Monday, June 27, 2011

Writing Conference or Not?

Paris - Conference Attendees?  photo by DGH

Writing conferences are staged throughout the year in various locales in the US and Canada. If this is the year you have decided to attend one, make it a useful event by selecting one that benefits you and moves you closer to your goals. Don’t expect all conferences to be equal in value. Do your research. Some writing conferences focus on genre (like romance and mystery) or contests, and some offer a smorgasbord of things to do.

When is the right time to attend a conference?

• That answer will vary depending on where you and your manuscript are at the time of the scheduled writing conference. Any writing you plan to take with you should be in top condition, polished and shiny, preferably vetted through a reliable reader.

• Most conferences require that you pre-register, especially if you want to attend classes or specific presentations. Decide how far you are able to go (affects travel expenses), what you hope to gain by attending (master classes or critique/feedback) and the cost your budget will allow.

• Ensure you consider the past history of the writing conference, and who attends from the publishing industry.

Reasons for attending

• Define why you want to attend: to absorb the writing atmosphere, to learn something new, to meet industry professionals, to see what’s new in the industry.

• Make the conference count by stretching your abilities, take those master classes or attend that panel discussion. Ensure you get value for your money. In some conferences, you don’t have to go for the big ticket 3 day package. Sometimes, one class and one day at the event will be enough, and it won’t rock your budget.


• Determine your spending budget after you have selected a few conferences that appeal to you. Costs vary widely, depending on whether the event is self-sufficient, or supported by funding, etc. Check this out carefully as some tickets include specific meals or other registered members extras (pitches or critiques).

• Most conferences don’t offer accommodation unless the setting is in a retreat type of setting where everything is contained at the site. What is usually offered are special rates at a nearby hotel, or at times a hotel on the site of the conference.


• Pricing will be affected by the location of the conference if that location is in a city centre or in a suburban area. The number of presenters and the big names who attend can also impact cost, but again this depends on the structure of the event. Read all the pricing information in case a cancellation is necessary.

• Save money by attending conferences close to your area, or combine a conference with a vacation if that fits your plans. You may as well see the area and take photos if you’re in a popular spot like New York, San Fran, Toronto, Vancouver, or Miami.

Role Models and Teachers

Publishing professionals attending (authors, editors, agents)

• Find out about the presenters, master classes, panel members, pitch appointments and critique sessions. If there is a particular person you follow, or want to pitch to, book early to ensure you get your chance.

• Inform yourself about the person you book appointments with so that you make the best use of your time at the conference. Pitch and critique times are short to accommodate a greater number of people, so be concise.

• Be respectful and treat these as business connections, not as your BFF. (Although for some, that may apply.)

Are you and the manuscript ready?

• Preparation is an important factor in making your attendance worthwhile - take your best writing (a sample) and be confident in talking about it. Determine the amount of time you have before the conference date and find out more about the presenters, prepare questions, etc. Be aware of conference etiquette, and restrictions on what is considered a ‘sample’.

• Vetting through a critique partner or an editor service may be a consideration, but remember not to take out what you feel is the ‘heart’ of the story. You want polish, not major revamping at this point.

Conference Listings (a sampling)

The Guide to Writers Conferences & Workshops (Shaw Guides-US & Canada)

Shaw Guides - Canada - Writers Conferences/Workshops (do a search for Canada)

Funds For Writers - hosted by Hope Clark - Newsletter includes upcoming conferences, workshops, & retreats especially those in the Southeast US

Jodie Renner Editing -2011 Writing Conferences

Guide to Literary Agents - hardcopy book &/or online access on purchase -- in the Markets section, see Conferences (A-Z) This book is published by Writers Digest books, in its Writers Market line.

Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market - hardcopy book &/or online access on purchase -- check the Markets and Resources sections in this niche version. Not sure how many international listings are included. Both this book and the one listed above are published by Writers Digest books along with other titles in the ‘Writers Market’ line.


I researched a few writing conferences by signing up for their newsletter to keep informed about the activities offered, which presenters appeared on a regular basis (authors, agents, editors) and to get an overview of the conference. I’ll review my experience in a future post.

Now, I’m committed to a deadline. A target. An anvil hanging over my head.  I’m in a Wiley E. Coyote frame of mind.

Time to run. . .

Vancouver, Canada Skyline from Stanley Park

 Any writing conferences in your future?