I know, I know… we said we were back. Trish blogged a few weeks ago and said that the Wordbitches would be blogging again. And we are. It’s just that…well…we’ve been busy.
You see, just last week we all attended the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, more commonly known as SiWC. And thinking about the conference, I decided that I wanted to talk a little bit about writers’ conferences in general and why, if you’re a writer, you should go to one. Now. For real.
This year, it occurred to me that this was the sixth time that I’d been to SiWC. Six times? I couldn’t believe it. I remember the first time I went. I was terrified. I mean, how far out of my comfort zone did I have to stretch to get on a plane, fly to Vancouver, and walk into a hotel full of strangers, and oh yes, tell them I was a writer. Or at least I hoped to be one day. Let me tell you, it was a huge stretch. HUGE.
Thinking back on that day, I’m both surprised and impressed at myself. Because I chose to get on that plane and attend SiWC, my whole life has changed. Sure, other factors have come into play during that time. But I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if it wasn’t for the fact that I pulled up my big girl panties, took a deep breath and broke way, way, WAY out of my comfort zone for the first time. (Here’s a secret—Like a lot of things…it gets easier after the first time.)
Over the years I’ve learned a lot, so let me sum it up for you. These are the 5 biggest things a conference can do for you:
1) You’ll meet other writers. This is huge if you’ve primarily been writing in your basement, bedroom, dim coffee shops, or alone in an office somewhere. Writing is a solitary event, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. There are more of us. I promise. And we actually like to talk. It’s amazing how only other writers will understand when you say something like, “I couldn’t believe it when my characters did that!” And no, we won’t suggest medication for the voices in your head.
2) You’ll learn. That goes without saying, of course. But you will learn. I don’t believe that you can ever know EVERYTHING about writing. Ever. There is always something you can learn from a session on pacing or setting. Or maybe just sitting in on a speaker’s keynote address will trigger something for your next story. That’s learning. Go and learn something!
3) Make contacts. Guess what a writers’ conference is full of? You got it! Writers, agents, editors and other industry professionals. And you never know who you’re going to meet. And who you’re going to hit it off with. You could be sitting at a lunch table with a famous New York agent. Or maybe you’re giggling with some NYT best selling historical romance writer during a master class. Contacts are huge. And they’re so easy to make at a conference.
4) Be inspired. There is nothing quite like being surrounded by creative energy all day, every day, for four days to completely and totally inspire you. It’s also exhausting, but hey, that’s what Monday is for. Every year, I sit in sessions and I learn. But I also get ideas. I sit with two notebooks. In one I write down things I’m learning and want to remember. In the other, I write down the fabulous ideas I’m getting for my story. You can’t leave a conference and NOT want to write something immediately. You just can’t.
5) Have fun. Okay, this may not have anything to do with writing. But everyone needs to have fun. And I’ll be honest, writers are some of the coolest people I’ve ever met. And, they like to have a good time. So when all that learning is done…hit the bar. We tend to gravitate towards the bar (strange, right?) and have a little fun.
I keep going back to SiWC and really, I have a lot to thank this awesome conference for. If it wasn’t for SiWC I wouldn’t have met Trish, and then Leanne and the other wonderful members of my critique group, the Easy Writers. I would never have had the skills or the courage to keep writing. The knowledge to know that my words are powerful. The ability to continually improve my craft and the confidence to put my work out there. But more than anything else, the Surrey International Writers’ Conference and the relationships I’ve developed as a direct result of it, have helped me make one very important distinction—I no longer want to be a writer. I now know that I AM a writer.
The Wordbitches want to know? Have you been to a writing conference? Why or why not? What was the best thing about it? And if you haven’t been…what’s holding you back?
Another great thing about a writing conference is the opportunity to enter a contest. This year, none other than our very own Wordbitch, Trish Loye Elliot took home the grand prize for the Young Adult category with her awesome story, Career Day!
Can I get a big SQUEE for Trish?!