Why Go To A Conference?

Thursday I’ll be heading for Muncie, Indiana, for the Magna cum Murder conference.

Magna cum Murder
XVII
October 28-30, 2011

This conference is for fans as well as writers so there’s less emphasis on the  writing process (How to) and more on the creating process (Why? Where do you get your ideas?) The panel I’m on is called “Twist and Shout.” I think we’ll be discussing twists in our stories and authors whom we feel do a good job of adding a twist (or two or three) to a story. I’m not sure what the “shout” will be about.

I have been attending conferences ever since I started writing. I feel they’re a necessary part of the business, and I’m always surprised when writers (especially new writers) tell me they don’t believe in going to conferences.

Now with some writers it may be a matter of finances, and I can sympathize with that. Most conferences are pricey (but not all). But if a writer wants to be published, s/he must approach it as a business, and it often costs money to make money. That means, for writers who are on a limited budget, it’s important to pick a conference that offers the most for the buck, and that would depend on the writer’s needs at a particular time.

Just starting out? Conferences that offer “How to” sessions along with information about the publishing business might be the best choice. Have a manuscript ready to be published? Then conferences where there will be agents and/or editors taking
pitches would be good. Established writer with a book or books out? Then a conference such as the one I’m going to might be a good choice. There will be readers as well as writers at Magna cum Murder, and it’s readers I want to reach. I also want to hear what other writers are experiencing. Get a group of writers together and there will be talk about publishers who are looking for stories, publishers who are expanding or shrinking their lines, agents accepting new clients, agents to avoid, ways to promote a book, e-books, new technologies, etc.

Attending a writing conference energizes me. The scheduled sessions are always nice, but it’s usually the conversations in the lobby and bar that offer the most information. Sometimes I join in the conversation, other times I simply listen.

Conferences are also a time for me to get out of the house, to forget the need to go shopping, cook dinner, wash dishes, etc. I always bring my laptop with me, and I’m always amazed by how much I can write in an hour of solitude in a hotel room.

I know I’ll return home exhausted, but I’ll also return with new ideas, information, and enthusiasm. If you’re also at Magna cum Murder, stop me and say hi. If not, and it fits your needs and budget, consider it for next year. http://ww.magnacummurder.com

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15 Responses to Why Go To A Conference?

  1. Melinda B. Pierce says:

    Hi Maris,

    RT next April will be my first conference 🙂 I enjoyed your blog because of the positive message regarding conferences.

    Thanks,
    Melinda

  2. Maris, I am so with you! I went to my first-ever writer’s conference back in 2002, and haven’t looked back. I adore it – the energy, the possibilities, seeing so many others who do what you do. It’s also an affirmation, for me, that I’ve made the right choice in writing. Plus, seeing people in person that you’ve only known on line is such a wonderful thing. I’ve made more good friendships at conferences than anywhere else.

  3. Liz Crowe says:

    I personally can’t wait to attend my first writing conference in Chicago next April (RT). I’ve been to TONS of beer ones and absolutely understand the value of networking, learning, and just being out there in front of potential readers (drinkers).

  4. Barbara says:

    I’d really like to attend a conference or two. But… (you knew there was a but coming, didn’t you?) Being totally blind, I don’t feel comfortable traveling around a new area alone. And I can barely afford the expense of an overnight conference, so I can’t pay for a friend. Should I contact someone running the conference to get help? Could I be assigned a “partner” to help me navigate the conference? I’m to the point where I’ll be contacting agents soon.I feel ready to attend a conference, but it scares the bejezus out of me.

    • MarisMaris says:

      Barbara, you definitely have a legitimate “but…” and I can understand why it would be difficult and uncomfortable for you; however, (and you knew there would be a however, didn’t you?) I think it might be worth a try. I assume you have a way of “reading” info on the Internet, so I would first look for a conference in the genre you’re writing, one that will have agents taking pitches, and one that isn’t overly expensive. Perhaps someone from the area where you live could be your navigational partner. A friend? Another writer? If you could come with someone, that would make everything easier. And I would contact the conference coordinator and see if your companion could attend without paying the conference fee. (Of course, if the friend is also a writer who will be taking advantage of the sessions and meals, then that might be too much to ask.) Some conferences are close enough they don’t require an overnight stay or only one night at the most. Do think about it and see if you can find someone who might be willing to share costs and be an aide. Meanwhile, good luck with your writing. Maris

  5. Paula says:

    I made going to a conference one of my goals this past year and was able to achieve it. I set aside the money and WENT! Too bad when I got there I had to leave halfway through for emergency gall bladder surgery. Anyway, while I was there, I learned a lot and enjoyed the sessions I attended. I was also able to visit informally during the dinner Friday evening before we all went to the evening session. I heartily agree with you, Maris.

  6. Annette says:

    Sounds delightful, Maris. Hope to take my son, Christopher there one of these days. He’s been dabbling in the genre.

    All the best, Annette

  7. I think conferences are a vital part of the business too! They’re an educational opportunity, a chance to network and refill the creative bucket. I enjoyed the RWA conference, but I also like the smaller ones. My critique parteners and I will load up and make it a girls road trip. We’ll laugh and plot all the way!

  8. great blog, Maris. I’m a conference junkie – I love them. I’m going to RT in the spring and RWA in the summer.

    can’t wait.
    louise

  9. Meredith L. says:

    Thank you for posting this. I haven’t been to a conference yet – because of time and money – but I’ve always wondered if they are worth attending. Now I know!

  10. I love the opportunities for networking, as well as the information I get at conferences. But the camaraderie and support from being with others who share your goals and interests is the best! I had a great time in Grand Rapids last weekend and I’m looking forward to Spring Fling in April.

    • MarisMaris says:

      I agree, Patty, that was fun last weekend. By the way, I have downloaded your novella and plan on starting it tonight. (I’m now in Muncie, Indiana. Conference starts tomorrow.)

  11. Mona Karel says:

    A writer conference in Muncie? How cool is that?? I’ve only gone to dog shows there, and haven’t had much chance to see the rest of the town. Yeah, I don’t get out much

    • MarisMaris says:

      Mona, as far as I know, there are two writers’ conferences held in Muncie. One is during the summer (late July), put on by Mid-West Writers. Check out their web site. That’s a good one for writers to go to. Magna cum Murder, from what I understand, was started as a fan conference, where readers could meet writers. Both are good. There may be more conferences in that area, but those are the two I know about.