Posts Tagged ‘writing conferences’

Why you really need a writing conference

The weekend of May 18th I’m helping out with my favorite local writing conference. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you really should read the end of this blog where I tell you about Write on the River. But if not:

You still really need a writing conference.

I once asked an acquaintance why her husband, an avid and sporadically published author wasn’t attending our local conference. She said, in effect, “Oh, David doesn’t think writing can be taught.”

It was such a dumb comment, I didn’t know what to say; it was equal parts ignorance and snobbery.

I’m not going to argue about talent being nature or nurture. It’s obvious that if you have a leaden ear for language you will not go far in this business. But to say that therefore nothing can be taught is idiocy. You can and will learn from other writers. It is a craft. And in the ancient tradition of apprenticeship, we all do well to learn from the masters. Or at least from published writers. Since you’re already reading this post, I will now forgo the rant that was boiling up from below. You don’t need a lecture.

But maybe, in these lean economic times, you might need a bit of encouragement to lay out $155 for a weekend of workshops.

So, in a nutshell, here is why you need to sign up immediately for a writing conference. Maybe even spring for the travel costs to go to one a little further than you have before. (Nothing like a longish car trip home to set your mind free to come up with a great novel idea!)

So. You need a writing conference because:

That is pretty much the only place in the world where almost everyone around you shares the same dream: to write amazing stories and get them published.

Writing may be a solitary act, but you need people, my friend. Spend too much time in front of a computer screen alone in your den and you start to develop conspiracy theories, self-loathing and toe nail fungus. Get out in the world; clean up your act; meet people who actually think that writing is important instead of pretentious or weird. The writing conference is a place to draw deep renewal from the mere presence of other people who believe. Whether you talk to any of them or not.

And on that topic, please read my introversion posts. ‘Nuf said.

You will learn how different approaches to writing can hook your subconscious in undreamed of ways.

Yes, I’m saying that the best speakers aren’t teaching nuts and bolts, or at least not only that; they’re sharing doors to the inside. Paths to story. Because–and here’s what David didn’t get–finding your story is a deeply subconscious process that can be accessed sideways by surface lessons. You are apparently hearing about point of view choices, let’s say, but your subconscious is hearing about wearing the costume of another sentient being.

See, your subconscious is mysterious and quirky, but in the end it wants to be happy. That’s why it urges you to eat ice cream. But it also realizes that you are never going to be happy if you don’t write your stories, so it pays attention at these confabs. In its own way, to be sure. You’re making POV notes, and it’s thinking about channeling your next protagonist.

How do I know this? Because I’ve awakened in the middle of the night with a protagonist racing through my mind. Never saw her before. Don’t know anything about her. Except for the scene that just burbled up from below.

You may land an agent or sell directly to an editor.

You say you’ve tried that and didn’t get a bite? Hey, me too. I met with a very well known sf/f agent at a conference many years ago and he flat out said he wasn’t interested in my story. Felt like shit. But then, a few years later, I did find an agent at a conference. And as to editors, I am not the best at networking, but I have sold several short stories directly to editors who were combing the conference for material. Every time I do this–even after 10 published novels–I experience long moments of sappy happiness.

You can’t control what will happen to you at conferences, but you can put yourself in the way of success.

You will make writing friends. You will need them.

Not at every conference, maybe, but at most of them. It’s rather easy to start conversations at conferences. Try “What are you working on?” And go from there.

The people you meet at these things can very well end up being your closest friends. They will be people to turn to with triumphs to share and slumps to weather. It’ll be their turn next, and they will listen to you now. Your writing friends may ultimately end up being even more important than your writing career. I guess I really said that. I’ll just leave it there.

$155, are you kidding me? Register. Pay. Go.

And where, you may ask, can you actually get all this for a mere $155? (You got your mega-conferences–also lovely–but they will cost a good bit more.)

Write on the River, that’s where.

Whatcha going to get?

1. Awesome keynote speaker to start out the day: Jonathan Evison, author of All About Lulu and other things.

2. Chris Humphreys, an extremely popular teacher from Vancouver Island giving an intensive session on the novel.


3. The amazing Steven Barnes on The Hero’s Journey and also writing the thriller. He is one of the most inspirational teachers you will ever see.


