The Writers' Conference To go or not to go
By Peggy Bechko
Youíve been writing for a while now and it occurs to you it might be worthwhile to attend one or more writersí conferences. So, the question is, bluntly, is it?
The answer is, confusingly, yes and no.
Okay, before you give up in disgust and donít bother reading any further, I promise Iím going to clarify; give you something to consider and hopefully help you see a bit clearer the drawbacks and pluses of attending writersí conferences.
For starters, plainly it can be a very good idea. Conferences will frequently provide the opportunity for you to rub shoulders with editors, agents, and other writers. Those meetings can result in a connection with the "right" person. An editor who asks to see your work; another, more experienced writer whoís happy to offer advice; an agent who is willing to accept your submission; all these and more are the "right" people. Many also provide workshops on various topics that can be extremely informative. And many fast friendships have been formed at conferences. All of this is very good.
The down side? Itís going to cost you money. If you have to travel some distance and stay in a motel, it will cost you even more money. There is usually a fee just to attend. Then more money may be required for many of the workshops and classes. If youíre on a tight budget you better figure the expenses accurately or youíll find yourself financially behind the eight ball. You can shave expenses if youíre lucky enough to have a conference in your city. So investigate that first.
The other down side is not quite as obvious as cash from pocket. If you happen to be very shy, and many writers are, will you really be able to get your dollars worth out of such a conference? When I began writing I was extremely shy. If thatís the case with you, itís something you need to work on. You might consider starting with local writers' groups or attending some classes at a college nearby.
Remember, part of your professional life as a writer is going to be putting yourself out there. Youíll probably end up giving public talks, perhaps attending book signings, maybe giving interviews on the radio or for print publications. You cannot be a writer these days, hide in a corner, and expect that your words will be enough. They wonít.
Find ways to shake yourself loose from that shyness. I took myself to dude ranches when I was young, alone, and got to know people there. At first I simply attended the family-style meals. I felt awkward and self-conscious, but it didnít take long to get to know a few people and begin to feel more comfortable. I made it a point to strike up conversations and, no matter how uncomfortable, to put myself out there.
I recommend you do the same Ė and do it before you decide to attend a conference thatís costing you a lot of money . . . unless youíre feeling very brave and want to toss yourself into the deep end of the pool.