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Magic Lamp

I waited way too long to attend my first writers conference. It’s my hope that this post will encourage other budding writers to take the formative step of attending a writers conference, and perhaps inspire veteran writers to keep coming back.

Writing conference reality check

Writing conferences are invaluable for connecting with people who share your passion. Writing is a solitary task, and meeting others who are on the same path is an affirmation that the struggle of words and stories is a valiant one. I always come away from a conference with a sense of kinship, that I belong to a tribe.

SCBWI LA Conference poster 2018

I had some strange ideas about writing conferences that held me back. So I was surprised when magic happened after I pushed past my fears and attended my first conference. Here’s a few things I’ve learned since then:

  • You don’t have to have a polished, ready-to-submit manuscript to attend a writing conference.
  • You can use writing conferences to workshop the first few chapters of a project, to get a barometer reading on the concept, voice, etc.
  • You can benefit tremendously from professional critiques in the early stages of a manuscript, getting feedback on concept, direction, and voice.
  • You learn the business of publishing at writing conferences, a must for anyone who is serious about following the traditional publishing path.
  • You form friendships with writers with which you can exchange constructive feedback, bolster one another through tough times, and celebrate each others successes. In short, friendships that last a lifetime.

The DOs

Books in flight

A few tips for a rewarding conference experience:

  • Seek out writing conferences in your genre. I write for young readers and just returned from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Summer Conference. The Romance Writers of America have their own conference, as do the Mystery Writers of America.
  • Have a goal and focus on those areas, such as craft, genre, or what agents are editors are looking for on their lists.
  • Be open to new ideas and ways of approaching your current work in progress.
  • Be open to suggestions for projects in age groups and genres you haven’t worked in…yet.
  • Listen with an open mind. Simple, yet so important for professional growth.
  • Introduce yourself to the people sitting next to you. You never know, they could be the best friend you’ve been waiting to meet.
  • Relax, absorb as much information as possible, and enjoy the experience.

The DON’Ts

The writing community is small, and industry professionals know one another. A few tips from real-life Conference Horror Stories, and how NOT to become the star of one yourself:

  • DON’T hunt down agents and editors and force your manuscript on them.
  • DON’T hunt down agents or editors at all, unless they previously requested that you do so.
  • Don’t expect to sell your current manuscript for six figures. It could happen, but that’s the exception NOT the rule.
  • Don’t be discouraged by suggestions and feedback from a professional critique. Instead, see them as positive ways to improve so you’ll be able to land your dream agent or book deal.

Most of all, join the FUN ~ Wild Things could happen!

SCBWI Los Angeles 2018 Summer Conference

“Artists and Writers Ball”