The Benefits of Writing Conferences

Midwest Writers Workshop. In two days I’ll be headed to Midwest Writers Workshop, and I’m really excited to attend craft sessions, network, and pitch my book to a couple agents! Last year, I attended MWW — my first ever writing conference — and it really jump-started my career. The other writers I met at MWW became some of my best critique partners — and best friends — and I’m looking forward to a reunion this year!

For writers who are on the fence about attending a conference, I highly recommend finding one in your area. Here are my top reasons why:

1. Opportunities to pitch to agents and/or get agents’ feedback on your pitch, query, or sample pages. This varies from conference to conference, but even just attending a panel where agents talk about the submission process and what they’re looking for can be a huge help. For those who are just getting started, or are just starting to query, conferences can teach you a lot about the business side of writing.

2. Craft sessions. I do a fair amount of reading about craft, but that can’t substitute for live sessions where you can ask questions and get feedback from both instructors and other writers. Last year, my favorite MWW session was a look at first lines taught be John Cusick of Greenhouse Literary. This year, I’m looking forward to Daniel Jose Older’s sessions on writing the other, since one of my protagonists in my current project (not the one I’m pitching) is very different from myself.

3. Opportunities to network with other writers. So much of writing is a solitary activity. MWW was my first exposure to a living, breathing writing community. From the first minute — walking in from the parking lot, actually — I was talking with other writers, practicing pitches, critiquing and getting critiqued. It was so refreshing to talk with and learn from other writers, and I wound up meeting several of my current critique partners that weekend.

4. Opportunities to meet other writers. I’m listing this as a separate item, because not only did I leave MWW with new critique partners, I also left it with new friends. The people I met there have become some of my best friends. These are the people I will celebrate, commiserate, vent, laugh, and even cry with. People who know and understand what it’s like to be a writer, whether that means working through writer’s block or wading through the slush pile or being a member of the infamous “sub club.” Or, you know, people to talk about normal stuff like moving and kids and new jobs with. (Surprise literary baby shower, anyone?)

So, if you’re trying to decide whether to hit the conference scene or not, I say, do it! It is absolutely worth it. I can’t wait to meet up with the writers I met at last year’s MWW, and am looking forward to meeting new friends and CPs.

I’ll check in next week with a review of this year’s MWW. Until then, happy writing!

And if any of you are going to MWW, be sure to say hi!

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