Linda Joy Myers
It’s hard to put into words sometimes how fantastic something is—even as a writer! People are always saying it’s important to attend writer’s conferences, and while we may think it sounds fun, we open our purses and look inside to see if it’s possible. It’s true—attending a live writing conference instead of one online includes travel expenses and time away from home. It means changing your life around for several days, and living out of a suitcase. It means ruffling your feathers and trying something new. It means being brave and putting yourself and your work out there. It can change your life. It’s like going to university for a few days, but only studying what you love. And then you can go back home.
I jotted down some highlights from the amazing and buzzing San Francisco Writing Conference, 2013—orchestrated so well by a team of writers, agents, and volunteers under the inspiration of Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen. This was the 10 year anniversary of the conference and many thought it the best yet. Why was that? Why should you attend a big conference like this?
Networking—everyone you will meet is passionate like you about investing in their writing life. They have friends, perhaps agents or other writers who are connected to other people etc. Chat it up with people in line, get their cards, and stay in touch afterward. Many new book deals are made because of networking. Buy books! Connect with authors you meet at the conference, published and unpublished. Get on email lists.
Quality Information—every panel discussion and workshop is aimed at delivering high quality information and not a small dose of inspiration. Take out your notebook and learn. Ask questions, stick around afterward and connect with the presenters. Develop your network! Find out how to learn more from them.
High level learning—they say that the best way to learn something is to have a feeling attached to it. During the keynote speeches for instance by R.L. Stine and Guy Kawasaki, the room was rippling with ahas and laughter, with nods of agreement and the click of keys on computers. The energy of connection and wow buzzed through the room, and everyone could feel it, offering a rousing standing ovation after the speeches. Networking of course was going on all through these lunch and breakfast events as people meet over coffee.
Inspiration—this was the order of the day for four days. The buzz of inspiration and “isn’t it fun to learn all this stuff” lit up the Mark Hopkins for days as Kawasaki, Stine, and so many other presenters like Stephanie Chandler, who talked about everything from eBooks to creating your brand, Meredith Maran, memoir and fiction writer on the Kickstart your Memoir panel with me, Mark Coker, creator of Smashwords, Randy Kuckuck of Publish Next, and Brian Felsen of Book Baby talked about creativity and making art. Yes, everyone talked about selling books and all the things we need to know about professional writers, but they kept using the word “art.” I love that! We are creating art, we are practicing the art of writing. And art changes lives.
Integration—when we learn, we have to shuffle our brain a bit to allow room for new wires to snap and flash. As I worked with the writers in my “Independent Editors” role for 3 hours each day, I could see the “ahas” light up their eyes as they sat across the table from me. They might see a new angle to their story, or find out that a particular paragraph worked really well, which led to more confidence about where they would go next. Most of them were practicing pitches to get ready to pitch to the agents during Speed Dating for Agents the following day—and they wanted to find out if their pitch worked or needed honing. A lover of stories, I enjoyed meeting everyone and getting glimpse into their lives through story. I will look for their book next year!
The year is young, and many conferences are available throughout the year all over the United States and the world. Look in the writer’s magazines like Writer’s Digest and Poets and Writers, and online and find one that shouts out to you. Sign up and wear your professional hat and smile!
- Be open to finding new friends, colleagues, and professional resources.
- Even if you’re a beginner, see yourself as a writer.
- Present a professional, curious, and respectful persona to all who attend.
- Get everyone’s card and generously give out yours. Even if you don’t have a book you can say “Writer.”
- Think of new ways you can shape your elevator pitch and practice it.
- Take great notes, and save your material on your computer to Evernote so you can synch it to all your devices.
- Take lots of photos and post them on social media. Build your network and platform.
- Have fun!
- Invest in an author, buy books!