René Penn

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6 Reasons to Attend Writers Conferences

Last week, I attended the LaJolla Writer’s Conference and had a blast. jeremy-bishop-151531If you’ve never attended a writer’s conference before, I highly encourage this one—which is known for its small workshop sizes, easy access to authors and agents, and lack of slimy salesmanship. Whether you attend this conference or not, it’s a great experience for writers to go to one—preferably one each year, at least. Here are six reasons to attend writers conferences.

  • Immerse yourself in the writers community

Going to a conference gets us out of our solitary, isolated fantasy world. And that wasn’t just a pun for fantasy writers, it goes for all of us. A conference provides a different experience than a writer’s group, and exposes you to a variety of resources and information that is hard to match outside of the conference spectrum.

  • Learn (or re-learn) tips for story structure, one-sentence summaries, etc.

I learned at least 10 story-plotting methods last week, like “M.I.C.E.,” “Snowflake” and the “3-Act, 9-Block, 27-Chapter” methods. Many of them I already knew, a few of them I didn’t. Most of them are just variations of the three-act structure. The “Plotting Magic” workshop of 15 plot steps led by Marni Freedman really resonated with me, which follows the Writer’s Journey/Hero’s Journey concept.

  • Meet new friends who are quirky like you.

I don’t know about you, but most of my friends aren’t writers. As incredibly supportive and encouraging as they are, they don’t know that “muffin top” or “spare tire” aren’t what I mean by “sagging middle,” though it can be just as traumatizing. Writers conferences provide a safe zone for writers to be the quirky clan that we are, and to meet others who are like-minded.

  • Hear from authors, agents and editors.

For some writers, this is the main reason they attend conferences. Many times, you’ll have the opportunity to pitch your idea directly to an agent—or in my case last week, be able to sit with one and nine other writers during dinner. Conferences offer the chance to get contacts in the industry that you may not make, otherwise. And if one is genuinely impressed with what they hear from you, you never know what may come of it.

Also, hearing from authors who have already crossed the publishing threshold—how long it took, the road they traveled to get there, and the sacrifices they made—is an inspiration.

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Fantasy writer Eldon Thompson and crime writer Meg Gardiner shared their wonderful journeys during keynote speeches at the 2017 LaJolla Writers Conference.

  • Learn about various genres.

If you write memoirs and are interested in fiction, for example, you can get a crash course on other genres. I attended sessions about screenwriting and non-fiction, just to mix things up a bit. Who knows where creativity may take me in the future?

  • Get inspired.

To me, this is the most valuable part of a conference. Inspiration is a by-osmosis experience that happens no matter what—even if a critique during a workshop stung a little or a pitch didn’t go as planned. I always leave a conference writing more than I did before I arrived.

Overall, it keeps you motivated to continue writing. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash