N ot all writers conferences are created equal. As a faculty member, I’ve appeared at events where authors were treated respectfully and came away with valuable information.
But I’ve also seen chaos, confusion, no-show speakers, and disgruntled attendees, to wit: “The speaker went on and on about how terrific she was and then autographed her new book. I didn’t learn a thing.” or “The agent fell asleep during my pitch.” and “My $1600 registration and hotel fee just went down the drain.”
So, while I recommend attending writers conferences for most aspiring authors, here’s my advice on choosing the best one to fit your needs:
- If you’re interested primarily in the craft of writing, focus on the conferences that have well-deserved reputations for attracting serious faculty authors who are dedicated to teaching. Check out Sewanee, Breadloaf, Taos and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival.
- Most writers conferences are about how to get published and feature literary agents and editors who present with a special perspective about what they’re looking for. The point is to meet and pitch them with your work. The feedback can be sobering, inspiring, and practical.
- Study the roster of writers, agents, and editors on the faculty. Are they successful, top-level, book publishing veterans or possibly wannabe semi-pros looking for a free lunch? Also check ahead with the conference to be sure the faculty members you most want to see are confirmed to appear.
- Network with other writers who have attended the conference you’re considering. Did their experience and take-away value live up to expectations?
- Be sure the conference isn’t just a “destination” for dilettantes and amateurs, organized like a gala fund raiser. A nice vacation, but otherwise a waste of time. It happens.