What’s So Special About A Writers’ Conference?

By Linda Chiara

By nature writers tend to be solitary people. We spend hours alone in front of a computer or in libraries doing research. Oh, sure, sometimes we venture out into the real world and sit in a favorite coffee house sipping on a latte. But rather than truly interacting with others, we find ourselves eavesdropping on our fellow man, straining to hear a good conversation which we hope to be able to use in our work-in-progress novel.

However, more often than not, you’ll find us at home, alone.

By virtue of our profession (and on the plus side) we don’t have to cope with office politics, unless you count the rare situation when we must tread lightly and handle delicately the quirks of an unorthodox editor.

However, on the flip side of the coin, we are not privy to the helpful career news that is frequently discussed while standing around the office water cooler. Nor do we have much contact with other professionals who could help steer us in the right direction, or at least point us to a path that we had not considered before.

That’s where a good writers’ conference comes in. There are at least 1,000 writers’ conferences or seminars offered each year. (Check out http://writing.shawguides.com/ for information). Each and every one of them can provide you with something to help you in your quest to becoming a better, and more productive, writer.

Conferences work the same way for writers as they do for dentists or undertakers. They offer professionals a chance to meet with other professionals to exchange ideas and discuss trends within the industry. Plus they give us a chance to associate with people who share the same interests and who can help us propel our career forward. Attendees and guest speakers of conferences are not only writers; often they are editors, publishers and agents, as well. These professionals speak on panels that cover a particular aspect of writing. Some conferences even offer workshops that can truly motivate a writer. Plus the pros frequently make themselves available to answer specific questions and give writers some tips of the trade. That alone is often worth the price of admission.

And speaking of the cost of admission, there are writers’ conferences to suit almost any budget. Where some conferences can run in the thousands, once you include airfare and travel, there are often local conferences that are significantly less pricey and just as high in quality.

So if cost is an issue, why not attend the least expensive conference you can find to get you started? The first conference I attended was not really a good fit for me, but it was inexpensive and close to home. And yet, I can honestly say that it was worth it, because I made several professional contacts and came out with countless article ideas.

As far as time goes, be aware that conferences can last anywhere from several hours to a week or two. Find one that fits your time schedule.

It’s important to note, that after considering the cost and time element, a writer should try to find a conference that focuses on their genre. There are conferences that include such specialty writing as mystery, children’s, romance, inspirational, humor and horror, just to name a few.

What should you expect to get out of a writers’ conference? Be prepared to walk away with new contacts, new ideas, new markets and quite possibly, new friends.

Here are just a few tips to help you get through your first conference:

  • Wear tailored, casual clothing. Comfortable shoes are a must! You don’t need to dress up in designer duds, but leave the faded jeans and sloppy t-shirts at home.
  • Bring along business cards and writing supplies (although every conference I’ve ever attended has been very generous in supplying notepads, pens, and canvas carry-all bags to its attendees).
  • If you can swing it, go with a fellow writer/friend. For the past two years, I’ve attended a two day conference in New York City that was so jam packed with information, that there wasn’t enough time in the day to get it all in, let alone absorb the content. On my last trip, I coerced my friend Marlene to join me. We split up after breakfast and met for lunch, where we compared the notes we had taken for one another at different panel discussions.

The greatest thing about attending a conference is that they are, above everything else, inspirational. My friend Marlene is a gifted writer. However, she didn’t see herself that way, because her day job is secretarial work. As we rode home on the train after the conference was over, she became very introspective.

Finally, as we were pulling into the station, she said, “Thank you for bringing me. It opened my eyes. I used to think of myself as a secretary who writes. Because of this conference, I now realize I am a writer, who just happens to work as a secretary.”

That’s what a writers’ conference can do for you.

Linda Chiara’s work has been published in Reader’s Digest, The Christian Science Monitor, Woman’s Day, Family Circle, Boys Life, Ladies Home Journal, and Chicken Soup for The Teenage Soul on Love and Friendship. In addition, she writes frequently for parenting magazines around the nation, including Pittsburgh Parent, Western New York Family Magazine, Montana Parent, etc. You can find out more at Linda Chiara’s website.

