Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thursday Review—Choose a Writers Conference

I don’t know about you, but my inbox is stuffed to overflowing with announcements regarding upcoming writing events. There are national conferences, regional conferences, local workshops and online courses. How is a writer to choose which ones will be most helpful and appropriate?

Monday I posted a tongue-in-cheek top ten of why to attend a conference. Today we'll get serious and I’ll give some good guidelines to help with your decision.

The first thing you should consider is your experience level. You need to look at where you are with your writing, that will be the biggest factor in your decision. As you look at the categories realize that your experience may overlap.

  • Never submitted anything for publication
  • Hasn’t told many people he writes
  • Has submitted a couple of things, but nothing published
Advanced Beginner
  • Has several rejection letters and a couple of acceptances
  • Is a member of a local or online writing group
  • Regularly reads articles or books about writing
  • Has attended a writers event (either a workshop, conference or online class)
  • Has an idea of where he wants to go with his writing
  • Has been paid for his writing
  • Spends time each day working at the craft of writing and has an income derived from writing
  • Has definite goals and aspirations for his writing
Once you know which group you fall into, it’s easier to evaluate each individual event. There are 2 reasons to attend a writers event.
  1. To learn more about the craft of writing
  2. To network with professionals within the writing world
Here’s a general breakdown of what is usually offered at each kind of event.

These events vary slightly, so the following information is generalized. You should read all brochures and websites carefully to know what to expect.

Large, National Writing Conference
Expect lots of classes for a wide variety of writers - from beginner to advanced.
Continuing Classes – these are classes that last for more than one class period and concentrate on one subject. Even though they are continuing, they rarely provide advanced information on a given subject.
Workshops – these are classes that give an introduction to a concept (like dialogue, plot or setting).
Breakouts or Panels – these are groups of professionals giving instruction on a given subject. The information here is usually very basic.
Appointments with Faculty – most large conferences include a private appointment with a member of the faculty. This is where you would pitch a book or article idea to an editor. It can also be valuable to let a seasoned author look at your writing and give one-on-one feedback.

Regional or Local Writing Conference
These tend to have more classes for the beginner and advanced beginner writer, although there are exceptions. Depending on the length of time, the conference will follow the same basic setup as a national conference.

Workshop or Seminar
Many of these are very specific in what they offer. They aren’t for a large number of writers and generally target the intermediate or advanced writer.

Online Classes
Again, they are very specific in what they offer and vary widely in who they cater to.

It’s never a good idea to write in a vacuum. I have always tried to attend one large conference a year to expose myself to the writing industry, both for networking and education. I also try to attend at least one focused workshop or seminar each year I and I try to keep my eyes open for online writing courses and take at least two a year.

Let me know what conferences and events you've attended and how they've helped your writing journey.


  1. Thanks for this Edie. I guess I am in the Imtermediate/Advanced category. Though income is not what I live on, I have been paid for my writing, write just about everyday and working on a larger writing project now.

    I have been to both writing conferences (Blue Ridge, Sandy Cove and Greater Philly), Speaker's conferences (Speak Up with Confidence and She Speaks -Proverbs 31. And a local writer/publishing workshop held at Gordon Conwell Seminary in Massachusetts. ALL have been instrumental in my writing journey


  2. I have attended several local conferences and workshops. I would describe myself as an Intermediate writer. I have also attended the BRMCWC, which I feel was one of the most beneficial things I've done career wise. I've also attended the national ACFW conference, where again I grew so much in my craft and in personal and professional relationships.
    Lisa Carter
    Sweet Tea with a Slice of Murder

  3. I like the categories you've defined. Just reading them makes the whole writing path seem more defined. As an Advanced Beginner, you've laid the stepping stones out in front of me quite nicely. Thanks!

  4. That's an excellent post! I like the writer categories as help, too. I think conferences might be the only way to get your writing in front of editors, if you are an "unknown," like me. :)

  5. Jeanne, I think you're right on in your category. I'm glad to know about some of the conferences in the East as well as the ones on the rest of the conference - also the speaker conferences as well!
    Lisa, I think you fall closer to the advanced category, than intermediate. It's funny, the more we learn the more we know we need to learn and it sometimes makes us categorize ourselves incorrectly. I can hardly wait till we can hang out at ACFW again this year!
    Lora, I'm glad the categories helped clarify your path.
    Karen, you are so right. In this day and time a conference can sometimes be the only way to get that 'break' into publishing!
    Blessings All, E

  6. My goal for 2012 is to get devotionals I wrote from 2000-2006 on a website. Still there although my website in not active. Have 3 blogs, one for devotions I now write.
    I have attended local workshops but want to attend one in Texas for Advanced Beginners. Please give me a source and contact persons for 2012. I have toiled with this for a year now and w/changing circumstances in my life this year, haven't been able to really work toward this goal. I see it happening with God's help and the right direction from people like you, Edie!