Written by A Guest Author August 22nd, 2016

Five Reasons to Attend a Writers’ Conference

By Loretta Bolger Wish

I had barely arrived at my first writers’ conference when I learned my most valuable lesson: it had taken me too long to attend one. If your inner skeptic has kept you away, you aren’t alone. You are, however, missing out on some of the best knowledge, motivation, and fun a writer can have.

The buzz that conferences sharpen our abilities and help us network didn’t excite me. I preferred to learn on my own and wasn’t eager to be among hundreds of writers trying to chat up a few influential people. The math seemed too firmly against me. But once I started showing up, I found each one held a wealth of benefits. I might have signed up earlier if I’d heard about some of them.

  1. The updates. Books and magazines provide good information, but their shelf life is limited in the fast-changing world of publishing. Even online articles can’t always match the immediacy writers, agents and editors bring to seminars and panels. Their news, as current as yesterday’s staff meeting or today’s e-mail, put you ahead of the curve on upcoming activities and trends.
  1. The feedback. If you’ve ever had material ripped apart by writing groups under the guise of “honesty,” this may not seem like a plus. But I’ve gotten great input from both presenters and peers. Whether it was in meetings with editors and agents, evaluations of writing samples or events such as readings and open mikes, people took my work—and their critiques–seriously.
  1. The skill-building. We all want to improve our writing, but getting it published, or even looked at, is also important. Conferences help you find opportunities or make your mark by entering contests, tracking markets and honing your sales abilities. One of my favorite sessions was a free-for-all where we pitched our book to an auditorium of writers and agents and get immediate responses. It was scary but very informative. And empowering.
  1. The camaraderie. It’s enjoyable to attend with a pal, but it’s not necessary. Participants tend to be friendly and upbeat, far from the clubby or competitive types I had expected. It was the same with the speakers and established authors, who treated us as equals, not wannabes. At one dinner, I bonded with a top agent over the love of old movies. After mentioning we had brought wine, we wound up hosting writers and staff at happy hour. If you want to, you’ll make a friend or two.
  1. The inspiration. Every day sparked so much creativity that I often took one set of notes on the topic and another on the ideas it was generating. People representing different genres and levels of success opened my eyes to things I could be writing about and who might read them. Sometimes the air seemed so charged with possibility that I sketched ideas and figured out pitches as fast as my pen could form the words. Hearing a teacher discuss her historical novel, for instance, I abruptly wrote the title of a nonfiction book and began an outline.

There are dozens of conference each year, so find one that’s right for you and register. Oh, and in a year or two—okay, maybe five–watch for a book entitled Aldous Huxley and the Peshtigo Fire.

Want to hear the pitch?

Bio – Loretta Bolger Wish is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in magazines, textbooks and reference books. She writes the film blog Hollywood Castaway and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. A former journalist and State of New Jersey staff writer, she lives at the Jersey shore.


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