W3 Wise Words on Writing

W3 is a monthly newsletter for writers on a variety of topics from technique to the psychology of writing. It appears by the 15th of each month. More information is available from www.wisewordsonwriting.com

Monday, November 14, 2005

No. 38 Writing Conferences

W3 is updated the 15th of every month.

Teachers are invited to borrow whatever they want, but please give credit to D-L Nelson, http://www.wisewordsonwriting.com/ and http://wisewordsonwriting.blogspot.com/


Writing is a lonely occupation. Non-writers, even those who are the most understanding, can’t full comprehend what a writer is doing and why.

Conferences are excellent opportunities to mix with other writers as well as a chance to learn from established writers. Since most writers’ pocketbooks are shallow, picking a conference needs thought. Here’s some thoughts.

1. Mixing with other writers at all stages of development.
2. Learning from developed writers
3. Meeting with agents (depending on the conference)
4. Refreshing your mind.

1. Cost
2. Intimidation (some starting writers find the developed writers scare them although others report they are inspirational.)

1. Timing: make sure it doesn’t conflict with home and/or job responsibilities or your mind will be elsewhere.

2. Location: with limited funds a conference near to you saves travel costs. But one far away can offer a mental refreshing experience. If you have the funds an international conference can really be exciting.

3. Housing: are attendees living together which adds to after-session networking opportunities or are they spread out throughout the area.

4. Does it have a critiquing element? Some conferences place the attendee with an established writer that reviews X number of pages of your work.

5. Size. Conference size can vary from under a hundred to several hundreds.

6. Contests. Are there writing contests attached to the conference.

7. Age of the conference: Some well-established conferences have been going on for decades and have the system well-down. Others are newer, but can be just as good.

8. Workshops: what are the subjects? If you are a fiction writer and all the workshops are poetry-related, it might not be useful UNLESS you are trying to expand into poetry or improve your poetic use of language.

9. Instructors: What are their credentials? A great writer might not be a great workshop leader, but there is no way to judge in advance even if the writer also has teaching credentials. Most conferences have an evaluation sheet which helps the organizers not invite a workshop leader back a second time. But even with under-wonderful teachers it is usually possible to glean some information. Some great writers come merely to read and may or may not intermingle with the attendees.

10. Format: some conferences place an attendee with the same person for the entire conference. Others allow the attendee go from workshop to workshop.
Price: writers earning their living by their writing alone may have fewer funds free for conferences.

11. Costs: slightly different than price. It is necessary to figure in travel, accommodation, food and the temptation to buy books at the conference.

12. University or private organization: Many universities offer conferences. Other times it is a private group such as the IWWG (for women only)

13. Agents: Anne Rice met her agent at a conference. However, a chance to speak with an agent is not a guarantee s/he will take you on. Don’t build up your hopes, but have samples of your work ready to show.

14. Writers: Some conferences feature top writers. These stars sometimes are very giving in answering questions. Other times they read and leave.

To get the most out of conferences go into each session and listen. It wise to remember that there is not one way to write. The last conference I was at the instructor stood on a mental soapbox and proclaimed that women should never write from a male point of view and vice versa. The next session the instructor started with two exercises: write from a man’s point of view. He is about to commit suicide. Write from a 16-year old girl’s point of view as she is about to go out on the street and turn tricks for the first time.

Although I disagreed with the first instructor, I think a lot more carefully when I cross gender lines. New points of view open us as writers and that to me, is the biggest advantage of any conference.


If there were any samples of writers writing about a writer’s conference, I couldn’t find them.

Instead let me share this sample of writing about a depressed woman who is given a drug to stabilize her because it such an excellent example of showing not telling. William Kowalski could have said something like. The medication of Benedor helped.

“That was when she first heard the magic word that was going to change her life: Benedor. Other magic words in the history of the world had never had any effect on her: ‘open sesame,’ abracadabra,’ ‘abraxas,’ ‘please,’ ‘I love you.’ But times had changed. The old alchemical incantations had been replaced by the modern buzzwords of mental chemistry. And weren’t the pills a nice color? He mother asked. Francie agreed because it was true. After only a few days on Benedor, everything was a nice color. The sky was a little blujer, the buildings not quite so stark and gray. THE GOOD NEIGHBORS


Check out these sites for writers conferences and see if any fit your needs

http://writing.shawguides.com Although many are American conferences from all countries are listed.

http://www.awpwriter.org/wcc/dirHome.htm although many are North American there is a small international site

Also you can Google writers conference and your location. However, my favorite search engine is dogpile.com

NOTES Don’t forget to look at local writers’ magazines for the names, dates and places of conferences.