Thursday, October 28, 2010

Writing Well and the Writing Conference

Writers' conferences, seminars, retreats, workshopsI can't seem to let a year go by without one. But in this tough economy, a conference can be hard to justify. Still, cost doesn't have to be a deterrent. Libraries offer free workshops, and adult education courses are usually great buys; so are those at community colleges. The key points to ponder in deciding depends on what you're looking for:
  • Conferences: Best for a soup-to-nuts approach to the writing world
  • Workshops: Focus on one aspect of writing or the writing life
  • Retreats: Offer a place to write
  • Seminars: More business-oriented, and a how-to focus
One of the best conferences for me was the National Writers Workshop sponsored by the Hartford Courant and the Poynter Institute. I loved it (it's now offered in Florida) for lots of reasons:
  • Proximity: Affordable hotel, within day commuting or a weekend stay, early arrival available
  • Speakers: From the keynote to breakout session leaders, the speakers were topnotch. Examples include David Baldacci, Arthur Golden, Sebastian Junger and Morely Safer.
  • Writing opportunities: We were given assignments onsite and looked them over there, too.
  • Networking: There were tons of opportunities over the weekend to meet the writers and speakers.
Since we're pressed for time and funds, it's key to shop around and select what best fits gaps in your writing experiencecraft, publishing, marketing, the pitch, blogging. Whatever you need, there's a venue for it. One caveat: The venues mentioned here aren't virtual; there's still something to be said for the irreplaceable human dynamic.

This year, I'm attending LWC } NYC, Literary Writers Conference New York City. It's co-sponsored by the New School graduate writing program and the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, and partners with lots of places: Sobel Weber Associates, The National Book Foundation, Sterling Lord Literistic and Poets & Writers. It's two days for fiction, poetry and creative-nonfiction writers to meet other expertswriters, editors, agents, publicists and publishers. Participants include Publishers Weekly, Oxford University Press, Scribner, Hachette Book Group, Graywolf, the Poetry Society of America, Bloomsbury, Knopf, the Academy of American Poets and more.

The conference promises a lotlet's see if it delivers. I'll let you know in Novemberand pass along tips and resources.

To make the most of any event—workshop, retreat, conference or seminar—think in three phases: before, during and after:
  • Research the presenters' and sponsors' websites. Consider dropping a simple—and brief—e-mail to those of interest.
  • Meet everyone you can, and bring items that represent you—business cards, bookmarks, brochures—e-versions are fine, but giveaways are great. Tailor what you offer to the type of contact.
  • Follow up with thank-yous, invites to guest post, etc., Don't just go to get; go to give.
Resource: ShawGuides

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