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IN Her Own Write
Should you be joining them? Are conferences a shortcut to publishing success?
Most agents recommend them. Many suggest attending a conference or two before even sending a query. Advice to attend conferences also features in an increasing number of rejection letters. I've received several myself recently, urging me to "learn about the publishing business by attending a writers' conference."
I personally find these a little annoying, since the novel being rejected is a satire of writers' conferences, and I state in my query that I have attended nearly a dozen.
But those dozen were worthwhile, for the most part, and I'd recommend them to other aspiring writers. However, the conferences did not land me an agent or publisher.
Most agents will admit they don't discover many new clients through conference pitch sessions – especially when the pitch comes from the next stall in the ladies' room. Don't do this.
What I got out of my experiences was solid instruction in the basics of the industry. I also received some painful reality checks and a couple of ego boosts. But for me, the major benefit was networking with fellow writers. A random sampling of writing blogs suggests that's the general experience. Ours is a lonely profession. Connecting with others of our species keeps us grounded.
If you're thinking about attending a conference, choose carefully. Some of the best known are more like fantasy camps for Scott and Zelda wannabes than training grounds for professional writers.
I've heard it's cleaned up its act, but the oldest and most revered conference, Vermont's Bread Loaf – which rejects 78% of applicants – is also known as "Bed Loaf" for a reason. In a famous 2001 article for The New Yorker, Rebecca Mead said, "The triple compulsions of Bread Loaf have, traditionally, been getting published, getting drunk, and getting laid."
Unless you're looking for a party-hearty getaway or an excuse for an exotic vacation, avoid big-name conferences and start small. The most cost-effective are weekend conferences offered at many colleges and universities. You may even find one close enough to home that you don't have to pay for lodging.
Most writers I know get more out of conferences that concentrate on their specific genre – not the national award-centered extravaganzas – but smaller workshops sponsored by regional organizations. Local chapters of RWA, MWA, SFWA, and others offer shorter conferences such as the Central Ohio conference for children's writers, or the Hot Springs Criminal Pursuits mystery writers' conference. Check Shaw Guides http://writing.shawguides.com/ for a comprehensive list.
If you decide to go, here are some tips:
So do you have to go to conferences to get published?
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