One of the best things writers can do to help further their writing career is to attend a writer's conference. The writing life can be isolating—even before the pandemic. Especially as continuous rejections are part of the gig, every writer feels the slump, times we question if we’ll ever be good enough. Besides teaching the craft and networking, a conference helps inspire and encourage writers, no matter if beginner or best-seller.
Invaluable Connections and Friendships
Especially when starting out, attending conferences regularly lead to friendships and relationships with other professionals like myself who are equally passionate about helping other writers. I have made life-long connections with people I can call with questions, and vice-versa.
It was at the Butler University Children's Literature Conference in 1992, where I first heard author Patricia MacLachlan speak, which inspired me to write for kids. At this same conference, I also met author Kimberly Brubaler Bradley. We formed a critique group of children's writers in Indianapolis I attended for nine years until moving. I was there when Kim Bradley’s first book received an offer, Ruthie's Gift, with Delacorte Press. (So cool!) And I have shared before, being part of this critique group definitely furthered my career.
Flash forward eleven years, to the 2013 annual Texas Library Association’s conference (TLA), I had a full-circle moment when I actually met Patricia MacLachlan in person, and I was able to share personally with her, how her speaking inspired my passion for children's publishing.
Writers Helping Writers
I am passionate about helping other writers, as I myself was helped over the years.
One thing speakers at conferences have in common is a desire to help other writers. The writing profession is hard. It can be isolating. I was helped along my career journey by other writers, and I heard long ago at a conference that we need to help each other--which I believe to this day. Writing is a profession of constant rejection. You meet people along the way that you connect with. And some you don’t. Through learning to respond to constructive criticism and perseverance, writers meet mentors, editors; connections are made, and relationships are forged—through ink, blood, sweat and tears.
In another lovely twist, over time I have been asked to speak at conferences and sometimes not been available, but then have been able to suggest other authors I know, helping other writers get speaking gigs! And I LOVE when that happens! I know I am helping writers achieve career goals.
How to Find Conferences Near and Far
Try searching for “writers conferences [IN YOUR CHOSEN GENRE]" and see what pops up. Some of my favorites include all things SCBWI, local, regional, nationwide and international; ALA, ABA, PENCON, and Maranatha Christian Writers Conference, hosting its 45th annual authors conference this September. Also search locally. Some of my favorites in Michigan include SCBWI-MI and M.A.M.E., Michigan Association for Media in Education. Every state has professional writing organizations, colleges, bookstores and more, and making local connections are invaluable in self-promotion and marketing for every writer. In addition to publishing and writing, every industry has associated professional organizations and conferences that can be found through a quick internet search.
Some conferences require membership, others will charge an extra for nonmembers, and some will cost nothing. Thanks to advances in technology and the realization of the virtual workspace, I have taken advantage of online conferences and workshops I never would have been able to attend otherwise, like SCBWI’s upcoming annual summer conference, occurring four days every year in L.A.
At every conference you will also find writers of every level, beginning to best-selling. And no matter what stage, every single attendee leaves a conference with some personal take-away, feeling inspired, encouraged, and reminded of why we writers continue to write.