Tips on Attending a Writer's Conference
Getting Your Foot in the Door
If you're a creative writer, and if you want to get your foot in the door, going to your first writers conference can be a great and beneficial experience. Whether you write poetry, songs, short stories, novels, or nonfiction articles, when you're a beginner like me, there's a couple of things you need to know, before you start planning your first trip. These tips can make things easier for you in the long run, too.
A writer's conference is another way you can land an agent, an editor, a publisher, or all of the above, besides querying for fiction writers, or sending clips and proposals for journalists and non-fiction writers. Landing a referral, if you're lucky, can help you, too.
If you're interested in attending one, you can find information online, from magazines like Poets and Writers and Writer's Digest, and from books like Writer's Digest Guide of Literary Agents. Every once in a while, you might get mailed information for an invite to sign up.
Some writers conferences are also geared towards the reader, if you're not a writer, or both, with special reader-related events to meet and greet their favorite authors and get a signed photo and book, too.
Boucheron 20167 Writers Conference will be Held in Toronto, Canada on October 12th-15th, 2017
Location, Location, Location!
Keep that one word in mind. If you attend a local one in your area, you don't have to travel too far. You don't have to worry about airfare and arranging a hotel room. If there's not one nearest to you in your hometown, try the nearest county. If nothing, you might have to travel up north and south to find one you might like. If no luck, try in your own regional area.
For those ones that are out-of-state, it's going to cost you a lot of money, if you can afford it. If you don't want to travel alone, bring a friend or family member for support, who also might read, too.
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If the Price is Right
Besides finding the right location to attend your first writing conference, you also need to keep your budget in mind. Local ones in your area wouldn't cost as much, probably around $100-$300 and some might be lower than one hundred dollars. It depends on how long you want to stay for. Those that are out-of-state will cost you more than $300 and go higher, depending if you wanted to do the extra amenities. You would have to account the total cost in a couple of items on your list.
- Registration fee. For a single fee with no bonus amenities, some aren't free. But they cost you around $25 to reserve your fee.
- Airfare. You would have to reserve your own round trip tickets, whether it's in-state or out-of-state.
- Room and board. You would have to reserve your hotel room, whether you want to sleep alone or share with a roommate.
- Meals. Most meals like breakfast, lunch and/dinner come with the package. Others you have to pay for, especially if you want to eat out in a different place.
Besides the basic amenities covered with your registration package, there are other fun stuff to do, besides meet and greet your favorite authors, and meet new friends who are fellow writers, too.
- Workshop classes. Most classes are free. But if they come with a fee, you would have to pay more, if you want to attend more than one.
- Extras. These will cost you an extra bundle, if you want to give yourself a great experience. Most writing conferences will have an award dinner or some other celebration, especially if it's sponsored by an organization like RWA, ITW, and the MWA. You don't have to attend it, since it's optional.
- Manuscript critique. This would cost you a pretty penny. But if you want an author or an editor to give you feedback on your partial or full manuscript, this is a great way to improve your craft. But if you have more than one, it's going to cost you more. Those spots fill up fast, if you want to reserve your spot on line.
- Agent/Publisher pitch. If you don't need a critique and want to pitch your article, your short story, or novel to an agent, editor or publisher, this will cost you a little extra as well. Those spots get filled up too. If you don't have a ms, a query or cover letter will suffice also.
- Contests. Entering your story in a contest can be daring and fun. Some entry fees are free, while others are under $25. Keep in mind. The more you enter, the more you have to pay. This is a good way to get feedback and criticism. If you're lucky enough, you'll win a prize. And that you can add to your query or cover letter as a publication credit.
Sometimes Less is More
Besides location and price for the total package, you also have to take into consideration about how long you want to stay for. If you have some spare time on your calender, and if it falls in line with a writer's conference, then you get lucky. From what I've heard in the past about newbies who want to attend a conference this year, start small. In other words, less is more. Some seminars are a half-day or a full day, if you want to get a full hands-on experience. Others preferable choices are weekend packages, which are only two or three days long. These are also inexpensive, while those longer than three days would cost more for the weekly ones.
When you request information or check their website online, some would have options for specific days. If you have time for one, give that one a go. And most conferences that do happen once a year, (while some stay put in one location, others like Boucheron rotate to a new location every year), others have two a year, like one in spring and one in fall. So if you can't make one this winter or this spring, try the summer or fall ones.
All Set..Now Register Early!
Once you've gotten the basic information down on writing conferences, if you're interested, register early while you'll can. While most registration dates are open until it's filled, others have a deadline. So it's a good idea to do it, while you'll can. The same goes for hotel room reservations and the other extra amenities, too. The same applies for airline reservations, when you want to get there early, like the day or night before, so you wouldn't miss any fun. If it's in your area, you can drive there in your car or take the bus or taxi to where you need to go. You can commute from your home and bypass airline and hotel reservations.
Muse Online Writers Conference 2015 is free
A writer's retreat can be great at home or abroad if you can afford it to give you a jolt for your writing juices
If you don't have any money saved up for the trip, there are other alternatives. For the past couple of years, I've attended a free online writers conference every mid-October--except for last year, when it was canceled--and registration is free. It's called the Muse Online Writer's Conference. It's a good experience to learn the craft and get your own foot at the door. There's chat rooms for chats on a specific fields, forums for workshops in various writing crafts, and a special pitch chat room to pitch your story to agents and editors. (Sorry, only novels are allowed to pitch.) It's a great alternative to get the same experience as a real one.
A writer's retreat may be another option for you. It's also expensive, when you can spend time writing and hone your craft, and have very little extra amenities to spend your money on. Some are weekend packages, while others are longer, like for a week. Try to stay away from writing residencies, which are held at college dorms and last for two weeks to a month.
All Summed Up
In overall, keep this tips in mind. Start local in location, save money on the price, and start small with half-day/full-day and weekend packages. Later on, you can go for the big bucks on the weekly ones. You would have to pay for the basic amenities, while others are optional and costly. Register early and have fun, if you go!
A portable tape recorder is great for keeping notes in a workshop
An official update (or two!)
Here's an update: When I wrote this hub last fall, I was in the stages of planning to attend a local writers conference this spring. Now it's official, when I register this week to go to one, a month from Saturday, which is only a half-day conference, and one hour away. Another tip for those who are going is to take notes Bring notebooks and pens or pencils, or bring your ipad to type down everything you learn. Or even bring a portable tape recorder to record the session, if it's okay to get permission. If you want to go to two classes that's held at the same hour, sit in the back and quietly sneak out to go to the next class. I'll be going to four out of six workshop classes, (bypassing the pre-arranged editing sessions, since I have no work to be critiqued and edited), and taking plenty of notes. So stay tuned this spring, when I post four hubs from what I've learned in those classes in April and May. Have fun, takes notes, meet new people and make new friends. You'll learn a lot in one conference!
Update on 9/18/15: I've received the green list yesterday to attend my local writer's conference next weekend, which is a full day plus lunch. Though I'm behind on doing my Core of Elements of Fiction writing from last spring, I'll post my hub on this later this spring. Besides the bonus Q&A sessions, I'll be attending three or four new classes for these future hubs in October and November: The Art of the Interview, (maybe) The Elements of Storytelling: Fiction and Nonfiction, Make Your Own Book Trailer, and Expressive Writing: The Path of Becoming a Better Writer. Stay tuned later this fall for those hubs!