Writing Conference Success: The Writing Conferences are Coming!

Mary Andonian and kids

By Mary Andonian

“The agent wants to see my first forty pages.”

“The editor wants to publish my ‘How-To’ book.”

“The Hollywood producer wants the rights to my Young Adult series.”

You hear these things all the time at a writers’ conference. So what’s holding YOU back? If you’ve ever considered going to a conference, this is your year! We’re going to get you ready so you can put your best foot forward, regardless of where you are in your writing career.

Why a conference? You could spend time and money on any number of things: writing courses (both in person and on-line), writing critique groups, an M.F.A. degree, editing services, and instructional books, to name a few. Each contributes to your writing in special ways. But only at a writers’ conference will you come face-to-face with the very people who BUY what you write. If you want to start selling your product-your words-then it’s time to find out what those agents and editors are saying about your merchandise. You can only do that at a conference. A good conference.

What’s a good conference? They’re the ones that have a little bit of everything: established agents and editors who actually buy the types of things you’re writing, workshops that will help you improve your writing, business strategies to help you market your writing business, and networking opportunities with other writers. If they offer a writing critique service, then you’ve hit the mother lode.

Action steps this month:
Find the conference you want to attend this year, and when you find it, mark those conference dates on your calendar using a big, fat, permanent red marker. If you’d like to do a search online, Google the words “writers’ conference,” along with your city and state (or province or country, etc.). You can also access http://www.shawguides.com, and search under their “Writers Conference” tab. And don’t forget the two trade publications devoted to writing: Writers Digest and The Writer. Both magazines offer a “Conference” tab on their websites.

What NOT to Do:
Some conferences look shiny, exotic and expensive because, well, they’re shiny, exotic and expensive! That doesn’t mean they’re the best conference for you. Don’t get distracted by the glitz. Instead, go for local/accessible, targeted toward your specific needs, and pitch-oriented.

Mary Andonian is former agents and editors coordinator for the Willamette Writers conference, one of the largest writing events in North America. In past years, she was also program coordinator and co-chair. Mary is represented by the Reece Halsey North Literary Agency and is a monthly columnist for the hit e-zines, Writers on the Rise and The Writer Mama. She has completed two book: Mind Chatter: Stories from the Squirrel Cage and Bitsy’s Labyrinth and is currently at work on her first screenplay, a romantic comedy. Mary is the mother of two girls and is the Brownie Girl Scouts leader for Troop 1102. Please visit her at: www.maryandonian.com.
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4 Responses to “Writing Conference Success: The Writing Conferences are Coming!”


  1. 1 megan January 22, 2009 at 9:46 am

    What level and kinds of writing, if any, should you bring? Is it possible to simply attend as an educational experience or is it better to prepare some pieces before hand? I’m still at the beginning of this career and I don’t have much of a portfolio at the moment, but I’d like to attend a conference for the information and contacts…

  2. 2 The Writer Mama January 22, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Hi Megan,

    Sounds like you have a lot of questions about conferences, which is totally understandable. Have you checked out my book, Writer Mama? I have a couple of chapters in there devoted to how to get the most from a conference and what to bring, etc. If you don’t have a copy, you can likely find it at your local library.

    [Couldn’t miss an opportunity to plug my book!]

    🙂 C

  3. 3 megan January 24, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    I do have your book, it’s been a big push for me to get serious, actually. Still, it doesn’t say what kinds of writing, if any, I should bring. Do I need manuscripts or sample essays? Or is the conference more for education and expansion than writing review? I’m nervous to attend, it feels a bit like a the first day at college, so I want to be prepared with all my pencils sharpened, you know? 🙂 Thanks, all your information has been a big help!!

  4. 4 The Writer Mama January 24, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Hi Megan,

    There’s no reason to bring any writing unless you are pre-paying for a critique (they do that kind of thing at Willamette Writer’s Conference).

    Even if you are pitching a book, agents and editors generally prefer it if you don’t hand them anything.

    So go for the education. Don’t let nerves stop you! You’ll get a ton out of it.

    🙂 C


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