What’s up with Writers Conferences?

Last Wednesday I woke up in the wee hours in the morning, caught a quick shower, and made my way to the airport. Three planes and a very stern immigration officer later, I stepped out of Orlando International and into what all Floridians seem to refer to as “Paradise.”

They aren’t far off.
But, I didn’t leave my hellions at home with the ol’ hubster for the beautiful palm trees, the perfect weather, or the practically tax-free American wine that flows like milk and honey.

The main reason for going?


A writing conference.

The great Allison Maruska and I were invited to Florida by Dan Alatorre. Dan a good friend of Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins, a great critique partner, and also the best-selling author of stack of books that are killing it on Amazon right now. Actually, Allison’s books are doing pretty furr-eak-ing amazing, too. Given the opportunity to chill out in the Florida sunshine with these two . . . who could possibly say no?

untitled.pngNot me.

And so, I got to partake in my very first writers conference. Over the course of the next couple of days, I participated in a plethora of workshops that ran from 6am till 9 at night. The conference was attended by agents, critically acclaimed and best-selling authors, blogging phenoms, and beginners.

Now, I am what many would refer to as a self-taught author. I decided to write a novel on a whim without having ANY idea how hard writing a godforsaken book actually is. (Did I mention it’s hard?) That said, it doesn’t mean that I went about learning how to write in a half-@s$ed daze. As a fiercely self-conscious/perfectionist/control freak, I hit google up for writing tips with the tenacity of a trick-or-treating eight year old. ocd-2I bought eleventy-billion writing books, and then I bought the audible versions so I could learn about writing (and torture my children) while folding laundry, washing the floor, and while getting ready for work. I joined multiple critique groups. When I ran into a problem with my story–be it grammatical, or to do with structure, plot, or outline–I was able to figure it out pretty quickly. (Or I just asked Dan.) I wrote short stories for competitions, and eventually sold articles to websites . . . for money.

I learned the skills to teach myself and then taught myself. And, immersing myself in a hotel filled with seven hundred authory types on a quest to broaden our writerly horizons has helped me realize something. I know a hell of a lot more about writing than I’ve given myself credit for.

That said, a fair number of workshops at the Florida Writer’s Conference were geared toward newbies.

The beauty of the schedule was that several workshops ran at the same time, so Dan, Allison, and I were able to sit through bits and pieces of what we found applicable.

By the time the end of the weekend rolled around, I found that I benefited greatly from the very act of immersing myself in author culture. As writers, we are responsible for plugging our own work. leather-bound-booksAt first, we’re the only person who CAN. It’s hard in the beginning. But, when you surround yourself with like-minded authory individuals . . . it gets easier. Because of the conference, I was able to identify a weakness–talking about Old Souls–and overcome it. I learned the importance of talking about my book with finesse. I wrote down and memorized a blurb to recite when people ask me about it. And, I started work on a killer elevator pitch. Not that I EVER plan on running into Eric Simonoff here. Prince Edward Island is rather un-surprisingly agent free . . . not to mention elevator limited. Which is great because sometimes I get nervous.



Looking back,  I don’t think attending a writers conference is crucial to authorly growth. But, talking to other writers is 100%, absolutely essential. It’s important to surround yourself with people who have attained the kind of career you want. So, find a place where you can submerge yourself in a pool of writerly kinship.

And–if you do go to a conference, it should probably be somewhere like Florida


27 thoughts on “What’s up with Writers Conferences?

  1. I went to my first writers conference last month and had a very similar experience. Some of what I heard in the talks was useful — a new way of expressing something I’d read before, or more evocative examples — and I enjoyed the hands-on workshops where I got feedback on my pitch and samples of written work. But mostly I enjoyed meeting the other writers and, as you say, absorbing a bit of the culture. It was definitely inspiring!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Socializing with other authors was definitely the best part of the conference for me. It’s funny that most of the comments here seem to echo that sentiment. Writing can be such a solitary endeavor, and it’s great when we can reach out and talk to people who understand our struggles . . . and celebrate in each other’s success.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think it’s because there are so many other sources of information about the craft of writing, so what can someone giving a talk about it say that hasn’t been said before? Besides, writing doesn’t change (much) over time, so what new thing will you learn at later conferences? That said, I really enjoyed the panel session with agents, talking about the current state of the field and answering the audience’s questions.


  2. Totally agree with you Jenny … I got so much from talking to authors at the London Book Fair back in April .. still buzzing to be honest … going again next year. And guess what I’m meeting up with Lucy Brazier (Porter Girl) in a couple of weeks … her recently published book is a ‘must read’.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I, too, learned the importance of the elevator pitch. Not to pitch agents in elevators, as you demonstarated, but to answer this question from friends, before the 10-second attention span fades.
    “You’re writing a book? What about?”
    “When family violence destroys both Rosa and Tony’s lives, their response touches all of Little Italy–and each other.”
    “Interesting. Think it’s going to rain?”

    Liked by 2 people

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  5. Great post! I’ve had similar experiences, as in I realized that I knew a lot more about writing than I thought! I also agree with the submersion in author-culture. It’s so nice to talk about your writing with people who “get it.”

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’d often wondered about how much you can get out of these things vs googling. I have small children, and another on the way, so attending is still probably far off on the horizon for me, but its great to hear about the camaraderie and culture. Local writers often invite me to local conferences (provincial ones), often with hefty price tags and promising to teach me things like how to market my self-published book. I get fifty emails about that every day! So this is a good post for me.
    Its a bit ironic that one of the main tourist draws of the island is a writer’s character, but there’s no agents around. Still, you have Boomburgers, so that counts for something.

    Liked by 2 people

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