It’s late spring, and that means conference season is upon us! My beloved West Virginia Writers Summer Conference is just a week away. It’s my unofficial kickoff for summer, a serene, creative place I can unwind from the frantic end of a busy school year. In fact, I’ve found focusing inspiration, loads of invaluable how-to’s, and some of my closest friends at writing conferences. If you’ve never attended one, it can be intimidating to choose to invest your time and money into an unknown experience. That can be a lot of pressure, and pressure makes deciding even harder. How can you find the writing conference that’s right for you?
Pick Just One Goal
First, get clear about your one, big, writing goal. Is it to publish a book? Write your life story? Find an illustrator for your children’s book manuscript? Now’s not the time to be vague; be as specific as possible. Then carve your big goal down, again and again, until you have several manageable steps. (If you want help doing this, check out my free goal-setting worksheets. Click here or click the button for the resource library at the end of this post!)
Let’s say your goal is to get your finished novel published with a traditional publisher. What do you need to do to achieve that goal? You would benefit from a conference that offers workshops on querying and pitching. Some conferences even offer first-come-first-serve pitch sessions with agents and publishers.
If your goal is to learn how to improve at marketing your self-published books, you could find a conference that’s aimed at indie authors and do-it-yourselfers, with strong workshops on sales and marketing. You could even pick a conference that’s geared toward blogging or email marketing, since those fields overlap. If you have a unique goal, look for a unique conference solution. If you do this one thing, you’ll find the writing conference that’s right for your individual goals!
Now that you have your primary objective in mind, figure out how far you’re willing to travel. Based on your preferences, you may be more comfortable with a four-hour drive rather than a two-hour flight. (Or vice versa.)
For years, I commuted to the WV Writers Conference so I could let my dog out at night. (I could have boarded him, but the date is right between two annual trips. We board him during those trips and it just seemed too much.) And since we were a one car family for years, it also made it possible to carpool or get a drop-off. Considerations like these make a local conference pretty attractive!
Another option is to plan a vacation around a great conference. If you have kids and a supportive spouse, see if you can work out a mutually beneficial trip. While you’re at the conference, can your family bask and play at a fun resort? (And, hey, that’s pretty nice to return to after a day of workshops, right? Who doesn’t like to mull over plot points in the hot tub?)
Before you commit, be sure to check out any reviews or recommendations from previous years’ conference attendees. Read through the comments in online forums. Is there one conference room that has a wicked-powerful air conditioner? Bring a sweater. Do previous attendees agree that the catered baked steak is best avoided? Make a note! Maybe there’s even an informal gathering at a nearby restaurant for a meet-and-greet. Tips like these can definitely elevate a good conference experience to a fabulous one.
You might also like my post, Make the Most of Your Summer Conference.
What Will You Bring?
Don’t forget one critical ingredient to any great conference: you! The attitude of expectation you bring can affect not only your own results but the experiences of many others. If you arrive at the conference expecting to soak up wisdom like a sponge–that’s awesome. But if you show up ready to help others, too? Now you’re operating on a synergy that’s unstoppable.
You’ve got something to offer all the other attendees and presenters. Whether it’s valuable feedback for the event organizers or just telling another attendee about an incredible blog post you read about the topic they’re struggling with, you can contribute more than you realize. Bring your willingness to be a part of the creative collaboration, and you’ll be amazed at what you discover!
NOW YOU: How do you find the writing conference that’s right for you? Which conferences are your favorites?
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The first writers’ conference I ever went to was in Colorado. It coincided with my 20th wedding anniversary so my husband went with me. While I was in workshops, he relaxed and hiked.
I learned so much at that conference. At the end of every workshop, I’d go up to the presenter and ask them to list their favorite craft books. When I returned home, I bought all the books that were suggested and read them all. I learned SO MUCH from the conference and those book recommendations!
Wow, what a great strategy!! DIY writing course!