Monday, April 13, 2015

Left Behind ... Missing the Writers' Conference

The Write Editing welcomes author and editor Lori Hatcher today as our guest.

By Lori Hatcher

Common sense tells me I’m not the only one who was unable to attend the most recent writers’ conference. Social media, however, begged to differ. Every post I saw was from someone squealing with excitement. Agents were hoping to sign the next Karen Kingsbury. Instructors were thrilled to be presenting new and insightful workshops. Writers were eagerly anticipating productive times of learning and networking.

And I was sitting at home. Missing it all. Waaaaaaaaah!

 Maybe you’re one of the other three people on the planet who wasn’t able to attend the conference. Perhaps you couldn’t afford it. Or couldn’t get time off from your day job. Or didn’t have someone to watch your kids or your aging parent. Whatever the reason, your inability to attend doesn’t have to hamstring your writing life.

I’d like to share six suggestions to help you move forward:

If a friend attended the conference, invite her over for coffee and pick her brain. Ask her to bring her notes and debrief with you.

If someone attended the conference from your local writers’ group, invite her to share what she learned at your next meeting. If several members went, ask them to share the three (or five) best things they learned.

Subscribe to faculty blogs. Go to your favorite conference’s website and click on the Faculty link. Most professionals have very informative blogs. By subscribing to their feeds, you can get helpful instruction on all aspects of the publishing process. It’s free continuing education that lasts much longer than the writing conference itself.

Some of my favorite writing blogs are Writer to Writer, The Write Conversation, MacGregor Literary blog, The Write Editing,  and, of course, the Christian Writer’s Den.

Set new goals. One of the most helpful aspects of a writers’ conference is coming away with a new list of writing tasks, ideas, and goals. While it’s easier to overcome inertia with a push from someone else, a prayerful look at where you are and where you’d like to be in the future can help you formulate goals on your own.

First, brainstorm several small projects you can complete in a day or two (blog posts, an article, or a computer file cleanup). Be sure to set a larger one that might take a few weeks of steady progress (researching new publications and sending out query letters). Finally, set a long-term goal (a book or editing project). Set deadlines for each and ask a writing friend to hold you accountable.

Plan a private writers’ retreat. This is an annual tradition for me. Every year I invite two or three friends to join me for a weekend getaway at a kind friend’s mountain house. We pack the books we never have time to read, our current work in progress, and lots of food and chocolate. We sequester ourselves in different rooms to pray, plan, and write, then come together for meals, brainstorming, and critiquing. While we never accomplish everything we hope, it’s wonderful to have an uninterrupted chunk of time to work.

Think long term. There are several wonderful conferences in my area each year, and it’s unrealistic to expect to attend every one. If I do my research, plan carefully, and save intentionally, I can usually attend at least one. If you really want to attend a conference next year, start planning now.

If finances are a challenge, divide the cost by 12 months (or 52 weeks) and begin saving that amount. The total often seems overwhelming, but when you break it down, it’s usually doable. For example, if a conference costs $800, you’ll need to save about $16 per week. This is the equivalent of one lunch out or a few lattes. And the next time your husband, mother, or children ask you what you’d like for your birthday or Christmas, tell them you’re saving to attend a writer’s conference and invite them to contribute to your fund.

Writer’s conferences are wonderful. Every time I attend, I come away inspired, educated, and motivated. They’re a great way to move forward as a writer, but they’re not the only way. If you implement even one of the suggestions I’ve shared today, you’ll begin to move forward on your writing journey. May God bless your efforts.

What other suggestions do you have? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of Lori Hatcher and morguefile.)


Lori Hatcher is the editor of South Carolina’s Reach Out, Columbia magazine, and the author of the devotional book Joy in the Journey – Encouragement for Homeschooling Moms. A Yankee transplant and a Christian Communicators Graduate, she uses her speaking and writing ministry to encourage and empower women. You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God . . . Starving for Time.


  1. Thanks so much for allowing me to be your guest today, Andrea and Alycia. I'm looking forward not only to attending Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference this year, but also serving on faculty. I hope to see you there!

    1. It's always our pleasure to have you and, yes, we will see you at BRMCWC, :)


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