Writing Conferences: Ins, Outs, and Upcoming Opportunities

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Whether you’ve been writing creatively for a few weeks or a few years, it’s always helpful to bounce your plots, writing styles, and characters off other people. But finding individuals who know enough about the craft to effectively praise and critique your work can be tricky. Luckily, events like writer’s conferences are held all-year round, and they’re fantastic places for meeting other authors.

Conferences, depending on their size and popularity, are usually attended by countless people; many of whom could knowledgeably review your work. They also tend to have workshops that are hosted by published authors and editors. This means not only are conferences a great way to meet like-minded people and learn new techniques, but they also present rare opportunities to get your manuscripts into professional hands.

To get the most out of any writer’s conference, you should bring notebooks and pens, or your laptop. This will allow you to participate in workshops, as well as take down the contact information of new companions. You should also consider bringing additional money, so that you can purchase books and food while you’re there.

In addition to editors and authors, literary agents hunting for business partners also frequent conferences (depending on the conference’s nature. Some are more business-geared than others). If you write semi-professionally and have a finished piece you feel confident in–a piece that’s been revised more than a dozen times–you can bring copies of it to a conference and pitch your work to an agent. If they like your idea, they’ll try to help you publish it.

If you plan on attending a conference like this, you’ll need to set aside time to prep. Since you’re essentially selling your writing, you’ll need to practice and hone a “pitch” beforehand. Literary agents hear numerous pitches a day, so in order for yours to stand out, it needs to be short and sweet. A concise plot summary paired with a relaxed and professional demeanor will make a lasting impression on any agent. And if you happen to approach an agent who doesn’t specialize in your genre, ask them if they’d be willing to let you practice pitching to them. More often than not, you’ll get some useful feedback, and if it goes extremely well, they might be able to refer you to someone who works in your genre.

In any case, if you’re looking to improve and make connections, conferences are never a waste of time. But you’ll need to be financially prepared, because most conferences worth their salt aren’t cheap. Conference tickets, depending on the level of access they grant, can be anywhere from $100 to $600. On occasion, they can be more. Additionally, you’ll need to plan in advance, because conference seats can sell out in a blink. You’ll want to be ready and waiting to buy your ticket, or you might miss out!

And, of course, the most important rule is to enjoy yourself. Try new things and reach out to people; you never know what could come of it!

Below is a list of writing conferences for 2019-2020 that range in prices and professional-focus. If you’ve been to a conference before and would like to share your experience, feel free to comment! An additional master-list of conferences can be found Here.

  1. Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference
    • Website: piper.asu.edu/conference
    • Email/Phone: felicia.zamora@asu.edu / (480) 727-1787
    • Dates: February 21-22, 2020
    • Location: Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85281
    • Cost: $200 (1 Day), $250 (Early app.), $300 (Reg.)
    • Events: Workshops, Book fair, Panels, Readings
    • Genres: Nonfiction, Fiction, YA, Poetry, Screenwriting
  2. La Jolla Writer’s Conference
    • Website: lajollawritersconference.com
    • Email/Phone: All queries can be sent Here
    • Dates: October 25-27, 2019
    • Location: Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine, San Diego, CA 92122
    • Cost: *Only 200 seats available. $185 (Sun), $195 (Fri), $295 (Sat), $395 (Full)
    • Events: Workshops, Lectures, Pitch sessions
    • Genres: Fiction, Nonfiction, Screenwriting, Journalism,
  3. Mendocino Coast Writers Conference
    • Website: mcwc.org
    • Email/Phone: info@mcwc.org
    • Dates: August 1-3, 2019
    • Location: Mendocino K-8 School, 44301 Little Lake Rd., Mendocino, CA 95460
    • Cost: $150 (One-day Bootcamp), $575 (Full)
    • Events: Workshops, Master classes, Craft seminars, Pitch panels, Personal consultations, Open mics
    • Genres: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry
  4. Writers in Paradise
    • Website: www.writersinparadise.com
    • Email/Phone: prunami@eckerd.edu
    • Dates: January 18-25, 2020
    • Location: Writers in Paradise at Eckerd College, 4200 54th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 3371
    • Cost: *Must have an accepted application to attend. Applications open August 1 and close November 1. Application fee is $25. $875 for attendance/access to workshops (not including application fee). A flat fee can be paid if you wish to attend the conference without attending the workshops. Contact this program for additional details. 
    • Events: Workshops, Craft seminars, Roundtable discussions, Panels, Readings, Book signings
    • Genres: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Screenwriting
  5. Northwestern Summer Writers’ Conference
    • Website: northwestern.edu/professional-development/writers-conference/
    • Email/Phone: summerwriters@northwestern.edu / (847) 491 3458
    • Dates: August 15-17, 2019
    • Location: Northwestern University; Chicago Campus, Wieboldt Hall, 339 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611
    • Cost: *On or before July 12: $250 (1 Day), $475 (2 Days), $675 (3 Days). *After July 12: $275 (1 Day), $525 (2 Days), $750 (3 Days). *Additional fees for personal consultations.
    • Events: Workshops, Panels, Manuscript consultations, Readings
    • Genres: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry

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