Although I was only able to attend the Saturday sessions of Write Canada this year, as always, I was abundantly blessed.
Here are a dozen benefits of attending a conference or even a one-day workshop:
Focus exclusively on writing and related topics.
Especially if you write from home, there are many day-to-day things that distract from writing: children, housework, Facebook. It isn’t that these things are bad—far from it—but it’s hard to be productive if your attention is constantly flitting from one thing to the next to the next.
It’s okay every now and then. Really it is. It’s nice to have someone else prepare your meals and tend to the housekeeping chores for a few days.
Develop your skills.
For many people, this would be at the top of the list. Teachers and keynote speakers give attendees the tools to improve their writing. When attending a conference, you have the opportunity to learn from several instructors with a number of teaching styles. And then, of course, it’s your responsibility to go home and apply what you’ve learned.
Discover new areas of interest.
While you may intend to learn more about a specific style of writing, you may find yourself drawn to a writing opportunity you never before imagined. Personally, I have to be careful of this since I already have a wide range of eclectic interests. But it’s still fun to consider the possibilities.
Learn about the newest resources.
Some conferences include a bookstore that carries the most up-to-date resources. And often instructors will list their favourites. Books and writers’ conferences naturally go together.
Network with industry pros.
From fellow writers to publishers to agents … the possibilities abound. Make an appointment. Chat over lunch. Nod and say hello. Be respective. Be professional. And be personable.
Pitch your idea.
The first time you deliver your “elevator pitch” to an editor or agent, you may ramble, become tongue tied or clam up altogether. It’s my guess that most will understand. However, to minimize your embarrassment—and increase your chances of making a favourable impression—practice on a friend, preferably a fellow writer.
Pique a professional’s interest.
If your topic is engaging and you’ve approached it from a fresh perspective, and if it’s something they’re in the market for, the editor, publisher or agent may invite you to submit your piece for consideration. At least you could be asked to give them more details and that’s a great beginning.
Sell an article.
I have a friend who attends an annual conference to connect with her editors. She has been known to get 50 percent of the year’s freelance work from these meetings. It takes time to build your reputation, but as the cliché goes, we all have to start somewhere.
Query your book.
A conference or workshop is a good place to 1) learn to write an effective query and 2) share it with interested parties. If your query is well-crafted and you present it to the right people in the right way at the right time, they may ask to see more. And there’s nothing quite like that feeling!
Reconnect with “old” friends and make new ones.
For extroverts such as myself, this may be the number one reason to attend a conference or workshop. But even for introverts, a writers’ event provides an environment in which it’s less stressful to interact because other attendees “speak their language.” They understand the challenges and joys of the writer’s life.
Renew your enthusiasm to write.
There’s nothing like immersing yourself in the writing community to fire your enthusiasm to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.
One of these years, I hope to make it to the InScribe conference. It would be wonderful to meet those of you who haven’t been able to make it to Write Canada.
Steph Beth Nickel is the coauthor of Paralympian Deborah L. Willows’ memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances, published by Castle Quay Books. To their delight, LBMC won in the Life Stories category of The Word Awards 2015. Among other things, Steph is a freelance writer and editor. You can connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org … on her Facebook author page … or on Twitter (Photo Credit of Steph and the fun-loving Brenda J. Wood: Belinda Burston)