Article Archive

 

    

Getting the Most From
a Writer's Conference

2007 Anna Furtado

        

Anna Furtado


With preparations for the 2007 Golden Crown Literary Society Writer's Conference in full swing, here are some tips to ensure that you get the most out of your time in Atlanta, or at any other writers conference that you may attend.

Know Your Goals
With any event, it's important to choose the right experience. In order to do that, some research is in order. After all, a conference costs money and you want to get the maximum benefit for your conference dollars. Find out as much as you can beforehand about the conference to help you make the best decision possible. This includes talking to people who may have attended past conferences. They can tell you what the atmosphere of the conference was, the types of sessions presented, and they can give you lots of good information that can help you make a decision. Often conferences have an e-mail or chat list. If they do, it's a good place to make these kinds of contacts. Also review all of the conference material available.

Decide on the sessions you want to attend beforehand. Doing this has an added benefit. It can help you to relax and have fun once you get to the conference. Planning ahead of time will help keep you focused and keep you from worrying about missing some vital piece of information.

Note: In some cases, participants are required to sign up for specific sessions ahead of time. In other cases, you are free to attend any of the sessions without signing up. Consider making your selections ahead of time, even if you are not required to sign up.

Set your goals for any conference based on where you are as a writer or any other supporting role that you may be in. Think in terms of your current goals. If you are soon-to-be published or were recently published, make publishing and promotional seminars part of your experience. If you are still searching for your niche, your writing genre, try taking workshops that address different types of writing—sci-fi, mystery, romance, action-adventure—to see what appeals to you most. Editors will want to attend editing sessions, supporters and readers may like to see what is on the horizon by attending readings of new works. If you're a first-time attendee, don't be put off by the possibility of a new environment, learning new things or even getting acquainted with a whole new group of people with a distinct vocabulary. There will be others who are new to the writing conference world, too—and you will probably discover that those who are old pros will be more than happy to make you comfortable in these new surroundings.

Know Your Questions
To help you set your goals for a writing conference, ask the following questions:
What do you want to get out of the conference? Do you want to improve writing skills? Find your genre? Learn about promoting and advertising? Improve your editing skills? Discover how to get reviews for your book? Or are you a reader who loves supporting writers and learning more about the craft?

What type of learning atmosphere works best for you? Do you like lots of intense interaction in workshops? Do you like classroom lectures where you are a student-observer? Do you do better with short writing exercises with time to think about what you've learned? Are you looking for a place to have your work critiqued?

Once you've found the answers to your questions, review the conference material and any other information you can obtain to see if it will meet your needs. If you find that it does, select seminars and workshops focused on your particular interests.

Know What to Expect
Writers' gatherings are made up of like minded people. That, in itself is a treasure, but you will also find that attendees and presenters alike can provide a wealth of knowledge. Many participants are often more than willing—even eager—to help others achieve their writing dreams.

A conference can help you improve your writing and creativity. It's a breeding ground for stimulating new ideas. As you listen to the presenters—and to participants—talk about writing and related topics, you may find your own ideas bursting forth—or you may find yourself getting clarity in an area or on a topic that you were uncertain about. Pay attention to those thoughts. Jot them down so you don't lose them.

You can find assistance with plot and character development, help with your story line, ideas about promoting your work, resources, and places to submit your work. Listen. A treasure trove of information will be waiting for you. New and accomplished writers attend conferences to become the best writers they can be. Put your best effort into a conference and participate fully and you'll get back an incredible amount, and be able to contribute in return. Even if you are relatively new to the writing life, don't discount your ability to contribute, even if your contribution is to ask questions. The probability that others will have the same questions is high, and everyone will benefit from the answers.

Here are some of the types of experiences that are available at conferences. (Not all will be available at all conferences.)

One-on-One Experience—This focuses on the individual's requirements or a particular work. A mentor may give constructive criticism or help with information on writing and editing, publishing or promotion, or a vast array of other information. Some conferences offer this type of session, others do not. If you're going to have a one-on-one experience with an instructor, publisher or editor, try to attend her session first. It can keep you from wasting valuable time asking questions that may be answered during the presentation.

