Listen (and this is for everyone, not just the OP!) … not all conferences or workshops are created equal – but the good ones are VERY good. And I love a good conference, I really do. Conferences can be great fun, they can be energizing (and exhausting-in-a-good way!) – they can give you insight about craft or the boost you need to persevere – they are certainly a fine place for outgoing people to connect with other likeminded souls in the business, which is nice, since so much of your job as an author is sitting by yourself at your desk! Conferences! Yay!
If you want to go, but you are confused about what you are looking for, I’d suggest first deciding if you want a “workshop” where you are intently working on craft in small groups (ie, Big Sur workshop, Highlights workshop, Kindling Words) – or a traditional conference, generally much larger, where there are speeches, breakout sessions, etc. (OP: Since you already have an agent you love and are on your way, you probably want more of a craft-based workshop rather than a 101-level conference.) Personally, I’d start looking locally before I spent the $$$ on the huge ones you have to travel to –
because if doesn’t turn out to be your cup of tea, you don’t wanna be
far from home and in debt when you find that out! 😉
Reality: Not everyone LIKES talking to strangers, even very nice ones. Not everyone LIKES to take seminars or workshops or listen to talks. Not everyone is “energized” by groups. Not everyone has the money, or the time, or the not-small amount of emotional and physical wherewithal it takes to spend an immersive weekend working far away from home. And you know what: That’s totally cool, too.
What conferences can be good for: Learning craft, connecting with other authors, feeling “a part of” the industry in some way, hearing more about what agents/editors want, having fun with other book-lovers, eating baked potatoes out of martini glasses, having one too many glasses of white wine and crying in front of a fave author, ETC.
What conferences are NOT good for: Getting an agent. Getting a book contract. If you go to a conference thinking that you will end the weekend with a book deal, you will be gravely disappointed.
I have never (NEVER) signed an author AT a conference. I have never (NEVER) seen a book sold to an editor at a conference. I’m sure it has happened… once or twice, ever. But it is not a regular thing. I have met people who I go on to rep some time later – but I would have probably gone on to rep them whether or not I’d met them at the conference. And they are far from the majority of my clients – even THAT is rare, indeed.
The idea that you somehow have to attend conferences to get an “in” in the business is just false, and it makes me really angry that this is the kind of shit people say to would-be writers. Usually in an effort to get them to spend money on false hope.
You don’t need to go to conferences. You don’t need to meet an agent in order for them to rep you. You don’t get bonus points for schmoozing.
If you want a class but you can’t afford it, or don’t want to attend a class in person – there are online classes. If you want to pal around with authors virtually, there are online message boards, and twitter. If you want in-person camaraderie but you can’t afford or don’t want to schlep across country, get a local crit group – and check out your local SCBWI chapter – there are monthly local meetups that are free all over the place, and one-day conferences regionally that can be significantly less expensive than going to the big NYC/LA ones. If you don’t have such a thing where you live, and you really want it – START ONE!
OK I’ll shut up now. (I have a lot to say!!!!)
John Hodgman’s Advice to Writers
John Hodgman is an author and former literary agent. You may recognize him for his stint on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
One of the most important lessons you will ever hear about writing; get life experience.
This is so important to writing about fight scenes. Write what you know, but knowing what you know…that’s the hard part. Remember, all the advice in the world won’t make up for practical experience.
For example: my ardent desire to become a power ranger at five years old has served me remarkably well. Yup, it wasn’t the bullying. It was the part where power rangers were awesome. Anyway, just a thought.
“You should all ask yourself what do you feel when you are defeated. Are you blaming others, feeling depressed, or are you filled with passion, ready to take the challenge again? All those of you who have played on the field will have tasted defeat, there’s no player who has not lost before, however the best players, as a tribute to all their efforts, will give everything they’ve got to stand up again, the ordinary players will take a while to get back on their feet, while the losers will remain flat on the field. Do not be ashamed about being defeated, to be defeated and to not stand up is what you should be ashamed of.”
-University of Texas Longhorn Head coach, Darrell Royal