Writers Conferences

Writers Conferences: 5 Reasons Why

Writers Conferences occur all over the world. In this article, I will share my first-hand experience and reasons all writers should attend them.

This year, I attended my second writers’ conference hosted by Willamette Writers. After each, I left the conference more confident in my writing, more prepared for the current publishing climate, and better connected to industry professionals who can make a difference in my writing career. Bonus: I also made new friends.

If you’re embarking on your dream to be a writer, I encourage you to read through this article. Comment with questions, then verify with your own research.

#1: Valuable Workshops

Willamette Writers may be unique in that there was literally something for every type of writer. Some writers’ conferences focus on specific genres. Some examples of this: Sleuthfest, for mystery, suspense and thriller writers, RWA Conference, for romance writers, and The Writer’s Hotel Poetry Weekend.

If your writing focus is singular, genre-specific conferences are a great option. If you’re like me, and write a variety of things, I recommend attending a general writing conference.

Here are examples of the courses offered at this year’s WWC:

  • Conversation: Travel Writing
  • Current Themes in Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • Dastardly Deeds: Writing Mystery (I attended this one taught by Dana Haynes, Hallie Ephron, Phillip Margolin, and Leslie Hall.)
  • Developing and Pitching an Idea for a TV Series
  • Diving into Social Media Analytics
  • Personal as Political
  • How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon
  • Understanding and Negotiating Publishing Agreements
  • Suspense Five Ways
  • Structuring the Romance Novel for Success
  • The Work: Poetry Writing

The above is just a sampling of the variety of courses that help writers dive deep.

#2: Education by High-Caliber Industry Professionals

This one is hand in hand with Reason #1, but deserves its own spot. The authors and educators selected for conferences have proven track records of success. You get to learn from them in an intimate environment with opportunities to ask questions and glean knowledge that you can apply to your work or writing journey immediately.

These are best-selling authors, literary agents, editors, professors, etc. The face-to-face opportunities with these individuals, alone, make attending writers’ conferences worth every penny.

#3: Pitches

Many writers’ conferences provide the opportunity to pitch literary agents who actively seek new authors/poets with new material.

Literary agents are inundated with queries daily. One way to push your manuscript to the forefront and avoid the slush pile is to attend a writers’ conference and sign up to pitch agents. Not all conferences offer this option. If you wish to pitch, verify the conference you attend offers them.

Pitching agents is an additional cost to the conference fee, but 100% worth it if you dream of traditional publishing. But if you’re interested in indie publishers’, they accept pitches too! And pitching indie publishers pushes you to the top of their inbox and guarantees your work gets read by the right person.

Bottom line: if you want your work published (regardless of “how”), pitch agents at a conference!

Here are articles I found helpful to prepare for my pitches:

How to Pitch Agents at a Writers Conference by Jane Friedman. **A MUST-read before you pitch.

How to Pitch a Literary Agent in 5 Easy Steps by Tomi Adeyemi.

5 Literary Agents Reveal the 9 Pitching Mistakes Authors Make by Bushra Rahmani. This article touches on querying agents via email. This is a “what not to do”.

#4: Keynote Speakers

One of my favorite experiences at conferences are the keynote speakers. These are individuals who are living the dream. They’ve found a level of success in writing that we all aspire to. They inspire, encourage, and share first-hand knowledge writers can apply to their journey.

At an in-person conference, they speak on stage, then follow their speech with a book signing. The virtual experience (courtesy of COVID-19) takes the book signing element away, but I found a different and positive intimacy by attending the keynote via Zoom, and still left the keynote inspired, encouraged, and with new knowledge.

Here are some keynotes from Willamette Writers 2020. They are examples of the caliber of keynotes you may experience at your first conference.

Alex Dang

Cheryl Strayed

Zoraida Cordova

Mitchell S. Jackson

Good keynotes aspire writers to see their future selves. I’ve not attended a keynote that didn’t do this for me.

#5: Connections

The most valuable take-aways from writers’ conferences are connections. Writers make lifelong friends, receive valuable resource recommendations (for editors, indie publishers, etc.), and exchange contact information with industry professionals that can change their lives.

There is no other experience like it. At both conferences, (both live and virtual) I’ve made new friends. Who else can understand your journey better than another aspiring writer?

When you attend your first conference, I encourage you to make friends too. Be open to conversations with people you don’t know. It may feel scary or uncomfortable, but I promise you it’s worth it, and you’ll quickly feel the fear melt away.

Upcoming conferences as of 8/2020:

Please do your own research when vetting a writers’ conference to attend. Find the right fit for you.

Final Tip: Local Writing Associations

I highly recommend you research your local region for literary associations. These usually require a minimal fee and offer discounts on, and free, workshops, clubs, and networking opportunities. In Portland, Oregon, we have Willamette Writers and Literary Arts.

Often these associations will host the regional writers’ conference and offer discounts to its members, and volunteer options to attend the conference for free.

If you’re ready to get serious about your writing I implore you to PLUG IN to your local writing groups and organizations.

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