Writing Conference Success: More People You’ll Meet

Mary Andonian and kids

By Mary Andonian

A good writing conference usually provides four opportunities for you to advance your writing career: pitching, workshops, manuscript critiques, and networking. Last month we talked about the agents and editors to whom you’ll pitch. But pitching should only be one part of your overall conference experience. Below are more people you will meet when you attend a writers’ conference. Use these resources wisely to make the most out of your conference.

Presenters
These are a combination of writing teachers, authors, agents and editors. They offer workshops on a multitude of topics, including craft, promotion, platform, and submission technique. Their classes may be structured as panels, classroom study/application, lecture, or simply Q&A. These presenters are smart people; they’re doing themselves and you a favor. You get the benefit of knowledge gained, and they get to build their writing platform and promote their wares. Your goal at the conference will be to not only learn what they’re teaching, but also how they’re teaching. If you want to build your own writing platform, that presenter could be you some day.

Manuscript Critique Specialists
These people will critique your work at the conference for a fee, usually a fraction of what you would pay otherwise. If it’s offered, use this service! Look for ones who either have an editing background or publish material similar to what you write. You will submit your work prior to the conference so the specialist will be able to review it in advance. Then, during the conference, you’ll typically have fifteen minutes with the specialist to hear their critique.

Action Steps for This Month:
Read through the literature for the conference you’re planning to attend so you can familiarize yourself with the players and select your workshop preferences. (Many overlap.) Consider your personal learning style when choosing workshops. If you purchase critique services, read the guidelines and format your work accordingly.

What NOT to do:
Don’t overlook the chance to survey fiction workshops because you consider yourself strictly a non-fiction writer. Ditto goes for skipping marketing/promotion workshops because you have not yet been published. It’s only when you step out of your “usual” that you’ll learn something new and exciting, which will lend itself to fresh writing and, most likely, more growth opportunities for your career.

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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