Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why Attend a Writing Conference?

by Vivian Zabel 

     Thursday I leave for the OWFI (Oklahoma Writers' Federation, Inc) Writing
Conference 2013. I do my best to attend every year, and for the past 12 years or so, I've been able to do so. I also attempt to participate in at least one other book event a year and the Muse Online Writers Conference. Why? Let me count the ways:

1. I get to meet other authors, rub elbows with the pros. Yes, I'm a professional writer, too, but I enjoy being with the "big" ones, such as J.A. Jance, Steven James, Debbie Macomber, Bill Bernhardt,  Marcia Preston, Jordan Dane, Merline Lovelace, just to name a few. Most on that list I can call by their first names because they have become friends.

2. Speaking of friends, I get to reconnect to those I haven't seen or visited since the last conference. 

3. I learn something that helps me improve as a writer, as a business person (writing is a business), as a professional. All professionals attend workshops, classes, and/or continuing education courses each year. They must to improve knowledge of their craft and to prove their commitment to their profession. To be a professional writer, we must do the same.
     Yes, I know much about writing, even taught it, still do as an editor and the head of a small press, but I'm still learning, improving. We all need to continue to hone our skills, learn about the business end of writing, and the writing market. We never know all there is to know about anything.
     This year at the OWFI 45! Revive! Strive! Thrive! conference, Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, will be a speaker. I have the opportunity to learn more about electronic books, how to format, how to expand the number of eBooks 4RV can produce.

4. Conferences offer the opportunity for writers to meet and pitch to editors, agents, and publisher representatives. A way is provided to "breach" the wall around agents and publishers that can't be found otherwise.  Now that I head 4RV Publishing, I take pitches from other authors, but I remember giving pitches to "famous" agents and editors. I enjoy visiting with them now that I'm a member of their ranks, even if maybe not as famous as some of them, yet.

5. I'm inspired and ready to jump in and write enthusiastically again. Conferences help recharge my writing batteries after being around people who actually understand what I do because they do the same thing -- write. Speakers give me hope that success can and does happen. I return home ready to prop my seat in my chair and pound my fingers on the keyboard again.

6. Some conferences have writing contests, which I enter. Entering means I have a chance to win something. The OWFI conference has a writing contest with 33 different categories and one low entry fee that covers all the entries you send. The deadline is February 1, and the results are announced at the big banquet Saturday night of the conference. I entered four categories this year, so I'll be sitting on the edge of my chair waiting to hear my name called. Yes, I have won in the past, even first place at least twice.

7. I can learn about different genres. This year's OWFI conference focuses on fantasy, which I know little and care for less. Oh, I enjoyed Anne McCaffrey's work and still get to read new works by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, but I don't know enough about the genre to really understand it. This conference I have the opportunity to learn more since Patrick Rothfuss is the keynote speaker. I have a copy of his first book for him to sign, too.
    Jordan Dane will speak about writing young adult novels. One year I attended her session about writing thrillers. She's a great writer and speaker.
8. Visit with other writers at all levels of ability and experience -- make new friends and find kindred spirits.

9. At some conferences, a writer can have a few pages of writing evaluated by a professional. 

10. According to Susan Denney (WritingWorld.com), a good reason to attend writing conferences is you can write off the trip and entry frees on your income tax as a business expense. Of course before doing so, you should check with an accountant to be sure you qualify.

     I'm excited to have the opportunity to attend this conference later this week. I get little sleep, much excitement, and work hard the whole time, especially since 4RV Publishing will have an exhibitor table this year. However, I'll return tired, exhilarated, and already thinking about entries for next year's competition.




  1. Everything you said is true. I just returned from the SCBWI OK Conference and I feel like a writer again:-) There is nothing like a conference to connect you with other writers and your passion for writing!

  2. Susan, a conference, especially a good one, does energize the writer in a person.

  3. I can't wait--have been attending OWFI every year since about 1992 (yep, I'm that old!) and learn something new every year. The networking and energy, though, fuels my writer-icity better than most anything.

  4. It will be good to see you again, Amy. I miss seeing my OWFI friends in person, except for board meetings and the conference.

  5. Prayers for a safe journey and productive time, Vivian. I love the two writers conferences I attend each year. I always come away with new ideas.

  6. I never know which I'll attend each year, except the OWFI conference. Last year I was a speaker at three. This year I have another in July where I'll present a workshop.This fall I'll participate in the Muse Online Conference. However, I try very hard to attend at least two.