View Full Version : Conference Question....

08-12-2008, 01:46 AM
I'm a young writer (but very serious about writing) and if I save up for the next few months I'll be able to go to a writers' conference. I've heard that going to conferences is a good idea if you're serious about writing, but I'm not entirely sure what goes on. What would be the benefits of me going?

Linda Adams
08-12-2008, 02:02 AM
Depending on the conference:

Lots of workshops. I went to Thrillerfest a few years ago, and the workshops were given by best selling writers that I had read. My local writer's conference isn't as good; when I actually attended (I volunteer now and don't actually attend), I always had a hard time finding workshops to go to. Many of them just weren't what I was looking for. So when you look at a writer's conference, look through their workshop list before paying and see if they're going to interest you.

Agent Roundtables/Agent Breakfasts: These are opportunities to ask the agent questions. Sometimes they get pretty interesting, and you'll pick up a lot of good info.

Meeting agents. Even if your book isn't ready, a conference is a great way to just see how the agents work. I run the pitch sessions, and there's always a few writers who have celebrityitis. They're afraid of disturbing the agent or want to gush all over them. I volunteered for the pitch sessions originally because my WIP wasn't ready and I figured it was a great way to observe without worrying about goofing anything up by being nervous.

Pitch sessions. If your book is done, you can pitch it to them in anywhere from two to ten minute sessions, depending on the conference.

Autograph sessions/book sales: Thrillerfest had a book sale where the authors autographed the books. My other conference just had the book sale.

And a lot of socializing. You meet other people, and you never know who you might end up sitting next to or eating lunch with.

08-12-2008, 09:03 PM

Any other input from others?

08-12-2008, 09:08 PM
Novels in Progress (http://www.greenriverwriters.org/nipw.html) was an outstanding experience, in terms of gaining new skills, refining existing work, and in camaraderie. It is in Louisville, KY. It's an intimate experience. You get a lot of face time with instructors and a couple of agents; serious small group critique sessions, and uninterrupted time to write. The whole organization puts forth both a feeling of support, and an expectation of effort (a tremendous combination).

08-12-2008, 09:41 PM
I went to RWA to meet my editor and chat with other authors.

Not only did I meet a slew of big name bestsellers, but one offered to blurb my book. I met and got to hang out with several editors, a bunch of agents, and even some sales folks. All were very cool. :)

Very, very awesome conference. I rarely attended any panels, but I still got my money's worth. So what I came away with: face time with well connected people.

08-12-2008, 10:01 PM
As a young writer, too, I would STRONGLY, HUGELY recommend going to a conference! :) I went to the PNWA conference in July and it was worth every penny. The benefits are endless...

1. You'll probably be the youngest there (I was), which means lots of people are really interested in you and agents/editors raise their eyebrows. Good thing!

2. You'll learn how to write a book. Before the conference I just wrote - it was sort of like shooting an arrow without really knowing how. I got pretty good at hitting the target, but at the conference I learned the craft of shooting arrows - writing novels - and it's something I will always value. It's changed my writing forever. I heard over and over that a writer needs three things: passion, talent, and knowledge of craft. The first two are inborn, I guess you could say, but the third is learned, and it's SO important.

3. Meeting agents/editors. I won't lie; I had several panic attacks about this part. Pitching sounds awful to a newbie, meeting someone in the real live publishing industry even worse. But it's not that bad. The agents/editors I had were extremely nice and easy to talk to, plus they all wanted to see my work!

So yes, you should go, especially if you're serious.

Good luck!

Harper K
08-12-2008, 10:21 PM
I noticed you write YA, Jordygirl. Me too. I don't know which conference in particular you're considering, but if there's a regional SCBWI conference near you, I highly recommend going. I go to my regional SCBWI conferences, and they're a great way to connect with people in the industry as well as other writers.

There are a few different parts in a typical SCBWI conference (and this applies to the other conferences I've been to, as well):

Keynote Session - A noted author or publishing industry professional speaks to the entire group of conference attendees.

Breakout Sessions / Workshops - There's a schedule of various sessions, and you pick the ones that best fit your areas of interest. There's often a writing or revising activity, a partner activity, or a close reading of a published work.

Critique Sessions and/or Pitch Sessions - In a formal critique, you submit work beforehand (usually the first 20 pages of your manuscript), and one of the conference faculty members will read it, make notes, and then spend about 15 - 20 minutes in a scheduled session going over your work with you. I've found this to be extremely valuable. It'll cost you extra (maybe $35 or $40), but it's so worth it. And if you work with an agent or editor, you might get a request to send them more material.

I've never done a pitch session myself, but I was a timekeeper for them when I volunteered at a conference earlier this year, so I've heard a lot of them. Basically, you're given a set amount of time (between 5 and 10 minutes, usually) to give an oral version of your query letter to an agent or editor. This often starts out as just the author talking, but becomes a Q&A between author and agent/editor by the end. This can also result in a request for pages. My local SCBWI conferences don't have pitch sessions, but a lot of other conferences do.

Meals / Social Time - This is one of the best things about a conference. Eating, drinking, and talking with other serious writers? Fantastic. Get some business cards made beforehand and just be prepared to chat and network.

Most of the conferences I've been to have had a pretty even split between craft-related sessions / workshops (finding your voice, finding inspiration, working in a particular POV, creating dialogue that works, etc.) and business-related sessions (writing query letters, making connections with editors, managing your career, etc.). It's good to have that kind of balance, in my opinion.

As Madison said, definitely be prepared to be one of the youngest people there! I'm 28 (though look younger) and am usually one of the youngest people at the conferences I attend. I get a lot of "oh, I have a daughter about your age." I don't mind that, though. ;)

Good luck with it!

08-12-2008, 10:28 PM
Thanks! I'm looking at the Southern California Writers Conference, but how could I find out about SCBWI conferences? Is there a website? I've heard of SCBWI before but I always figured it was all younger stuff, writing for kids and MG instead of YA.

08-12-2008, 10:31 PM
Just google SCBWI - a ton of info came up.

Harper K
08-12-2008, 10:42 PM
Yup, on the SCBWI website just click on the regions / chapters link, and find the chapter closest to you. Most chapters host several annual conferences and workshops.

At the SCBWI conferences I've been to, they really try to balance out the sessions so that writers for all age levels can get something out of it. I write upper YA and have never been at a loss to find great info there. Also, nowhere else have I been able to have in-depth discussions / lovefests about M.T. Anderson and John Green.

08-13-2008, 04:58 AM
Thanks! I'm looking at the Southern California Writers Conference, but how could I find out about SCBWI conferences? Is there a website? I've heard of SCBWI before but I always figured it was all younger stuff, writing for kids and MG instead of YA.

As everyone said, SCBWI is for everything kids - Picture books through YA. The cream of the crop agents (like, omg, Steven Malk) rep everything in that rage as well - many authors write across age ranges and then keep the same agent!

This thread (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=110267)was about the last national SCBWI conference, and here was my post (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=2627251&postcount=21) (based on my mother's experience - she's on the national SCBWI faculty and will, I believe, be keynoting next year in L.A.) about the differences between the New York and L.A. conferences. I don't know how much money you are putting aside, or when you plan on going, but a national SCBWI conference would be a REAL treat for any author who writes for any age range in children's lit.

08-13-2008, 05:14 AM
I went to the Southampton Writer's Conference a few weeks ago and loved it. I blogged almost every day of the conference about the goings-on if you are interested. It was a conference about craft--no pitch sessions--but we had some great speakers and teachers. Meg Wolitzer taught my workshop and she was incredible.