by Dani Pettrey
I’m often asked if the cost of attending a writing conference is worth it, particularly for the unpublished author. I can only speak from personal experience, but I have found writing conferences to be extremely worthwhile, especially in the following four areas:
1. Friendship: Attending a writing conference is a great way to meet likeminded folks, to connect with people pursuing the same passion as you-storytelling. I still remember some of the women I met at my very first conference, and that was nearly a decade ago. Conferences also provide the opportunity to meet online friends in person. Connecting with writers via the ACFW email loop, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter is wonderful, but there’s a great deal to be said about being able to sit down with a friend over a cup of tea. To spend time one-on-one and to share in person. I’ve been blessed to form some really special friendships at conferences.
2. Learning: Conferences are chalked full of learning. From Continuing Sessions where you receive instruction over a series of days, to a daylong pre-conference workshop packed with in-depth teaching, to single hour presentations, there is something for everyone. I always leave a conference with a bevy of notes and newfound knowledge. Examples of advice I’ve learned directly from conference workshops include: how to properly format a manuscript, how to write a query letter (directly from an editor), how to submit to agents, how to deepen description, story structure, and the list continues.
3. Encouragement and Inspiration: A huge benefit of any writing conference is the inspiration and encouragement you come away with. Listening to speakers passionate about storytelling can’t help but rub off on you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a workshop and the ideas start percolating. The beauty of a Christian writing conference is the deepening of your passion and commitment to write for Christ, to share your struggles with others who understand (via the prayer room or over the dinner table), to celebrate your achievements (finishing your first manuscript, signing with an agent, getting your first editorial request), and to join fellow Christians in times of worship and prayer.
4. Networking: One of the greatest benefits of attending a conference is the opportunity to meet face-to-face with editors and agents. ACFW’s conference, for example, offers not only appointments with industry professionals scheduled through out the day, but also the opportunity to share meals with them. I’ve had the joy of chatting with numerous of agents and editors this way. I met my editor at the 2010 ACFW conference. His appointment slots were full, so I approached him after his Spotlight Session on Bethany House. He asked to see the first three chapters, and roughly two months later, I was offered a three-book contract. My first sale was a direct result of attending ACFW’s conference that year.
I know conferences can be expensive, so I’m thrilled a number of conferences, ACFW included, offer scholarships. If money is a factor, definitely look into the scholarship options.
I hope sharing my conference experiences and the benefits I’ve enjoyed have been of help and encouragement to you in deciding whether or not to attend a conference.
Question for you: Have you experienced any other benefits? If so, I’d love if you’d share. Which has been your favorite conference? Any fun and encouraging conference memories you’d like to share?
Dani Pettrey is a wife, homeschooling mom, and author. Her debut novel, Submerged, released in 2012 and her current release, Shattered, was released in February. Dani feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves–the thrill of adventure, nail biting suspense, the deepening of her characters’ faith, and plenty of romance. She and her husband reside in Maryland with their two daughters. Visit her website at www.danipettrey.com.