t want authors to give too many illustration notes either.
Conference websites list all their workshops with descriptions to help choose the ones most helpful for the stage of writing you’re in. They strive to have classes for newbies, as well as those farther along in their careers. Continuing classes meet each day of longer conferences and provide even more depth.
Rather than squelching your creativity, you’ll discover more ways to navigate your ideas to better ports, rather than letting them float around in your brain.
What are some things you’ve learned at conferences that have helped you navigate the writing and publishing world?
Meetings with Authors, Agents, and Editors at Conferences Can Help Launch Your Creative Ideas
I waded in a little deeper at that first conference, and met with an editor to discuss a story I’d written about the artist Winslow Homer. I was nervous, but I grew up in the same coastal Maine town, loving the same rocky cliffs and storm-tossed waves he’d painted. My grandfather had known him. I knew the stories behind many of his paintings. So I had a boat that could float, right? Well, . . . it was still a rather leaky rowboat, but the editor didn’t try to swamp my little boat. She was friendly and told me what she liked. She gave me pointers on how to improve my boat . . .er, writing.
There’s no denying these meetings are scary, but every author, agent, and editor I’ve ever met with have been just as friendly and helpful. They’re encouraging, and their advice is invaluable.
Conference websites give lots of information about their faculty so you can choose to talk to just the right person for the type of writing you do. Do assess where you are in your writing journey and what your goals are before making final choices. You may not be ready to talk to an agent, but talking with an author in your genre could make for smoother sailing ahead.
How have meetings with industry professionals contributed to launching your ideas?
Making Friends at Conferences Makes for Smoother Sailing
Think back to your school days. If you were new or didn’t have many friends, one of the loneliest parts of the day was entering the lunch room. Who would you sit with? What a difference it made if you had a friend or two who waved to you to come sit with them. Then lunchtime became fun and safe.
Writing can be lonely, too, but attending conferences puts you in touch with other writers. You’ll make friends who are sailing the same seas. When the storms of rejection or the doldrums of writer’s block slow you down, a friendly wave or email between your boats makes the sailing a lot smoother. They may know of a writing group in your area, or partner with you to encourage each other to write regularly.
Have you met people at conferences who have become life-long friends?
Conferences Help You Make a More Seaworthy Boat for Your Creative Ideas
The writing and getting-published sea can be stormy, so you need a seaworthy boat to carry your creative ideas safely to port. Conferences, both big and small, can help you build that seaworthy boat—a boat with knowledge of writing and the publishing industry and a boat with friends who understand the writing life.
So, don’t get stuck onshore watching other boats sail. Think of some ways you could plunge in and launch your own boat of creative ideas.
Kathy O’Neill is an art teacher who loves to show everyone they can draw. Visit her website http://www.kathy-oneill.com/ to discover more about her writing and workshops, and her blog https://kathythepicturelady.wordpress.com/ for a Christian view of great art and related projects and devotions for children. Kathy’s goal is to engage children’s and adult’s hearts, hands and minds to discover God and their own creativity through art, history, and nature