Friday, July 18, 2014

What Are Writing Conferences Really Like?

The first word that comes to mind is “exhausting.” The second is “expensive.” The third is “awesome.”

What is a writing conference, and where can I find one?

A writing conference is an event that is usually put on by a university, a group of universities, or some kind of organization for writers. They usually last about three days and consist of classes, lectures, events, readings, and panels about writing and publishing. These things are often referred to as “sessions.” There are sometimes agents and editors there to hear pitches and do critiques. The best place to find a conference is probably Google. I found conferences in my area by Googling “writing conferences in Colorado.”

Where are conferences usually held?

University campuses, convention centers, and hotels seem to be very common.

I found a conference. How do I know if it’s a good one?

Look at the schedule. There should be a schedule of events and sessions on the conference’s website. If there are a bunch of sessions on the schedule that interest you, then it’s probably a good one. If there are only a few that interest you, then it’s probably not worth the money to attend.

What happens at a conference?

First, you check in and usually get a goodie bag and a name tag. Make sure you get there early because you sometimes have to wait in line to check in. Then, you follow the schedule. There are usually a lot of sessions happening at once, so before you get to the conference, read the schedule and pick which ones you want to attend. You most likely won’t be able to go to everything. Sessions usually last between 30 and 60 minutes each. Be aware that sessions occasionally run over their allotted time, and you might have to rush to your next session. If you have time before or during the conference, it might be helpful to find the rooms where all of your sessions are held so that you don’t make yourself more late by getting lost.

Most of your time will be spent sitting in sessions. Be prepared to sit until your butt is numb. It’s surprising how exhausting it can be to sit and take notes all day. Conferences usually start early in the morning (between 6 and 8 am) and go until the afternoon (between 4 and 7 pm).

What should I bring to the conference?

The schedule, food, water, comfortable clothes, comfortable shoes, a jacket, a way to take notes, medication (for headaches and backaches from uncomfortable chairs), money, and a backpack to carry everything. Bring business cards or bookmarks if you’re a published author with a book to sell.

How much does it cost?    

Some conferences offer a discount to students with a high school or college ID. You can attend those conferences for as little as $15. Some conferences offer scholarships so that you can go for free (if you win the scholarship). You can sometimes save money if you register early. The price often goes up as you get closer to the conference date. Some conferences offer discounts if you are a member of the organization that is sponsoring/hosting the conference. In my experience, most conferences cost between $100 and $400. There are often books for sale, so if you’re a book hoarder like me, bring money for books. Some conferences will feed you, but be prepared to pay extra for it.

Pitches/critiques/workshops/master classes/contests/special events?

Most conferences offer additional experiences that you can pay for, if you’re interested. You could pitch your manuscript to an agent, have it critiqued by an editor, participate in a workshop, attend special classes, enter your writing in a contest, or have dinner with a well-known author. These things usually cost extra. The cost varies a lot, so check the conference website. You probably have to sign up early for these special events because they fill up fast.

Are conferences worth it?

In my experience, yes. You meet a lot of interesting people and learn a lot. It’s like a mini version of going to college for writing, but you don’t have any homework, and it doesn’t take years.

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