Monday, June 23, 2014

5 Reasons to Attend a Writers Conference

Con or Con, There Is No Not-Con - Yoda.

Okay, so maybe that’s not exactly what Yoda said. I think we all know what he actually said.

But still, when it comes to the question of whether or not you should attend a writing con the answer is easy: YES.

There are so many wonderful reasons to attend a con. If you are interested in any of the following 5 Reasons to Attend a Writers Conference – I’d say do it. Go.

1. Networking – um hello, has to be the number one reason to attend a con. We spend so much time walled up in our writing caves, deep in our own imagination, that we sometime forget to shower, eat, or otherwise take care of ourselves. Wouldn’t it be great to spend some face time with other people who can relate? (BTW, most people do shower before actually attending a con. Just so you know. And pants ARE required. ) Not to mention the fact that you can fangirl at cons, which, if you are like me, is your idea of networking.

2. Learning – Most writer cons have classes or workshops in which you can learn about craft, industry changes, publisher updates, what editors are looking for, and so much more. There are even cons that include workshop elements where your pages are reviewed by industry pro’s. But here’s where you’ll want to do your research. Some cons are aimed more at readers (so there is less emphasis on educating writers). Be sure you know what you want before you sign up.

3. Free Stuff – And I mean tons of it.

You get a book. And you get a book. And you get a book.

You get the idea. At cons you can snag boxes and boxes of free stuff from actual books to smaller swag, Cons are rife with free stuff. Check out these pics of all the free stuff I grabbed at RWA Nationals last year:

Free stuff day 1

Free stuff day 2

Pretty awesome, right?

4. Inspiration – At RWA National’s last year the entire event oozed inspiration. I felt like Mario getting a power up from some invisible mushroom or something. There were so many wonderful stories being shared. Everywhere I turned another author was telling a tale about how they got their agent or how they sold. The message wasn’t “this is some secret club that only cool kids can join” it was “if I can do it so can you.” And the luncheon speakers were amazing. First of all, they took the stage to speak in front of more than 2,000 people so hat’s off to them for having amazing lady-balls of steel. Second, both of them made me laugh and cry. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more motivated to push forward in my writing career than after I attended RWA Nationals (which is why I can’t wait to go back this year!).

5. Exposure – Okay, going to a con won't turn you into a sexy sun goddess. But, a writer con is the perfect place to soak up industry knowledge. So many writers never query. They toil over their work but never find the last resource of strength needed to get their book baby out into the world. Some of that might be due to fear. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown. And I firmly believe education and exposure can eradicate those fears. At many cons you can attend sessions with editors or publishing executives. Some cons offer workshops where you can spend one-on-one time with publishing pro’s. And still more, like RWA, offer pitching sessions where you actually, live-and-in-person, pitch your novel to an agent or editor. It’s scary. Yes. But it’s also not the end of the world. But it could be the start. A first step on a long path toward publication. And learning to pitch, learning to interact with the business side of publishing, is invaluable (or so I’m told – not that I’m published yet).

But writing conferences aren’t cheap (is anything cheap anymore? Sheesh):

The fact that not all cons are created equal means you should do your research before you drop the big bucks. Know what you’re looking for – if you want workshops and classes on craft a reader-focused event may not be worth your time and money. And if you want a smaller, more intimate setting, with a greater emphasis on critiquing/workshop then a national event like RWA may not be right for you (Remember to check local chapters of writing organizations. RWA and SCWBI have local cons).

I am a huge fan of writing cons and have included in my business plan a commitment to attend cons in the future. I want to stay current and keep improving. Next up, RWA 14 in Texas. I can’t wait. If you see me there, feel free to say hello.

Have you attend any great cons? Share your experience here:

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