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The Rich Writer: Staying Motivated: SCBWI/WRITING CONFERENCES

The Rich Writer

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


After a crazy few weeks here, I'm finally getting back to the "Staying Motivated" track. One of my favorite ways to stay motivated? Writing conferences. Conferences are great places to:

        1. Meet and connect with other local writers.

        2. Ask your writing questions directly to an author, editor, or agent.

        3. Learn the likes and dislikes of particular editors and agents.

        4. Hear the inspirational tales of how other writers broke into print--often after piles and piles of rejections.

        5. Gather ideas of how to tackle a host of common writing problems--such as finding time, staying motivated, and how to inspire your muse!

        6. Pitch your project to editors or agents.

        7. Receive excellent instruction on writing craft topics, from world-building to character development to showing versus telling.

        8. Learn about the publishing process.

        9. Collect a list of new books to read (although be forewarned: editors seem to like to use examples from books that aren't yet on the market.)

        10. Recapture your fire and energy for writing.

        I thought about listing various conferences, but there are so many available I couldn't do the list justice. I have two conferences I attend regularly: my local SCBWI fall conference and the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in Colorado Springs, CO. Both are local, which keeps down the cost; both invite children's editors, agents, and authors; both provide opportunities for one-on-one meetings with an editor or agent.

        The SCBWI conference is smaller and more personal-feeling, in my opinion. It is devoted specifically to children's writers and illustrators, so it provides me with plenty of instruction and inspiration. In years past, it also offered a Sunday workshop session, which was great for tackling a problem spot in my WIP.

        The Pikes Peak conference is for adult writers as well as children's writers, so it offers a wider range of topics. It's much larger, but because it is for all types of writers, I find that I have just as much or more access to children's writing professionals than I do at the SCBWI conferences. I particularly like this conference because it offers a writing contest, which gives writers a chance to gain extra notice from editors and agents in attendance.

        So how do you pick a conference? Here are some things to consider:

        1. Where are you in your writing career? If you're a beginner, it might not be worth your money to travel to a big national conference. You can get great instruction and inspiration in smaller, local venues--and those will also provide more opportunities to hook up with other writers in your area.

        2. Can you enter a contest associated with the conference? A contest win is a great way to stand out in the crowd of conference attendees.

        3. Do you want to focus on a particular writing genre or area? If you write for adults, an SCBWI conference isn't the best one for you; but if you write children's fantasy, the World Fantasy Conference might be a good fit. Check out the session list for workshops, topics, and other offerings that fit your needs.

        4. What industry professionals will be present at the conference? If you're attending primarily to pitch or submit to the attending editors and agents, do your research first. If they're not a good fit for your manuscript, choose another conference.

        5. Most important: ask other area writers for opinions and recommendations. In my opinion, the best way to find a great conference is to borrow from others' experiences.
        Some conference resources:

        So--when you need to add some energy to your writing life, try a conference!

        :) Cheryl

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