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conference room full of writers

So much to learn at writers conferences!

When I talk to other writers about writing conferences, I experience one of two reactions: confusion or recommendations. Never anything in between.

Why confusion? Usually these are writers who have been so focused on their manuscript that they don’t know about writer conferences. They generally don’t know much about some or all of the following: querying, what a query letter is, what to look for in an creative writing MFA program, the classic workshop format, freelance strategies, or literary journals.

Every writers conference has a different focus or format. Some are about craft and follow a classic workshop format where you submit your work and participate with peer-driven constructive critiques. Others are about publishing and have panels with industry experts, and one-on-one pitch sessions with agents. While others are all about professional development. And the length of conferences vary, from one day to 2-3 weeks.

literary agents on a panel

Agents panel discussion at the 2011 Atlanta Writers Conference.

You can search for different types of writing conferences depending on the current stage of your writing journey. For example, as I grew my freelance business, I wanted every opportunity to learn about refining and growing streams of income from writing. I attended the American Society of Journalists and Authors Conference five years in a row. The ASJA Conference has a mix of professional development learning sessions and panels. Last year, since my focus shifted heavily to developing a short story collection, I attended the Looking Glass Rock Writers Conference to help refine my work. LGRWC runs on a workshop format where other conference attendees read and critique each other’s work through the facilitation of author faculty. (Unfortunately, the fiction workshop I was in ended up following a non-traditional format, so I didn’t get the group feedback I had expected.)

ballroom of conference attendees

Formal writers conference luncheon.

What’s my focus now? Finding a literary agent. I searched for writers conferences that have opportunities to pitch to agents and found several. I picked a few conferences based on location and time of the year. (I’m not going to Boston in the winter on my own volition! lol) Then I narrowed the list down to two…

2019 Writing Workshop of Chicago – Saturday, June 29 – Chicago, IL

The three big features that attracted me to this conference: It’s one day and less than a two-hour flight, so I can easily go for just a night or two and not have lengthy air travel or extra hotel costs like a west coast trip would require. It’s a city I’ve never been to before. I’ve always been curious to visit Chicago–during a WARM season! Also, this conference offers one-on-one agent pitch sessions. Since my focus right now is finding an agent, I want to maximize my conference choices by getting face time with agents.

Writer’s Digest Annual Conference – Friday through Sunday, August 23-25 – New York, NY

What piqued my interest about this conference: It’s only one weekend, and that’s easy to fit into a busy summer schedule. It’s in New York, so I can visit my sister and maybe squeeze in some genealogy research. Like the conference above, this one offers agent pitch sessions.

I’m registered for both conferences and reserved agent pitch sessions at both. Almost all of my travel is booked–all I have left to do is buy my Chicago airfare!

So where are you going this year? Will I see you at one of these events–or do you have another conference for me to consider? Let me know!