writer’s conferences

The Value of Online Writer’s Conferences

WANAConBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

If you were to pull out the laundry list of things writers are supposed to do to be successful, one of the items you’d be sure to find is attend writer’s conferences.

And everyone who included that on their list would be right. I wouldn’t be writing to you now if it wasn’t for the writer’s conferences I attended when I was first starting out. I gained the inspiration I needed to keep going. I learned invaluable lessons on craft and platform building. I developed the network of contacts that earned me my start as an editor.

On a lot of levels, I am where I am because of the writer’s conferences I attended in those early years.

But what’s often devalued when we talk about writer’s conferences is just how difficult it can be to actually attend one.

I probably don’t need to go over the reasons this is so, but I will anyway.

Reason #1 – Cost

The least expensive conference I’ve been to cost over $400 in registration, plus the money I spent on gas to drive the four hours round trip and the two nights in a hotel. I’ve been to conferences across the country where the registration fee was over $900, and that was without factoring in airfare and gas to reach the airport (two hours from my home).

Conferences are a major investment, which means they can be a major bone of contention if you’re married. And, sometimes, the money just isn’t there and there’s no responsible way to get it.

Reason #2 – Need to Travel

In the past I was blessed with the freedom to travel because I don’t yet have children, we were a two-car household, and my husband’s schedule was flexible enough that he could juggle the care of our home and pets while I was away.

But things are different now. With my husband back in school, we’ve gone down to a single car and he needs it seven days a week between classes and work. He has no flexibility in his schedule. Leaving our Great Dane in her crate for 12-hours straight while he’s away isn’t an option.  It’s much more difficult now for me to get away.

If you have family or job commitments that make it difficult or impossible to travel, you know that I’m talking about.

So where does that leave us?

It leaves us with the internet’s gift to writers—online training.

For the past two years, I’ve been involved as both a teacher and a student in online classes for writers and writer’s conferences. It’s been a fantastic experience that I wouldn’t trade.

Are they the same as live conferences? No way.

Are they a great solution for those of us who can’t go to live conferences? Absolutely.

And that’s why I wanted to take today’s post to tell you that WANACon is coming up on February 21-22.

WANACon is a 100% online writer’s conference. I’ve attended and presented at WANACon before, and in February I’ll be teaching a session called Putting Your Inner Editor to Work – Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

WANACon is only $149 (but if you use the code EarlyBird by January 31 you’ll receive an additional $30 off).

Even better, WANA International is giving three lucky attendees free admission. After you sign up for WANACon, complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win.

Registration includes all sessions and all recordings.

Along with my class, you’ll be able to learn social media and organizational skills like Blogging for Authors from Kristen Lamb, An Introvert’s Guide to Twitter from Jami Gold, OneNote: One Solution to Organizing Your Work with Jenny Hansen, and Building an Author Website without Getting Burned with Laird Sapir.

You’ll also get lifestyle classes like Write-Amin: Eat Well, Write Better with August McLaughlin, and craft classes on Creating Compelling Characters with Shirley Jump, Backstory with Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (of Emotion Thesaurus fame), and Writing in Deep POV with Lisa Hall-Wilson.

That’s just a sample. You can see all the presenters and class descriptions at the page I linked above.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I hope to “see” you at WANACon, but even if you’re not able to attend, I hope you’ll give online training a try at some point in the future. We all need help growing as writers, and the online training that’s now available gives us an advantage that writers in the past didn’t have.

Have you attended online training sessions before? What did you think?

Not able to attend WANACon, but still want to try out online training? On February 8th, I’m teaching a class called Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction. The cost is only $45, or you can get a WANA2Fer of my class along with Lisa Hall-Wilson’s How to Write in Deep POV for only $70 (that’s $20 in savings). Click here to check out the 2Fer.

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Four Secrets About Writer’s Conference Faculty

Inside the Brain of Writer's Conference FacultyIt’s writer’s conference season again, and as someone who’s gone to multiple conferences, both as an attendee and as faculty, I wanted to share with you the top four things the faculty and presenters at writer’s conferences (including agents and editors) wish you knew.

(1) We can tell from a 15 minute appointment who is going to succeed and who is going to fail.

You probably think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. It’s that obvious.

So what are some of the factors signaling success in a person’s future?

  • a willingness to learn and work hard
  • questions showing an understanding of what I said
  • the ability to clearly tell me what you need my help with (or the acknowledgment you’re just starting out and aren’t even sure what your first step should be)
  • evidence you did your research ahead of time

(And please remember – even if they seen potential in you, you might not be ready yet. Would you want to eat an unripe banana? Whether or not an agent or editor asks to see more after a conference should never be taken as a clear sign of your future potential.)

What makes these so important?

Hard work and teachability trump talent every day.

Asking questions (or taking notes) shows that you’re listening, digesting, and are likely to apply what you’ve learned later.

If you know what you need my help with, you know your weaknesses. Recognizing them is the first step in fixing them. If you sit down with me and can’t even explain what you want in a way I can understand, it’s also going to be difficult for you to move forward and get your message across to readers.

If you don’t take the time to read carefully or to research the specialties of conference faculty before speaking to them, it’s a sign that you’ll also query agents and editors randomly. At the last conference I taught at, I had two separate people book appointments with me because they wanted to know how to code and design a website themselves. My bio (on the conference website, my website, and the wall behind my head) said nothing about website design. The best I could do was give them the name of the company who designed my website.

(2) There’s nothing in it for us except the desire to see others succeed.

In the past, the small honorarium I’ve received to come and teach isn’t enough to cover my expenses (though I know this does vary by conference). Monetarily, teaching at conferences is often a loss even for faculty who have books to sell.

Agents and editors come in the hope of finding a new author. Other writers come because they want the chance to give back.

The point to take away from this is that you should take the advice they give you seriously. Don’t brush it off because they accidentally wounded your pride. They want you to do well. Sometimes that means handing out a dose of tough love.

(3) Our days are longer than yours.

Faculty members put in 14 hour days. On one day alone at the last conference we taught at, my co-writer and I put in 17 hours, including teaching a class, an impromptu workshop, almost four hours of one-on-one appointments with attendees, a working lunch, a working supper, informal meetings . . . you get the picture. And unlike attendees, we can’t just take off for an hour to rest.

We were happy to do it. We hope to do it again. But it’s exhausting to always be “on.”

So what? (Yup, I could hear you asking that.)

If at any point you feel like a conference faculty member is brushing you off, ignoring you, belittling you, or didn’t want to talk to you, the truth is they were probably just tired. And since they’re human, exhaustion affects them negatively. Know that they’re trying their best, and don’t take it personally.

(4) We find it overwhelming (and flattering) that everyone knows who we are.

At Write! Canada, where I taught last summer, people I’d never met knew me by sight. Few happenings in my life have been as humbling. I’m really not cool enough to be that well known. In fact, I’m geeky and clumsy and boring more often than I care to admit. (If you don’t believe me, just ask my family.)

The take away here is that if a faculty member forgets your name, don’t take it personally. (And always wear your name tag so we don’t feel like idiots for not knowing your name.) You already know them, but they’ve probably had 10 new names thrown at them in the last half an hour alone.

When you get a chance to talk to them, ask all your writing-related questions (that’s why you’re there after all), but also try to connect with them on something you have in common. Then, if you email them later, you can mention the conversation about such-and-such that you enjoyed and it will jog their memory.

If you’re a conference veteran, what’s the single best piece of advice you’d give to someone new to conferences? If you’re considering going to your first conference, what’s your biggest question or fear?

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