Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Are Writer’s Conferences Really Worth It?

Guest Post by NCW Member Chuck Barrett
Originally Posted on  by Chuck Barrett on his blog, Kill Zone

How important is a writer’s conference?
Will I get anything out of it?
Is it worth the money?

Everybody has their own opinion of the usefulness of attending writer’s conferences, and you know what they say about opinions. I’ve attended my share over the years.  And I’ve learned something new each time. Something to help the craft of writing…MY craft of writing…improve. Each time I’ve taken away another tool to put in my writer’s tool bag to help weave the next story. Or to use as an editing tool to improve a story I’ve already written. Or to help with social networking. Or to help write a better query letter. Or, or, or… The list goes on.

But now, I’ve experienced the writer’s conference from another perspective, as an author and presenter. I’ve just returned home from three days on beautiful Saint Simon Island, Georgia where I was a presenter at the Scribblers Retreat Writers Conference. With the exception of a two-hour thunderstorm blast, the weather was awesome the entire conference. And the weather was only bad during the afternoon sessions—and we were indoors so what did it matter anyway?
I met so many wonderful people AND I learned a few new things along the way, which I’m busy tucking away in my writer’s tool bag right now. The organizers and staff that put on the May 2011 Scribblers Retreat did a fantastic job and made me feel welcome and relaxed…even though my first presentation EVER was on Friday the 13th! I came away with a much better idea of creating an agent-grabbing query letter, building a character, and social networking, just to mention a few.
I made some new author friends at Scribblers, just as I do at each event I attend. Denise Tompkins, Ricki Schultz, and June Hall McCash, among others. I got to visit with some old friends and acquaintances also—Vic DiGenti and Jane Wood—author I have met at previous events. Most importantly, I met some young, and not so young, new writers trying to improve their craft. Their personalities and backgrounds as diverse as one could imagine but they all had that one thing in common—they love to write! And sharing time with them makes it all worthwhile.
Now for my selfish paragraph: I met a man whom I’ve admired for a long time. A man with fifteen New York Times bestsellers! Phillip Margolin. From the very first night, when several of the presenting authors and their spouses huddled around a table sharing stories until late in the night, we went from author acquaintances to author friends. My MUCH better half, Debi and I were fortunate enough to spend even more time with him. Phillip Margolin is a funny, charming, and witty man with an endless collection of stories. A man whom I’ve admired and looked up to as one of the great authors, I now call a friend. How cool is that!
So to answer the three questions I started this blog with:
  1. How important is a writer’s conference? It depends. Can you learn the craft without any input from anyone else? Are you so good as a self-study that you can never use anyone else’s advice? The importance of a writer’s conference depends on your own personal receptiveness to the advice that other authors have to give.

  2. Will I get anything out of it? Absolutely. Just this morning, Phillip Margolin told me that he learned something from one of the presenters about marketing of children’s books. Phillip’s first book was published in 1978! You’re never too old or too experienced to learn something new.

  3. Is it worth the money? To that I say: “you be the judge.” How important is it to you to improve your craft? Is a two-day conference worth improving your writing?
I believe you know the answer.

Chuck Barrett for allowing The Writing Bug to use this post. Chuck is the author of The Savannah Project and The Toymaker.

Don't miss the Northern Colorado Writers Conference, March 30-31 at the Fort Collins Hilton


patti.mallett_pp said...

It sounds like an awesome experience. Due to health issues, I've not been to any conferences, but plan to make it happen this year. Thanks for the encouragement to do just that! Glad you have the great weather. Wow!

Patricia Stoltey said...

There are several excellent writers' conferences each year in Colorado. I'm looking forward to the excellent lineup of workshops at this weekend's Northern Colorado Writers Conference.

Dean K Miller said...

Thanks Chuck for showing up here! My first conference will be the NCW in just 3 days. Stooked barely covers it...should be great!

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