***The faculty (including myself, fourth from left) just before a panel discussion at the AV Christian Writers’ Conference this past weekend.
I just returned from keynoting and teaching at a Christian writers’ conference. As conferences go, it was relatively small but enthusiastic and positive.
Because I speak at several writers’ conferences throughout the year and each seems to have its own unique “personality,” I’ve thought at lot about how those individual conference personalities draw and minister to attendees. Conferences vary according to size, venue, length, and focus, but each has something to offer–IF the attendee has done a little homework first in order to know what to expect.
The conference I attended this weekend was strong on the basics of writing and publishing, particularly for new writers. As a result, though it was only a Friday night/all-day Saturday conference, those who came looking for clear direction on how to get started in the writing/publishing industry probably came away feeling satisfied. If conferees were looking for something more substantial==a chance to connect with several agents and/or acquisitions editors from publishing houses–may have felt they made a wrong choice in attending.
Writers’ conferences are, for the most part, one of the most effective ways for an up-and-coming writer to spend his/her money. The larger conferences offer one of the few ways a previously unpublished writer can meet agents and publishers face to face and have their manuscripts get at least a cursory consideration. They are also a great way to expand writing relationships and networks. Local critique groups are most effective in establishing ongoing, regular communication with others of like mind, but conferences connect writers with others in the industry–a key in getting established in the publishing world.
Many Christian writers’ conferences are focused on just that–writing, at all levels, including marketing (which, yes, goes hand in hand with successful writing, particularly with books). To a smaller degree, some conferences stress an evangelical or social issues theme–i.e., the persecuted Church or human trafficking. Some offer free time for writers to break away from workshops and sessions so they can spend time alone with God and/or with other conferees, which some keep attendees racing at break-neck speed from one event to another, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to soak up as much knowledge and information as possible. In addition, some conferences offer critiques of your existing manuscripts, while others don’t, so this is should be a major deciding factor if you have a manuscript for which you are seeking personal, professional feedback.
If you or someone you know is considering attending a writers’ conference, I can’t stress enough the importance of checking out the conference’s website first, as well as obtaining any additional, specific information possible. (Clarifying all expenses involved is also necessary, as some conferences include housing and meals in the conference fee, while others do not.) Be clear with yourself on what you’re looking to obtain from a conference, and then check around to see which conferences sound most suited to your needs.
I would love to hear from anyone who has comments or questions on writers’ conferences, whether those questions and comments are born out of previously attended conferences or whether you are considering attending one for the first time. This can be an extremely positive venture–or not. Like anything else, doing your homework first makes a huge difference.