4. Workshops on writing the nonfiction book, the memoir, YA lit, making money at freelancing, writing short stories and a bunch of stuff on the new world of publishing.

Maureen McQuerry, YA lit

I’m excited about this line-up. We’ve been planning it for months. It’s almost here.

Gordon Warnock, Andrea Hurst Literary Mngm't

Where the heck is Wenatchee? Two and a half hour drive over mountains from Seattle. The sunny side of the state. Nestled in the foothills on the banks of the Columbia River and the wine country. Spectacular.

But it’s the writing conference you really need.




An Introvert’s Guide to Worldcon

This is part of my series “An Introvert’s Guide to Writing.” For more tips on going to conventions see post #5 in the Introvert series.

I’m going to Reno next week along with several thousand others, many of whom will, like me, wish they were somewhere else. Like in the hotel room writing or watching “House” reruns.

Why go to these endless networking confabs? People who say “To see my friends!” are doubtless looking forward to the dozens of close friends they have made in the biz. Maybe even hundreds of best friends! However, for the introvert, we are happy to see friends, of course, but both of them live in Indiana. So why are we going to Reno?

1. Because we learn stuff.

2. Because we may be able to do business with editors and collaborators.

3. And because, like it or not, we shall meet people.

Here is the thing about meeting people

The world is run by people, the writing/publishing business is run by people and the people we meet may know someone else who knows someone else who will be fun or productive to know. Thus, meeting people at conventions is a very nice door into the world you are trying to break into.

It just won’t happen all at once or all at one convention. It will be incremental. Read More…

Sometimes a great nudge

I was listening to Bob Mayer give a workshop on writing the novel and I heard the voice of God. Now, I like Bob Mayer very much, but it wasn’t his voice I heard, it was something coming from the ceiling of my mind, and it said: Hey, dimwit, rewrite the opening scene of your novel.

Bob Mayer was on the subject of kernel ideas for stories, opening lines (“I told him I loved him and he killed me anyway”), and how the original idea should be worked and reworked until people light up when you tell them the story premise. I was thinking that this was all great advice, and I wrote it down, but I didn’t exactly need to hear it. What I needed to hear was what he said next. “Your opening scene often mirrors your climactic scene.”

Oh boy. Read More…

A Small Conference Delivers

Sometimes small really is beautiful. Take conferences. Ever feel overwhelmed and lost at those big rallies? Me too. Often a small conference gives you more opportunities to talk to pros and new friends–while still delivering that ignition point for your writing.

Thus my enthusiastic endorsement for the May 14-15 Write on the River conference. Check us out. On the beautiful campus of Wenatchee Valley College, tucked between the Cascade foothills and the Columbia river. Come over for the day and a half conference, and then tour our wine country. It’s a 2.5 hour drive from Seattle. Registration is only $140 for both days. Twelve workshops, agent and editor appointments.

NOTE: Bob Mayer workshop now 2.5 hours in morning, for in-depth coverage. Louise Marley will teach an additional class: The Telling Detail: Research in Fiction at 3:30 p.m.

The nonfiction book: Craig Welch

Keynote: Bestselling thriller author Chelsea Cain

Sunday Intensive on Story: Bob Mayer

Literary Agent Verna Dreisback

Writing the Fantastic, Young Adult 2 hr Workshop: Louise Marley

An Introvert’s Guide to Writing #4

10 Tips to Building Relationships

What do relationships have to do with writing? Plenty. In your writing career you will have relationships with other writers, book editors, magazine editors, agents, booksellers and a bunch more. What all these entities have in common is that they’re people, and as such they have finely-tuned social skills, emotional reactions, and cultural reflexes. They respond immediately and strongly to other people, even when they look like they aren’t paying attention. They are. They can’t help it.

If you’re making a good impression (versus a painfully convoluted or negative one) they’ll tend to ask you for stories, agree to represent you, hand sell your book, and retweet your most interesting comments. Read More…