Many of my writer friends have cut back on attending writers' conferences. And I know from comments I've seen by other writers, as well as from cancellations of conferences I've signed up for, that attendance has dwindled for many worthwhile ones. Yes, I know the state of the economy, and our desire to save money is largely to blame. But some things in life have values beyond what can be seen on their face, and I believe that conferences are among those items.
I recently attended the Tallgrass Writers' Clinic in Emporia, Kansas, which is an economical, but valuable conference. They have many fine speakers there, excellent programs, and a fine atmosphere where they show the worth of learning the writing craft. I spoke to one young man in attendance there, asking him if this was his first writers' conference, and he replied that it was. I asked if he was enjoying it, and if he felt he was learning something. He told me, "This conference has changed my life."
It seems that the young man was so inspired by the speakers and the atmosphere of interest in writing by the participants there, that he had decided he wanted to really work at becoming a writer.
I recalled my first writers' conference in Kansas City, Missouri, and remembered the elation I felt on learning that more than a hundred people in attendance understood the feeling of writing something expressive and meaningful, knew how much knowledge and work it took to be able to do this, and were seeking to better learn how to do that. And, best of all, they were eager and willing to discuss any and all aspects of writing and any problems that were bothering others. There were no blank stares and awkward changes of subject when you told someone there that you were a writer, and you were working on a novel, poem, short story, or whatever. There were kindred spirits there who understood and encouraged a passion for utilizing the written word.
I mentioned my experience in meeting with the young man at the Emporia conference in a post on Facebook. And I received a number of responses from people who were inspired by their first conference, who found new writing friends, and who made contact with an established writer who became their mentor. There are so many possible advantages to attending a conference that we sometimes overlook them.
You can make writing friends who will encourage you, help you, and inspire you to write. You will learn various tips about craft that may help energize and improve your writing immensely. There are often editors, agents, and heads of publishing houses who speak about how the publishing business works, and who provide knowledge that will help you learn the system. You may be able to pitch your novel to an agent who will tell you to submit some chapters. You may meet an editor who is looking for your type of book series. And you'll definitely hear some amazing stories and wonderfully lively conversations from some of the most intelligent, interesting, and observant people you'll ever communicate with. Usually, the energy you take back home with you from attending a conference will carry you for a long time in your writing.
I'll be attending two more conferences this year: The Public Safety Writers' Association conference in Las Vegas, 7/12-15, where my latest novel, The Sacrifice, will be launched by Oak Tree Press (Illinois), and where I'll participate in two panels, and the Kansas Writers' Association yearly conference in Salina, Kansas, October 5-7, where I'll make two presentations and be on a panel.
And I know I'll learn some good writing tips, meet fascinating people in the writing world, learn some new ideas on promoting and marketing one's work, make some new friends, establish a few contacts with whom I can exchange ideas and suggestions about writing in the future, and just have a wonderful time learning, laughing, and having fun with lively and vibrant people.
You can obtain all these hidden values and more from attending writers' conferences. Look some up at www.writersdigest.com or at www.shawguides.com. There should be some not that far from you at a reasonable price. Consider the many things you can take away from attending one, and then make your decision. There are a vast array of precious ideas, contacts, and inspirational messages you'll be attaining there. Save your pennies and treat yourself to a fantastic experience.