I will say right up front that I love writer’s conferences. You are warned!
The first conference I attended was about a year after my first book was published. My book had not done too well, having sold a whopping 400 copies in that first year—far less than the 250,000 copies I had been counting on. The most common comment I’d received was that I didn’t know beans about grammar…but the story was good. Hardly what I was looking for. I was apparently not the brilliant writer I had thought myself to be. How IS that possible?
That first writer’s conference was hosted by Rachel Ann Nunes, Lisa Peck and Anita Stansfield and held in the basement of one of their homes. Myself and about fifteen other writers gathered together to glean some insights—and we got our money’s worth. It was the first time I’d ever met other writers, I ended up swapping manuscripts with one of the other attendees and learning how to get and give feedback because of it. I also learned the tricks these 3 women used in their own writing.
Since then I have attended League of Utah Writer’s Round-up, Association of Mormon Letters annual conference, and four years ago LDStorymakers posed the idea of doing our own writer’s conference. We were about 20 members strong at that time and had all learned so much from our association with one another that we thought it would be great to share that with even more people (and we needed money ☺)
So we looked around for a venue—hmmmm, hard to do when you don’t have any money, and found the Brown Theater in Springville. We taught our workshops surrounded by theater sets, everyone had to whisper in the halls because there was a lack of actual walls, and the two bathrooms were located in such a way that you had to walk through the workshops to get to them. Most of us that presented had never done a presentation in our lives. It was rough—and yet, it worked. The feedback we received was incredible, people loved the casualness of it, the networking yahoogroup we set up for the attendees was a hit—they even liked the food. The following year we had a little more money, but not enough to move anywhere else and we used the theatre again—hauling tables across the state and using chairs from one of our members storage bay so as to try and keep our attendee’s behinds from going to sleep. It went really well, again, and we were all a little better at it. I ran out of gas at midnight on I-15 though, my husband had to come rescue me but everything else was the bomb.
Last year we were able to have in a hotel, added a contest and Boot Camp. It was awesome—we had arrived! This year, I’m one of the co-queens and it is fabulous, if I do say so myself. We’re hosting at the Provo Library and very excited about it. Each year we have nearly doubled in the size of our attendees, and our presentations have more variety and because we have so many people that come back every year we've expanded to have both beginning and advanced level classes available.
However, despite my worship of writers' conferences, I hear some writers say that they're a waste of time because it’s just one more way in which they are NOT writing. They make a valid point--if all you do is go to a writer’s conference, you are wasting your time and money, but for me writer’s conferences are an incredible opportunity to learn about the craft of writing. I’ve been to enough that not every class interests me, so then I stay out in the halls with the other Riff Raff (all due respect to said Riff-Raff-Hall-loungers) and network—priceless!!
So, now that I’ve born my testimony, what do you think? I know that sounds loaded, but truly I'd like to hear people's opinions--and quite frankly I should have asked this ten months ago when we were planning the conference. Still, the info is valuable. Have writer’s conferences been helpful for you? What conferences are your favorite? Why? Do you think they are a waste of time? Why? I’m ready to hear all about it and take notes.
And with the LDStorymakers conference being only two weeks away, go to www.ldstorymakers.com for more information.