I went to a local writer’s conference last weekend and I’m going to tell you why I think you should attend one.
This particular conference was sponsored and hosted by our county library system. It was reminiscent of small, software-specific technical conferences I attended when I was in the tech industry. There was a keynote presentation, several different course tracks, socials and even had a coffee station in the morning. This conference was free, so big value points right from the start. I attended the same conference last year (shortly after I started writing seriously) so this was a good comparison year for me.
You might be saying to yourself, “That’s nice for you, Mike, but my library system is pretty small.” To which I would say to you, “Have you asked, you poo poo head?” I think local libraries sponsoring writer gatherings is way more common than you might think. Librarians are legally bound to be either a) a writer or b) an author groupie. Often times they’re both. Even if the library doesn’t sponsor a gathering, I bet you that one of the librarians knows about one locally. Ask the one with the blue highlights-the young one who help set up the teen space with squishy chairs that are nicer than the ones you have at home. You know who I mean. He’ll know.
One of the few criticisms I have about the conference is that it was not well advertised. It was hard to find online and if I hadn’t heard about it from a friend, I never would have know it existed. Even so, there were almost 250 people who registered and attended.
Why should you attend a program like this?
The sessions were quite good. I was more interested in hearing the industry professionals this year. Andrew Karre, an executive editor from Dutton, was a real gem. After hearing his perspectives in the one-page-reads, I tried to attend every session that he was involved with. He works a lot with new authors and uses the title ‘pre-published’ instead of unpublished. I love the positive feel of that.
All but one of author sessions that I attended were good. The one exception was an unprepared presenter. It’s good that I waited to write this post because, had I written it directly after, I may have thrown some shade and called him out. No hate, but even for a free conference, if you’re going to be representing your genre as a pro, you should be professional. Preparing with some late night Google searching and coming with printed, food-stained pages from someone else’s website was less than professional.
Although most of the author presentations were good, I didn’t enjoy them as much this year. I feel that I’m in a transition zone between new writer and published author. Most of what they had to say would have been mind blowing for me before, but after a year of study and craftwork, I’ve heard most of the beginner information. Even so, there were still some great pieces of in-the-trenches advice on editing.
In addition to the authors presenting, the rest of the folks at the conference were wonderful. The organizers at the library were professional and knew their way around and through all of the little troubles that pop up in a show like this. The other writers who attended impressed me with their openness and bravery. There were many critiques and conversations that, for a group of mostly introverts, that showed talent and a willingness to learn. There were many folks that inspired me just by their presence. One 90+ year old mystery author amazed me with her insights.
I also saw many people from the various writing groups I attend. This was a big departure from last year. I sat with folks in sessions, ate lunch with critique buddies and gave hugs to folks I hadn’t seen for a while.
Bravery & Inspiration
For me, and maybe you too, attending an event like this is an act of bravery. It’s easy to sit and pound away at the keyboard in isolation for an introvert. We all need time by ourselves to recharge our creative batteries, but there is a line that I have crossed a few times into imposed isolation. This can be a scary place for a creative person – toiling in isolation or, worse, not toiling in isolation. It’s very easy to start on that path of alone-ness that slowly, without us noticing, leads us down that gradual spiral of depression. Breaking out, even though it can drain us mentally with social interaction, can be a balm for our mood and a kick in the ass for our projects.
I hope that I meet more people at the conference next year that will give me a swift inspirational kick to the ass. Hope you’ll be one of them.