Community Encourages Creativity (Part 2) 3 Ways Writers’ Conferences Can Help Launch Our Creative Ideas    

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.

Breezing Up by Winslow Homer, 1873-76, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., public domain

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.

Mink Pond by Winslow Homer, 1891, Bridgeman Art Library, public domain

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.

Boys in a Dory by Winslow Homer, 1873, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, public domain

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.

Basket of Clams by Winslow Homer, 1873, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, public domain

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.

Clear Sailing by Winslow Homer, 1880, Philadelphia Museum of Art, public domain

Kathy O’Neill is an art teacher who loves to show everyone they can draw. Visit her website to discover more about her writing and workshops, and her blog 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

8 thoughts on “Community Encourages Creativity (Part 2) 3 Ways Writers’ Conferences Can Help Launch Our Creative Ideas    

  1. I’m attending Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference next week, and I’m overwhelmed with all the class choices—and some overlap! I love to learn new techniques and get great ideas for my writing projects. I also plan to sign up for a 15-minute appointment with an agent and editor, which of course, is a bit nerve-wracking.

    But I’m confident something good (not necessarily a contract) will come from it all. I’m doing my homework anead of time, examining class descriptions, perusing agent’s and editor’s websites to prepare myself for the busy week ahead!

    Thanks for your tips and words of encouragement, Kathy!

    1. I love how you combine Winslow Homer masterpieces and your encouraging words in your post. (Your book idea about Homer sounds amazing! I’d love to read such a book.) Thank you for reminding me of the power of conferences and for giving me a gentle nudge to finish the registration process for one.

  2. I love how you related writing and attending conferences to sailing and the sea. Your tips were encouraging and very relatable. I have attended conferences where I knew very few people. But in order to learn more, we often need to take those steps of faith and wade out a bit into the sea of the unknown 😉

    1. How fun that you continued the sea metaphor! Love it! It is a step of faith to wade out into the sea of the unknown, but God blesses our faith and trust, doesn’t He! I’m so glad you found my post relatable and encouraging.

  3. It’s been a while since I’ve attended a writers conferance, but these are options that I’ve taken too. And besides that, I LOVE how you connected each thought with a lovely “boating” painting. A joy for the eyes as well as the mind. Thank you, Kathy! I would like to contact you later about writing a guest post for our writer’s blog – THE WRITERS IN RESIDENCE – later this year.

  4. You’re so welcome, Jackie! I had hoped readers would feel that way, so I really appreciate your encouraging comment. And I’d love to talk with you about a guest post-that would be an honor.Thank you!

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