Last week-end I went to the SDSU writer’s conference. I’ve been to this one before (more than a few times, I even went back in the day when it was still on SDSU’s campus ;)), but each time it’s a bit different. This would be rather that my experience was different based on where I was as a writer each time, not the conference- although the speakers change, the set-up is pretty much the same.
Let me first say that I think ALL writers, regardless of level, should go to as many writer’s conferences as they can afford. Now, that being said, they are pricy, so you need to research them carefully and see what works for you. But I think they are the best way (aside from just sitting your ass in your chair each day and writing) to grow as a writer.
I’ve even listed why ;).
1) Meeting other writers. Yep- I listed this one first for a reason- it’s possibly the most important reason. Writers are a weird breed- we like people (or it would be damn hard to write about them) but we are isolated by our craft. We spend hours alone with only the voices in our heads for company- it’s good to get out sometimes ;).
Plus, let’s face it, most non-writers (or people not in the industry) don’t really get what we do. They often think you crank out a book in a few weeks, it gets magically published, and you’re fabulously wealthy. Don’t believe me? Try telling someone how long it takes to write a book, then edit it, edit it again, have some beta readers hit it, edit again, then submit, submit, submit…then if it does get an offer, it’ll probably be a year or more before that book ends up on a shelf. Oh, and by the way- forget about quitting that day job. You’ll notice your non-writer friends’ eyes glazing over and they may even start to twitch.
Not so with fellow writers! They understand the process and the madness that drives us to do it. They know the odd and disturbing things that can have a writer walking on clouds, or in the depths of dispair. So, being around others of “our kind” is good for heart, soul, and sanity.
I met some really amazing folks at the conf this year, both standing in line and at the Fantasy table at lunch (I write both SF & Fantasy, but flipped a coin as to which table I’d be at ;)- glad I picked this one!). Meeting them and sharing the conference with folks who understand the highs and lows of writing is really a great experience.
2) Workshops- yup number two is learning. I have heard that some writers won’t go to a conference without agents, since that’s what they are focusing on= Getting An Agent. I say in our field you NEVER lose the need to keep learning. If you don’t keep improving your craft, you can’t keep up. Keep taking classes, reading books, tracking down folks and picking their brains- we’re in this for the long haul, right? Then keep the brain moving.
3) Exposure to the Gods and Goddess of our field- aka editors and agents. Many folks would put this higher on the list, but I say the other two rank higher in terms of building your career as a writer for the long run, solid writing will lead to these folks with or without a conference. Yes, being around agents and editors is beneficial both for feedback as well as understanding what they do. But in my mind too many writers only focus on that aspect for conferences. Build your writing first- then worry about selling it.
I’d have to say this conference hit all three for me. Met some wonderful writing folks, was exposed to some great new ways to think about writing and myself as a writer, and got to listen to agents and talk to an editor. All in all, I feel more “writerly” (yes, it’s a word, I’m a writer and I wrote it, didn’t I? ;)) now, more connected to what I do and the people around it. And more determinded than before to create and hang onto my writer life.
So what about you? Were you at SDSU? If so post some of your favorite things, links you heard about, events you want to share. For the rest of you- how often do you re-charge your inner writer with a conference? Any conferences/retreats you’d really recommend?