Thursday, January 19, 2012

Writing conferences, book festivals and workshops, oh my!

After I linked back to the YAAYNHO posting about Young Writers Conferences, I got to thinking about writing conferences in general. Even though it's January, now is the time to start thinking about which conferences you would like to attend or try to do a presentation. I would love to be invited to be a presenter at a conference geared specifically for young writers - just think, an opportunity to shape young writers and play a part in their possible future success. I'm not a big name (yet) but maybe one of these days.

On the other hand, it is nice to think about workshops and conferences to enhance your writing career. If you have the means and opportunity to attend them, then by all means, you definitely should. If you are like me and really tight on your budget and can only think about attending one a year, then you need to find just the right one to attend.

Where does one start looking for such conferences? A really good place to start is your local area - maybe some of the colleges offer 1-day writing workshops through their creative writing program or English department; maybe some of the local writing groups offer them throughout the year. If you don't have any local writing groups, then a search on the web will get closer to finding the conferences that are fairly close to you, but the best guide out there is the Shaw Guides. They list by state and outside the United States and there is usually something for everyone.

Why do you want to start thinking about conferences now? This is prep work, allowing you to make a list of what the conferences have to offer or could offer based on past years' offerings, helps you keep track of dates (when registration opens, ends, early bird specials on lodging, et cetera), and also gives you some comparisons to see which is the best fit for you. There may be several that will fit your needs but based on cost, locale and time (when the conference is held, how much time you would have to take away from your full-time job if you have one, travel time, et cetera), this will help you make a more informed decision.

Book festivals are the same. If you are looking for a place to be an exhibitor or presenter, many book festivals give you that opportunity. Most book festivals are free to the public and also offer things like panel discussions and presentations by the authors who are invited to participate in such a way. The SC Book Festival (where I was an exhibitor in 2010, representing 4RV Publishing and split a booth with Shelley Stout, author of Radium Halos) is one such book festival that has guest authors, presenters, panel discussion and a large exhibit space. Book festivals are everywhere but the list I had a few years apparently doesn't exist any more. Here is a site that will get you to a listing of book festivals by state and even internationally, if that is what you are interested in.

Writing workshops tend to be 1-day events that are offered by either local colleges or authors and seem to be more intense, concentring on one topic. These can occur at writing conferences as well and are usually offered as special courses, master classes, or intense workshops. Usually the cost of these workshops is separate from the cost of the conference. When I attended the SCBWI conference in 2010, I signed up for the intense workshop for PAL members (PAL = published and listed) and it was definitely worth the money.

Non-writing people say that writing is a lonely profession but if you look at all these opportunities, writing is far from a lonely profession. These are opportunities to network with like-minded people or professionals who can help your writing career continue on the right track. Writing groups or critique groups are also another network writers should be involved in. These are the folks who usually do know when and where conferences are as well as who can offer sound advice; after all, their goals are similar to yours as far as writing goes - to get published, but also to publish the best stories you can publish.

Do a little searching now and make a list of places you can see your books doing well (exhibitor/vendor wise) or where you have an opportunity to present your wisdom to the upcoming writers; it's never too early to start. Wishing you all wonderful writing adventures - E :)

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