Thursday, July 18, 2013


Aspiring authors sometimes ask me whether they should go to a writing conference.

The short answer is yes, if it's one I'm going to be speaking at.

Your remaining options in 2013 are:

·         Writer's Digest West, in Los Angeles September 27-29. All information here:  I'll be doing two presentations, one on Saturday afternoon ('How to Write a Dynamite Mystery or Thriller that Sells'), the other Sunday morning ('Quit Your Day Job—Seriously!).

·         Florida Writer's Association, in Lake Mary, Florida (Orlando) October 18-20. All information here: For this one I'll be doing 'How to Write a Dynamite Mystery or Thriller that Sells.'

At both of these conferences you'll meet and learn from other experienced professionals, be able to buy books and get them signed, and not least, you'll meet other aspiring writers.

The longer answer to "Should I go to a conference?" is this: Conferences cost time and money, and you need to be reasonably sure the conference you pick will be worth it.
The best way to pick a conference is read the schedule and see who the faculty is. If your writerly heart beats faster while reading a session description, pay attention. If this happens three or more times, seriously consider going to that conference.

Star appeal is a funny question. Most conferences feature one or two brand-name authors, and if a particular author is an idol of yours, it would be cool to meet that person. You'd naturally want to thank them for writing the books they do, and hey, maybe it would be possible to pick their brain on the art and business of writing, if only for a few minutes.

Trouble is, the bigger the name, the more they'll be overrun by fans (or cornered by overt opportunists), and the less chance you'll have of making contact. I remember being at a huge conference that featured a marquee author I really wanted to meet. I went to his session, and that was neat, but afterward he was so totally swarmed that I never got a chance to talk with him one on one.

So if you do meet up with that big-name author, great! But the more rewarding approach is to focus on learning new things and making friends. There is absolutely no way Facebook or Twitter can give you the sort of connection that just hanging out with somebody can. I should probably stand in the hotel bar holding a sign that says, "WILL TALK WRITING FOR MARTINIS." (I will absolutely talk writing for martinis.)
Moreover, most presenters try to be as available as possible during conferences, not just at the official meet-n-greets. I like to hang out after my presentation and answer questions I couldn't get to in the time allotted. If I have to vacate the room for the next speaker, I pull over somewhere nearby (ideally a corridor with a comfy chair or two!) and listen to aspiring writers and try to help them.

Apart from the presenters, there are your fellow participants. If, when you look in the mirror, you see a nice, interesting, caring person there (and I know you do), you will be amazed at how many nice, interesting, caring people you will find at a writing conference!

It's true. Writers tend to be terrific people. Smile, schmooze, and make friends. Some friendships will last a lifetime. It's happened to me.

Have you attended a writing conference? How did you approach the experience? Tell us! To post a comment, click below where it says, 'No Comments,' or '2 Comments,' or whatever.

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