Why All Writers Should Attend Writers’ Conferences
We get it: It’s not always easy to attend a writers’ conference. It takes time and it takes money – two things that we writerly types generally don’t have enough of. For many of us, it means travel, and time away from our families and daily responsibilities. Is it worth the hassle and the cost? You bet!
If you’ve never been to a good writers’ conference before, you may think that it’s all about sitting around listening to talking heads tell new writers how to write. You may say to yourself: Why pay good money for something I can learn from books, the internet, and/or my writers’ group? And if you’re a published author, you may feel that you have nothing to gain from attending a conference.
So Then, What Is a Writers’ Conference?
Yes, it’s true: a writers’ conference is a great opportunity for writers to come together and learn from successful authors, literary agents, and editors through panels, workshops, and other conference events and activities – including pitch sessions, book fairs, and open mic readings. It’s a chance to gain insight about trends and issues in the industry from knowledgeable insiders. But attending writers’ conferences can provide so many additional benefits that some writers attend three or four every year.
Why? Because there are at least ten reasons why attending CanWrite! 2017 is a worthwhile investment if you take your writing seriously:
1. You will meet writers from different parts of Canada.
This is your chance to network, commune, and socialize with fellow writers of every type, at varying stages in their writing careers—writers you wouldn’t otherwise get to meet, with different experiences and lessons learned to share. Writers are readers too, and a conference is a good way to build your audience as well as your social network beyond your back yard.
2. You will learn.
No matter how much you think you already know about writing and the publishing industry, writers’ conferences are always full of ideas and new insights about the craft and the business of writing. Hearing how someone else deals with writers’ block can give you a life-changing Eureka! moment. Describing your struggle with a particularly difficult character during a workshop or writers’ circle may help you discover the perfect solution. You may get new ideas for promoting your book – even if it’s not finished yet. The possibilities are endless if you’re open to them.
3. You will get inspired and energized.
Writing is a solitary business, and we writers aren’t always the most social of creatures – otherwise we’d never get our writing done. But creative energy is contagious, and spending time with writers who are passionate about what they do is the best way to rejuvenate your faltering muse or dwindling confidence.
4. You will improve your effectiveness as a professional writer.
If you’re objective and observant, conferences can give you great insight into what works – and what doesn’t – for pitches, readings, book fairs, book signings, and giving workshops or leading writing circles. Make a point of learning from your mistakes and, better yet, from the shared and observed mistakes of others.
5. You will learn more about different genres.
Conference offerings and the new writers you meet may open doors to new possibilities. Alternatively, you may find that techniques and tools used by science fiction or creative nonfiction writers also have application to your fiction writing.
6. You will meet agents and editors in person.
The agent and editor panels at CanWrite provide writers with a wealth of information about the industry, what publishers and agents are looking for, and what’s trending today. You’ll learn that they are approachable and open to questions – but do refrain from pitching to them if you haven’t booked a session. It’s not fair to them or to the writers who have paid to pitch.
7. If you have signed up for a pitch session, you will get focused one-on-one time with an agent or editor.
Agents and editors participate in writers’ conferences because they are always looking for new talent and great ideas, despite the tons of query letters and manuscripts they get every year. A 10-minute face-to-face pitch session may be your best chance to show them why your manuscript is something they want to read (but don’t book a pitch if it’s not quite there yet). You can also get valuable feedback on why your work isn’t piquing their interest. Take heed of their advice – they are the experts!
8. You may gain some valuable resources.
Whether you leave the conference with handouts, recommended books, website links, leads to new publishers or agents, new-found mentors, or pages of useful notes from the sessions you’ve attended, you’ll be that much further ahead than you were when you arrived.
9. You may experience a bit of a reality check.
It can be difficult to learn about the real world of publishing and writing – to hear that few writers can live off their royalties, that publishers don’t have extravagant budgets to promote your book, that your book idea is not as novel as you thought it was. Better to learn from the experts and the experienced at a conference than to have your hopes and dreams dashed in relative isolation. And counterbalancing all that harsh reality is the encouragement, nuggets of wisdom, and supportive commiseration from others who once shared your dreams and dashed expectations.
10. You will experience a unique sense of community.
There’s nothing quite like being around like-minded people who share your interests and your passion for the written word. A writers’ conference can make you feel truly connected to the writing and publishing industry through shared angst, laughter, and experiences. And in the process you may end up developing some meaningful and long-lasting friendships.
What do past attendees say about CanWrite conferences?
My times at CanWrite! conferences have been exciting, positive, and rewarding. The atmosphere is conducive to writing, the classes and workshops are first class.
In particular, a master class kept me on track with my most recent novel, and a social media workshop energized my marketing efforts. —Robert W. Mackay
The agent pitch opportunities are a big bonus… providing personal access to agents.(unsigned)
I learned so much at this conference! Nearly a year later, I’m still working to implement all of the helpful things I learned, from podcasting to promotion to trying new genres. My days at the conference even spawned the idea for an entire series I’ve already begun to write. It was a phenomenal opportunity to meet other writers and learn from the pros. —Vanessa Ricci-Thode
I love meeting writers from other parts of the country! (unsigned)
I was hooked after my first CanWrite experience. Top quality workshops and programming in an intimate setting with hands-on access to agents, publishers, and award-winning authors. With a great atmosphere and the camaraderie of sharing an amazing weekend with like-minded writers, what more could you ask for? —Cindy Watson
Good facilitators—well-rounded, knowledgeable, helpful, down-to-earth, and communicative. The organizers were friendly, helpful, energetic, hard-working and deserving of all the accolades – job well done! (unsigned)
What to hear more? Watch this 2-minute video taken during CanWrite! 2014 at Lakehead’s Orillia Campus in Ontario:
- Learn what it takes to get your work published by getting advice from industry experts, including literary agents, publishing house editors, and publicists.
- Find out how to take your writing to the next level through daily interactive workshops facilitated by bestselling and award-winning authors.
- Connect with onsite editors and agents throughout the conference — Dive in, join in on or sit back and listen to conversations with these industry experts.
- Gain practical insights and how-to strategies on getting your work ready for publication.
- Network with writers from across Canada — Who knows? This may just be where you find your next pacing partner or critiquing companion.
- Get inspired!