Delaware Dangerous!

Delaware Dangerous logo art

I’ve been corresponding with Lela Gwenn, an event organizer for a writer’s retreat that allows a writer to experience encounters with fist, blade, or gun, in a controlled and safe environment under the experienced supervision of self-defense and weapons instruction professionals.

I’ve long been a big believer in writers getting our hands dirty, if we’re going to try to write anything that actually resembles real life. If you’re going to be anywhere near Delaware in September of this year, this is your chance to safely experience a great deal of mayhem in a short amount of time.

When I asked for a description of the workshop I could share with all of you, she sent me the following copy:

Delaware Dangerous is a unique concept in Writer’s Retreats. We offer the opportunity to get hands on with all types of weapons and combat– Hand guns, Long guns, Knives and Hand to Hand.

Our team of professional instructors will provide detailed instruction. We have five black-belts on the team, two of whom are former military. Participants will get twelve hours of firearms training, six hours of knife training, and six hours of hand to hand. This isn’t just theoretical or role-playing or demonstration. After receiving appropriate safety training, you will have a gun in your hand.

The weapon work is always serious, but there is plenty of fun to be had. Brewery tours, kayaking, behind the scenes at a tattoo shop, tax free shopping at a huge outlet mall. The Delaware Beaches are beautiful and have something for everyone. Nature, nightlife, gourmet dining and down-home charm.

Delaware Dangerous. Put a little violence in your vacation and a little realism in your writing.

For more information go to www.DelawareDangerous.com or email me directly Lela@DelawareDangerous.com

I know I’ve written in the past about how very integral I think real experience can be to writing authentically. I strongly believe there’s nothing in the world like hands-on experience to help a writer achieve that kind of authenticity.

From the details section of the Delaware Dangerous Website:

Dates:
Sept 9-16 2011

Cost:
$889/ person
discount available for 2 people booking together

Includes:
Professional Instruction
12 hours gun training
6 hours knife training
6 hours hand-to-hand combat

Ammo, use of various firearms, training blades and live blades.

2 Dinners
5 Lunches
Breakfast Daily

Value of the Range Time, Instructor fees, Ammo and Meals- $1350.00

If you are interested in being paired up with a roommate Contact Us and we will try to help.

Group STRICTLY LIMITED to 20 participants for safety reasons.

Here’s the thing: I know it sounds awfully expensive, but for a workshop to do this for under a grand per student? That’s actually a screaming deal. And Lela says that she’ll offer AWers a $50 discount.

So take a look, figure out how you can swing it, take some vacation days, go to Delaware and get sweaty and loud!

Interview at Writer Unboxed

Image of several circular slices of an orangeIf you’ve ever wondered about the behind-the-scenes workings at Absolute Write and the Absolute Write forums, Jan O’Hara over at Writer Unboxed has just posted a two-part interview with me about Absolute Write, the community, the mods, and writing. Jan does a heckuva fun interview, and I’m not just saying that because she interviewed me—she’s got some terrific interviews on her own blog, Tartitude. And as a Web destination for writers, Writer Unboxed offers a lot of terrific information, insight, and conversation.

Part I
Part II

You can also find Jan O’Hara on Twitter @Jan_OHara.

Paranormal Roundtable on Suvudu!

Mark of the DemonNeed a remedy for the late-winter blahs? Suvudu announced they’ve got your cure. They’ll be hosting a live round-table discussion of Paranormal and Urban Fantasy. See the website for details:

On February 17 (at 4pm EST), we’re bringing in some of the hottest voices in Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy for a round-table discussion and we’re going to be bringing it live! Use the quick form above to sign-up for a one-time email reminder for the event, then sit back and prepare for the heat!

