By Andrea Merrell
I just returned from the Asheville Christian Writers Conference, also known as Writers Boot Camp. This annual conference is held each year at The Billy Graham Training Center—The Cove. It was a fabulous conference with over 80 percent newbies, and I had a great time teaching and meeting with conferees.
With conference time getting into full swing, many of you are probably trying to decide which one is the best fit for you. Some of you may be wondering if you even need to attend a conference, especially with the cost, time, and effort involved.
Wherever you are in your decision-making, let’s look at a few things you can expect.
There is no greater place to connect with like-minded folks than a writers’ conference. They say writers are a peculiar bunch, but this is a venue where you can know for sure people “get” you. You will meet people from all across the country, from newbies to multi-published authors, to agents, editors, and publishers. Exchange business cards. Follow up with them after the conference and establish a relationship.
You never know when God will give you a kingdom connection, and you never know how it might come. He may surprise you with those He chooses to pour into your life and help you move forward. Sometimes our greatest blessing may come from the last possible place (or person) we expected.
Most conferences offer a wide variety of classes from social media to how to write a novel. You can learn everything from the basics of writing to marketing. Writing is a lifelong learning process, and this is the best way to sharpen your skills. Think of it as continuing education for writers. Always be open and teachable. Take notes and brainstorm with other conferees. If the classes are recorded, be sure to purchase the MP3s or digital downloads. This way, you have the entire conference to listen to over and over.
Pitching Your Work
Whether you have a completed manuscript or simply an idea for a project, this venue will give you the opportunity to meet with agents, editors, publishers. and established writers. Attending a conference is the only way to have access to these industry professionals who will give you honest and valuable feedback. If they like what you have to offer, they may ask you to send them a proposal or sample chapters.
Contests and Critiques
Many conferences will allow you to send in your work ahead of time to be critiqued. This is another great way to get feedback on your writing. If they offer contests, don’t hesitate to enter. It’s not important whether you win or lose; it will be good experience for you to submit your words.
Most Christian conferences offer corporate worship. This is a wonderful time of connecting on a spiritual level with other writers and believers.
Are conferences and workshops important to your writing career?
The best advice I ever received as a newbie was to “join a critique group, attend writers’ conferences, and network, network, network.” I took that advice and have never regretted it for one moment.
What about you? What have you gained from attending conferences? We would love to hear from you.