Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Why You Should Attend a Writer's Conference

A group shot of the conference attendees
Recently I had the privilege of travelling to Florida for the Florida Christian Writer's Conference—my first official writer's conference! 
Now a week  and a bit after the conference, I've had some time to talk to people about my travels. One question that's kept coming up is, "So was traveling all that way really worth it?"
Yes! A million times yes. I mean, I didn't have to travel across the continent (I had friends there though and I wanted to see them ^_^) but going to a conference helped me in many, many ways. If you're an aspiring writer, I want to encourage you to find a conference out there to attend. Here's why:

You can learn about the industry.  If you're serious about getting published, go ahead and do as much research as you like but immersing yourself in the industry for a few days is so much better. Editors, agents, publishers and authors all run workshops, roam around the conference centre and sit with other writers at mealtimes. 
My mom came with me and she told me after that she had no clue what the industry was like until the conference—and she didn't even attend any of the sessions. There's much more to the world of writing than I pictured. Discovering these things alone has given me more confidence.

Me, my friends Tori and Cassidy
and Bryan Davis. Our mugs say:
"I write" "You write" "We All Write"
"Past Midnight" 
Improving your craft is practically guaranteed. Unless you're stubborn about it, I don't see why you wouldn't be learning things. The people teaching the classes are authors, editors, agents and publishers. How could you not learn from the people who know what it means to be a great author? 

You get to meet people who like to write just like you. It's a common thing for writers to feel misunderstood by even the people who are closest to them. Friends and sometimes even family may not fully get why you stay up so late, why you'll spend hours researching a foreign country or why you feel the need to celebrate when you overcome four weeks of writer's block. 
A writer's conference thrusts you into an environment where a lot of people are like you. When I got into the shuttle heading to the conference centre, I had plans to sleep...until the ladies in the van started asking each other about their books and asking me when I started writing and why. 
When I asked another first time attendee what her writing mood is, she looked like she wanted to hug me and said, "I can't believe other people have writing moods!" Yes! There are others! Come meet us, we want to meet you! 

The Teen Track
Not only can you meet other writers but you can befriend them.  During the conference I got to know 17 or 18 writers part of the "Teen Track" continuing classes. From dominating the tables at lunch to critiquing each other's work until midnight, we spent a lot of time together.
And we still do! After the conference we started a group Pinterest board, chat in group messages on Facebook and one webcam meeting has already taken place. 
You might go to a conference not knowing anyone but you'll probably come out of it with new friends.

You can make connections. Yes, connections. Kinda like secret agent connections but the agents aren't really all that secretive...
But sometimes it can feel as hard to get into the writing industry as you imagine it might be to get into the CIA. Conferences take away that awkward middle ground called the internet. The internet may connect us in many ways but when it comes to stuff like trying to meet editors and agents, it actually separates us. 
Agents aren't secretive, they aren't gonna hide until you can tell someone the secret password. In fact, they'll start a conversation with you about "Sherlock" and "Castle" if it comes up. I speak from experience. 
Besides all the business cards I collected, I'm Facebook friends with a couple editors now and follow another on Pinterest.
The middle ground is non existent at a conference; the only thing holding you back from talking to agents, editors, and publishers is you.

Have you ever attended a conference? What kind of things did you get out of it?
Do you want to attend a conference in the future? Let me know in the comments :)