The Writers Conference beckons, a seductive voice calling your name, the whispers of fame and fortune and fearless agents tantalizing your ego. Your entire body arches toward it, drawn as if by the radiant sun. But you hesitate. Torn, you ask: Is it really for you? Are you ready yet? Is it worth the time, money, energy, and steel-toed boots crunching your soul down?
I can't answer those questions for you. But I can tell you the thoughts that wandered through my head as I packed up my things last summer, ready to head home after a 3-day writers conference in Seattle, Washington.
1. It is expensive. The Pacific Northwest Writers Association holds a conference that costs $395 for members. Plus hotel. Plus most meals. Plus airfare or gas or train ticket.
2. The sessions are good but not "blow your socks off" good. Who knows: perhaps I'm jaded since I attend so many conferences for my profession. Regardless, I walked away from some sessions with excellent information, and I sat through some where I was working hard to find that something.
3. It's daunting & nerve-wracking. Agents and writers, editors and hopefuls litter the floor, halls, and banquet rooms. In mass quantities. You never know when you're going to be cloistered in the elevator with an agent. (Yes, it really does happen.) And you never know when you're going to be flattened by a more aggressive hopeful. (That doesn't happen so much. Honestly. People are generally kind and helpful. Thankfully.)
And honestly? I walked away thinking, "I'm glad I attended, but I'm not sure it was worth it." I'll go home and huddle in my hermitage now, thank you.
It wasn't until a couple of weeks eased by that I realized the wealth of experience I had walked away with. Because of those sessions, because of those talks with agents and editors, because of those budding relationships I made with other writers, I now knew what questions to ask. I knew what to research. I knew how much my pitch totally sucked. But even better, I knew how to fix it.
So, my advice? Follow your heart, of course. But after that, do attend one. At least one. There is no one single event in the Writers Conference that makes it worthy or valid or perfect. (Unless, of course, agents mud-wrestle for you, but that's another story.) The synergy, on the other hand, is overwhelming and the lessons last a lifetime.
For those of you who have attended conferences, did you have similar experiences? nightmares? joyous accounts? Which conferences were the "best" in your opinion? the "worst"?