Group Experience or Discussion Sessions—This may be interactive as a panel or a workshop. Participants work with the presenter, with a group of presenters, or with each other. This is a great time to ask for clarification of a point or open up the discussion.

A word of caution: although your questions may be valuable and help others, bear in mind that others would also like to participate. Try to be concise when asking a question. Be professional during these sessions. Listen to what others have to say in response. If you don't feel that you have a question to ask, use the time to learn from the questions others ask.

Social Sessions—At a writers' conference, consider everyone a teacher. You can benefit from the experts and other attendees alike. Every participant can teach you something if you're open to it. Ask "what are you working on" at every opportunity. Find out who others are reading and whose writing they admire.

Use breaks, lunches, and free time to network. If you are a shy writer (and many of us are), don't forget that many participants are in the same situation. Social time gives you a chance to meet new people, to catch up with friends and acquaintances, and to talk to other people who, like you, love reading and love to write. This may also be your chance to mingle with the experts and speakers. Compliment them, but be brief. Don't hog their time.

If you are asked about your own work, be ready. During the time before the conference, summarize your work into three short sentences. If you are a reader/supporter, think about how you will respond, if asked why you have come to the conference. People will appreciate hearing from you if you give them a brief, intelligent summary rather than a rambling essay.

Know How to Attend
Here are some key points to keep in mind to make your conference experience the most enriching it can be:
· Ask your burning questions.
· Be generous with your knowledge and your resources.
· Collect business cards. (These will prove to be invaluable contact records that you can refer to later. If someone has offered information or resources, jot it down on her business card so you'll remember it. If you are published, bring bookmarks or postcards representing your book and hand them out.)
· Distribute business cards. (No matter who you are, bring business cards—even if they are only slips of paper you've generated on your computer and cut into 2 inch by 3-1/2 inch pieces. It will help others remember you.) · Listen more than you speak.
· Meet as many people as you can—network with attendees as well as leaders.
· Participate.
· Purchase recordings of sessions if available.
· Sign up for newsletters, buy author's books, or simply express your appreciation to presenters and other professionals that you may admire.
· Stay for the entire conference if at all possible.
· Stay away from negativity and gossip.
· Take notes.
· Take advantage of the free (or even fee-based) meetings with publishers and editors, if available, and listen well to what they say.
· Take any handouts offered.
· Talk about your book or your book-in-progress—or about the authors you admire every chance you get. (But don't monopolize the conversation.)
· Try to learn one new thing during each session. (This may be a piece of knowledge that you didn't have before the conference, an insight or inspiration for your own writing, or something to motivate you.)
· Welcome a challenge. Be prepared for an occasional debate. Stretch.
Know What to Do After the Conference Ends
At the end of the conference, you may find yourself on information overload. Take a few days to unwind from all that input. Then, review all your notes, the handouts you've received, and any reference material you've gleaned. If you have any unanswered questions, and you have contact information from presenters, make the contact to ask your questions (remember to be brief and succinct). Take all those business cards you've collected and start making contacts with people (this is the fun part).

In Summary
When attending a writing conference, know what you want to achieve, be prepared, be open—to new people and new ideas—and, above all, have fun!
_________________________________
Workshop and conference listings:
Shaw Guides to Writers' Conferences - http://writing.shawguides.com/
The National Writers' Union Writers Workshops - http://www.nwu.org/links/lnkwks.htm
Writer's Digest Conference Listing - http://www.writersdigest.com/conferences/
Golden Crown Literary Society Conference - http://www.gclscon.com/
_____
2006 Anna Furtado — Author of The Heart's Desire
Book One of The Briarcrest Chronicles

Finalist—Golden Crown Literary Society "Goldie" Awards 2005
Distributed by: Starcrossed Productions
Web site: http://www.annafurtado.com
E-mail: annaf@annafurtado.com

Back to Article Archive.