Here’s a list of participants; Suvudu’s roundtable will host some of the hottest writers in these enormously popular genres:

Kelley Armstrong – KelleyArmstrong.com |@kelleyarmstrong on Twitter

Diana Rowland – DianaRowland.com |@dianarowland on Twitter

Jenna Black – JennaBlack.com | @JennaBlack on Twitter

Lucy A. Snyder – LucySnyder.com | @LucyASnyder on Twitter

Carolyn Crane – AuthorCarolynCrane.com |@CarolynCrane on Twitter

Navigating Self-Publishing, Interview with Victoria Strauss

Lisa Abbate of Wordmountain.com has done a terrific  interview about self-publishing with author-advocate and co-founder of  Writer Beware, novelist  Victoria Strauss. Ms. Strauss outlines some of the hows, whys, and best-practices writers should be aware of when they’re investigating self-publishing options, for Absolute Write’s readers.

Self-publishing is a perfectly viable model for a number of writers and a number of niches, but the various business models out there introduce a whole set of complications and dangers for any savvy writer to be aware of. In addition, it’s important that anyone planning to self-publish understands what they’re looking at, in terms of distribution and sales numbers:

Writer Beware often hears from authors who believe they’ve been scammed by self-publishing companies, when in reality it was their expectations that were the problem—they didn’t realize that the average self-pubbed book sells fewer than 200 copies, or that the wholesale distribution offered by most self-pub companies is only half the distribution picture.

Read the whole interview here!

Victoria Strauss is the author of seven fantasy novels for adults and young adults, including the Stone duology (The Arm of the Stone and The Garden of the Stone) and the Way of Arata duology (The Burning Land and The Awakened City). She has written hundreds of book reviews for magazines and ezines, including SF Site, and her articles on writing have appeared in Writer’s Digest and elsewhere. In 2006, she served as a judge for the World Fantasy Awards. She maintains the popular Writer Beware website (www.writerbeware.com) and blog (www.accrispin.blogspot.com). She received the Service to SFWA Award in 2009. Her personal website is http://www.victoriastrauss.com/

Lisa Abbate is a nonfiction author’s coach, writer, and editor for many innovative technology companies. She’s been a longtime contributing writer at Absolute Write and editor at Coyote Wild. Her website is www.wordmountain.com. She is also the founder and executive director of an environmental organization, visionforsalem.org.

You can find more interviews with Victoria Strauss on these websites:

FMWriters interview

Writer’s Write interview

WOW (Women On Writing) interview

Previous Absolute Write interview

Stumped by Dialogue?

This is just to let you know that one of our advertisers, Pennwriters.com, has a very affordable online class for learning to write effective dialogue beginning February 1st.

The course instructor is writer Catherine McLean:

“Catherine McLean is a published author of science fiction, paranormal, and contemporary (romance) short stories. She has had more than two dozen articles published on the craft of writing. For more than ten years she’s given workshop for writers at conferences, college personal enrichment courses, and online writing courses.”

You can find out more about Ms. McLean at her Web site, WritersCheatSheets.com.

Backspace Writers Conference

Pen nibJust a reminder to those of you thinking about attending Backspace Writers Conference in May, you’ll get an early registration discount if you register before February 1.

(In the interests of full disclosure, Backspace does advertise with AbsoluteWrite on occasion, but this is not a paid post, and I’ve personally heard really excellent things about this conference.)

This is a terrific opportunity for agents and writers to find each other. From the Backspace FAQ:

Both the Agent-Author Seminar and the 2010 Backspace Writers Conference offer access to agents so that authors can talk about their project, get a feel for the agents’ personalities and interests, and learn from the agents’ cumulative knowledge and experience. We offer workshops, not pitch sessions, which means that while an author can get their work in front of agents, if the agents feel it’s not yet ready (or if your opus is not quite finished), authors haven’t burned any bridges. The agents know that based on what authors learn at the conference, they might want to take another pass through their manuscript before they submit it. So while ideally, authors will be coming to the seminar with a finished manuscript in hand, they can still connect with agents and learn from their feedback, even if their work is not quite finished.

Writers generally have to do a lot of self-educating about both writing craft and the publishing industry. Conferences like Backspace Writers Conference can offer an excellent set of resources for a writer’s continuing education and professional network.