I just received a pamphlet in the mail entitled The Writer’s Summer for the Southampton Writers Conference sponsored by the Stony Brook Southampton MFA program in Writing and Literature. This reminded me that summer will be here soon and now is the time to start looking into writers conferences. Of course, there are conferences all year round and a great resource for finding them by location and month is the Shaw Guides. Poets & Writers magazine is also another good source for conferences.
How can a writers conference be helpful to an aspiring novelist? There are as many answers to that question as there are types of conferences. There are those that focus on hands-on workshops where you can get direct feedback on your writing, and others that emphasize the business side; meeting agents and editors and even having them read excerpts of your work. It is also valuable to network with other writers as well as to meet published authors and learn about their experience on the road to publication.
A writers conference that I found very helpful was the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, which I attended in 2001 and 2002. This conference, now in its 39th year, takes place every August in Northern California and includes workshops, lectures, panels, readings, and individual meetings with agents and editors. What I especially liked was that it required a writing sample as part of the application so the fact of getting accepted equalled encouragement of my writing goals. I felt that the price of the conference, including accommodations and some meals, was quite reasonable. I treasure the writer friends I met at Squaw through workshopping, socializing, and the shared housing.
Another conference I enjoyed was the San Diego State University Writers Conference, which is held every January. This is a more business-focused conference, though they do have some informal workshopping. What I liked was the opportunity to have agents and editors read an excerpt of my novel ahead of time and then be able to meet with them one-on-one for feedback. There were also interesting panels about all aspects of the publishing industry, from securing an agent to book contracts to royalties, with many to choose from.
Writing can make for a lonely existence and it’s great to be able to take some time out to network face-to-face with other writers. You can share your war stories and make some great friendships while getting valuable input on your writing career.
Causes Wendy Tokunaga Supports
San Francisco SPCA Reading is Fundamental