Conferenced Out

Monday, October 20, 2014

I make it a practice to attend two or more writers’ conferences a year, with at least one of them lasting several days. This year I attended one multi-day conference, two single-day conferences, and a workshop. The workshop was held during the summer, but the conferences came on three successive weekends. They started with the multi-day conference on September 25-28, followed by Saturday conferences on October 4 and 11. So is it any surprise that I titled this post, “Conferenced Out”?
Not that I’m complaining. I get several benefits from attending writers’ conferences. My main reason for going is an educational one—to learn how to improve my writing. But achieving this goal can be tricky at times, especially when you’ve attended as many conferences as I have. After all, how many times can I hear the same material on dialogue without getting bored? The second and even the third time may reinforce what I heard—and possibly forgot—the first time, but there is a limit.

At least that’s what I’ve grown to expect. There are exceptions, however. As I looked at the offerings for the first breakout session at the Indiana Writers’ Consortium Creative Writing Conference, only one appeared to be relevant to my own writing, and it was on dialogue. I attended reluctantly—and enjoyed myself immensely. None of the principles were new to me, but Kate Collins, who writes the Flower Shop Mysteries series, knows how to keep her audience interested. And for writers who are less familiar with the principles of writing dialogue, it was educational as well as entertaining.
The second breakout session created a different dilemma, presenting me with two choices that interested me. I had to choose, and the one I chose was good. But I still wonder what I missed from the other class.
That’s a problem with any conference that offers separate breakout sessions, and I’m glad the Indiana SCBWI “Go North for Nonfiction” conference wasn’t set up that way. As I looked through the presentations, I realized that there was only one I was willing to miss. Fortunately, there was only one choice at a time, and I didn’t have to miss anything.
The second reason I attend writers’ conferences is to network. Meeting new people is always a good use of my time.
Finally, I go to sell my books. “Sell my books” has two meanings here. Some conferences, including the multi-day ACFW Conference, give attendees a chance to meet with editors and agents and pitch a current manuscript. But all conferences give me the opportunity to sell copies of my published books to readers. Sometimes this is a direct benefit, such as having copies in the conference bookstore or having my own book sales table, and sometimes it is simply a marketing opportunity to talk the books up and pass out postcards or bookmarks advertising them.
So yes, I’m ready for a rest before I attend another writers’ conference. But when the next one comes around, I’ll be crouched at the starting line, ready for the flag to fall.

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