Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How to Choose a Writing Conference

How to Choose a Writing Conference

By Suzanne Cordatos

Wee Willie Writer runs to a workshop
Uptown and Downtown never does she stop,
Tapping on an editor, crying through her tears,
“Won’t you look at mine, please?
I’ve worked on this for years!”

As my teenage daughter puts it, writing workshops exist for people like me to meet other “crazy obsessed writers.” Okay, I’ll admit I am in the danger zone of listening to the voices in my head and trapping them on paper. But a writing conference is valuable beyond the friendly camaraderie. It can be a key to vaulting your writing from habit to career. I have attended conferences of several different styles; each has benefits and drawbacks.

Questions to consider before signing up:

1.     Do you dream of one-on-one attention from a top editor or agent?

Consider the face-time you actually get. Is it a pricey extra? You might get a thoughtful critique on pre-submitted work—or a quick minute to pitch an idea. Is there mingling time or meals with editors/agents included? Research to avoid disappointment or unnecessary cost.

2.     Want to make friends with new fellow writers? Want to learn from published authors?  

If you crave being around people who “get” you as a writer, tap into the energy of a large networking conference. If you want to learn from experienced folks, consider a small, selective program requiring a writing sample for admission.

3.     Do you have a specific genre or interest group? Do you have specific needs (such as writing better dialogue or how to plot a novel?)

Christian writers, mystery and crime, children’s, romance and historical, to name a few, offer conferences/monthly meetings. Check online for session titles and faculty. Will your specific goals be addressed?

4.     Want alone time to actually write?

If a quiet house is your impossible dream, consider a writing retreat center or vacation destination in the company of other writers. 

5.     How much time can you commit? How far from home can you travel?

One-day workshops, weekend conferences, a week-long immersion or exotic retreat . . . there is a writing conference that fits you and your time/budget constraints.

“The agent will make me a star!”

Ahem. Reality check. Writers do break into publishing from conference connections, but most writers get constructive criticism. Armed with thick skin and your best work, you will hone your skills.

Let me know in the comments: Which writing conferences have you enjoyed?


  1. One conference that offers and meets most needs is the OWFI conference the first of May each year. For details check

  2. Good to know of a conference out your way. East coast kiddie lit writers have the Rutgers One-on-One Plus Conference, Highlights Foundation workshops, and SCBWI regional/nationals, among others. Adult mystery writers have a New England Crime Bake.

  3. I attend WriteAngles at Mt. Holyoke College every year. The past two years I've been able to connect with agents. Nothing has come of it yet, but the practice of a face-to-face meeting is priceless.

  4. Hi Cheryl, what is the intended audience of the WriteAngles conference? For writers of adult fiction/nonfiction or children's also? Thanks for your comment!