Sunday, August 19, 2007

Why Aspiring Authors Should Attend Writers Conferences

Thank you for your kind invitation to contribute to your fascinating blog. OK, just who am I and why am I here? I’m a writer and an actor and also the producer/director of the annual Columbus Writers Conference, celebrating its 15th year, August 24-25.

My goal on this blog is to answer an interesting question someone asked me this week. It went something like, “I’ve been surprised by writers who say they never attend a writers’ conference. I get the impression they think conferences are for literary types. How would you overcome that type of response?”

I’m like a horse at the starting gate, can’t wait to answer the question.

Writers’ conferences are for writers in just about every genre, but each conference has its own personality. First and foremost, writers must review what each conference has to offer to be sure there’s a good match in terms of presentation and workshop topics, speaker interests, and conference activities. Some of those activities include one-to-one consultations, advance critique of manuscript portions, writing competitions, and open mikes. A wonderful resource that lists what appears to be almost every writers’ conference in the world is ShawGuides. The direct link is

Learning something new about writing and connecting with authors, literary agents, and editors are obvious conference benefits. But let’s also consider the “icing” on the cake.

1) A writer has the possibility of discovering new ideas for or his or her work either through attending sessions or networking.

2) A writer may hear something in a session he or she already knows, but finds the reinforcement valuable, and/or discovers an important “twist” on a familiar theme.

3) Conferences often have handouts and other free information, which are helpful for later reference. Many have bookstores with titles you might not readily find elsewhere.

4) Meeting other conference registrants, from beginners to polished professionals, is one of the highlights of attending a conference. Writers can learn from one another no matter the stage of professional development. A number of Columbus Writers Conference attendees have become fast friends or professional colleagues and meet each year at the event.

5) Creativity and inspiration take a front seat. I’ve talked with conference attendees at the end of each event and so many express feeling energized. They can’t wait to get back to their desks and start writing!

6) Although conferences do not make promises regarding this, some attendees do get published as a result of their networking with literary agents and editors.

In a nutshell, a writer can expand his or her horizons on so many levels by participating in a writers’ conference.

Eight editors, six agents, and 14 other speakers who will be presenting more than 50 sessions at the annual Columbus Writers Conference. The quick list can be accessed through Full bios are also on the web site. Four would be of particular interest to mystery writers.Lee Lofland is an expert on police procedure and crime-scene investigation and author of Police Procedure & Investigation: A Guide for Writers.Tom Sawyer, novelist, screenwriter, and playwright, was head writer/producer-showrunner of the CBS series Murder She Wrote.Karen Harper is a best-selling author of contemporary suspense, historical mystery, and historical novels.Antoinette Cross is co-owner of Foul PLay Mystery Bookshop, a bookstore devoted to crime fiction.


Kathryn Lilley said...

Great post, Angela! When I was starting down the road to publication of my new series, I attended a writing convention in Florida. It was an experience that totally transformed my frame of thought about writing. Before the conference, I'd felt very isolated, very "alone with the word processor," and feared that the dream of becoming a fiction writer might be just that--a dream. I went to the conference, and lo and behold, there were writers everywhere. And they were--gasp!--regular people! All at once, I realized that this dream of writing was within my grasp. At most conferences, you'll learn tips of the trade, craft techniques, as well as get some leads on how to find an agent. A few months after my first conference, I was on my way to a contract with a major publisher. I can't say enough about the conference experience for aspiring writers.

Camille Minichino said...

It may not be obvious, but physics is very much a team effort. No one these days can afford to have her own lab with her own 20-beam laser, so everyone works together.
When I thought I might enter the writing world my big concern was that I'd be alone in all phases of the process. It was my first conference, as well as my first critique group, that put that fear to rest.
I've enjoyed and profited from the wonderful spirit and vast amounts of information I get from conferences, big and small.