Writing Conferences

This week I thought it would be good to go over the importance of  attending writers conferences. *Taken from a series of articles on the CAN Marketing Blog
How important is it for you to attend writers conferences once you are published? And how many should you attend? With the high cost of attending conferences, how do you make the most of them? Should you spend all your time in workshops or try to network? Or teach a class? What about giving back by way of volunteering? Let's go over a few of these points now.

ATTENDING CONFERENCES ~ Last September was my eighth year to attend the ACFW conference, and I always return home refreshed and energized to work on my projects. That's a great benefit and visiting with other authors, your editor/s, and agent are so important in this business. But conferences are expensive.
"Oh little engine, I just don't know if I can travel to a conference this year . . . so many miles, so much money."
It's important to weigh the pros and cons of attending. Maybe money is tight, and this is the year you decide to attend a local conference instead of a national one. Or perhaps you could consider teaching a workshop or two as a way to even out some of the expenses? Could you drive instead of fly? Or room with another person? Or possibly three? All of these are things to think about.
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Here with author friends after breakfast one morning at an ACFW conference
Because family time is so important to me, I try to limit myself each year to one national conference and one local conference, both having different things to offer. Some authers will choose to teach writing classes as a way to afford going to more than one national conference. You'll have to figure out what works for you and your family, as well as your writing schedule and deadlines.
NEVER STOP LEARNING ~ Obviously, you want to increase your knowledge about the writing craft, and you do this by attending workshops. As a published author, your responsibilities at conference may increase, and you may find it difficult to attend every workshop. That's okay. Make a list of workshops you really want to go to and try your best to fit it into your schedule. Then for those workshops you missed, you can always purchase conference cds and listen to them later.
NETWORKING ~ Writing is a solitary business. We're stuck at our computers all day with only our characters and our imagination to keep us company. And sometimes it's hard to talk about our writing to family or friends because they just don't "get it." So being able to visit with other writers and learn how they handle their workload or some of the stresses is a wonderful blessing.
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Camy Tang and I had a nice visit one morning at conference.
Often before conference, I'll make a list of people I want to try to meet or visit with. Sometimes I'll schedule an appointment to grab a coffee or have lunch with someone I'm interested in knowing better, as it can be difficult to do this when in the thick of "conference."
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Pictured here with riding companions, Sara Meisinger and Julane Hiebert
Because I don't care to fly, I will usually try to drive to conference. Last year I rode with three other ladies and our time of fellowship was so much fun. We talked about our expectations, and giggled, and talked some more about workshops and publishers, and giggled and giggled. Such fun!
GIVING BACK ~ Volunteering is a wonderful way to give back to others, especially unpublished authors. You've been through the steps of publishing, you know the highs and lows associated with the business and this wisdom can be shared. Consider being a mentor at conference as a way to do this. Or simply stop and visit with someone who looks overwhelmed or might need a hug or someone to talk to. Lending an ear to someone in this mental state is so appreciated.
There are many opportunities to volunteer at conference--working in the bookstore, being a meal greeter, assisting for a workshop or at the appointment table, or even in the prayer room. Some of my most memorable moments have been spent praying with and for another attendee.
All in all, conferences are a valuable learning tool in the writing business. It's hard to make connections with people you never meet, and having a face to go with a name you've contacted online brings that relationship to a whole new level. If at all possible, try to attend at least one national conference a year. There are many to chose from. Here is a listing of 2011 Christian Writing Conferences you might consider.
Next Tuesday I'll visit with you about social networking. Until then, keep chugging up those hills . . .