So… What Exactly Is a Writers’ Conference?
This week, welcome to the world of writers’ conferences, which can lead to good things, great things or no things.
How so? To best understand that, let’s first discuss exactly what these creations are.
This is an event that often takes place over a week or weekend that brings writers together for the purpose of strengthening their craft and helping them mingle with editors, agents, publishers, marketers and other writers.
These can and usually do include classes or workshops, featured speakers and vendors. There are also typically opportunities to interact directly with literary agents and publishers, though you might have to pay extra for those depending on the exact writers’ conference we’re talking about.
To give you an even more detailed description, here’s the itinerary of the Lancaster Christian Writers Super Saturday Seminar 2017, which I attended earlier this year, as copied and pasted from its website.
8:30-9:30AM—OPENING: Sebastian Hall (SAC101), Sebastian Academic Center.
Keynote—Mike Dellosso: "Being Content with Where God Has You NOW".
9:30-9:45 AM—BREAK: Bookstore Open (SAC 103, left corridor).
Sebastian Hall— DON CATLETT: Social Media Bootcamp 101: Getting Started Right!
SAC 112 (right corridor)— ROSEANNA WHITE: Fiction Rules and When to Break Them!
11:00-11:15AM—BREAK: Bookstore Open (SAC 103, left corridor).
11:15 AM-12:30 PM—SECOND WORKSHOP:
Sebastian Hall—CAROL COOL: Making It Fly: Organizing Your Piece for
SAC 112 (right corridor)— LAURIE EDWARDS: Adding Emotion to the Page: Surefire Techniques to Connect with Readers.
12:30-1:30 PM—LUNCH: Buffet served in LBC cafeteria; Bookstore open (SAC 103).
1:30-2:45 PM—THIRD WORKSHOP:
Sebastian Hall—ROSEANNA WHITE: What Are You Looking At? A Fun-filled Tour of the Cover Design Process.
SAC 112 (right corridor)—MIKE DELLOSSO: Everyone’s Got a Story: Turning Your Life into Award-winning Fiction.
2:45-3:00 PM—BREAK: Bookstore Open (SAC 103, left corridor).
3:00-4:15 PM—FOURTH WORKSHOP:
Sebastian Hall—DON CATLETT: Social Media Bootcamp 102 – Tying It All Together!
SAC 112 (right corridor)— LAURIE EDWARDS: Information Dump or Dramatic Flashback? Using Back Story the Right Way.
*Faculty Appointments in Hollee's Cafe; Bookstore open briefly following last workshop.
Now, depending on whether you’re a Christian writer in the Lancaster, PA, area or not, that itinerary may or may not automatically interest you. If you are, then this is a writers’ conference that runs every year.
If you’re not, then no worries. You can still use it as a guideline for every other writers’ conference out there.
For example, that 8:30-9:30 slot is just the opening ceremony stuff. It’s where everyone gathers as one big group to hear instructions, directions, disclaimers and the keynote speaker’s speech. If you didn’t bring a writing pal with you – or even if you did – then this is a great time to make some new writing acquaintances and maybe even resources.
That 9:30-9:45 “break” isn’t always going to be mentioned so precisely. But these conferences are always going to have some push for you to buy stuff, whether it’s books or services. It’s important to keep in mind that they’re not charities; they’re businesses. As such, they’re selling products and services. And it’s up to you to determine whether those offerings are personally worth it or not.
Then there are the workshops. For me, I chose Don Catlett’s “Social Media Bootcamp 101,” totally skipped the second set of options, attended Roseanna White’s “What Are You Looking At? A Fun-Filled Tour of the Cover Design Process” and then sat in for “Social Media Bootcamp 102.”
As an editor and writing coach, I didn’t think I needed to hear the mechanics behind the writing-related presentations. More than likely, I already know them, which means I’m much better off practicing those skills – or getting basic guidelines on related subjects I’m not an expert on, such as social media and graphic design.
And, for the record, I wasn’t disappointed in my choices. They were exactly what I needed to hear. It’s important to assess your strengths and weaknesses before and during these conferences so that you maximize the money you pay for them.
As for the last item on the itinerary – the one with the asterisk: “Faculty Appointments in Hollee’s Café” – that would be the “opportunities to interact directly with literary agents and publishers” I mentioned.
In the case of the Lancaster Christian Writers Super Saturday Seminar 2017, there weren’t actually any literary agents and publishers available. Instead, attendees could choose a 25-minute session with either an editor/writing conference director, editor/author, author, or social media expert.
Once again, I went with the social media expert, Don Catlett, who was very knowledgeable.
All of which brings me right back to the question of whether the overall experience led to good things, great things or no things. But that’s a discussion for Thursday and the writers’ conference-related Challenge.