Category Archives: networking for writers

5 Reasons to Go to a Writers Conference

Jessica Nelson

I just got back from the three-day West Virginia Writers Conference in Ripley, WV. It’s one of the best gatherings of writers in the tri-state area. For the past five years, I’ve attended the weekend conference. I always have fun, and I always learn more about writing. And I always come back inspired to dive back into my various projects. So in honor of conference season, I’m giving you five great reasons to go to a conference.

1. You’ll learn something new. Writers conferences are a great place to learn new tips, techniques, shortcuts, and methods to improve your writing. Most conferences offer a variety of workshops in a variety of genres; you can learn more about your chosen genre, or you can branch out and try something you haven’t written before. If you go to a workshop on a genre you don’t usually write, you can learn something new that will help you with your current projects. A poetry workshop will teach you the importance of the perfect word and how to hear the musicality of your lines. A workshop on fantasy or sci-fi will teach you world-building, while a workshop on thrillers will teach you how to build suspense.

2. You’ll have fun. Writers conferences can be a blast! Workshops are filled with laughter as you learn and share stories. Meals are spent swapping stories with new friends and old. Free time is spent chatting with strangers or browsing books. And at the West Virginia Writers conference, nights are spent either around the bonfire with s’mores or hanging out on the back porch with music and adult beverages. Or, if you’re me, nights are spent in the room with your roommates, alternately kicking butt and getting your butt kicked at cards and listening to the Hamilton soundtrack.

3. You can build a network. Having a network of authors, agents, editors, and publishers can be super helpful later down the road. And conferences are a great place to build that network! Many writers conferences will bring in a publisher or an agent or some other kind of book-industry representative. Go talk to them. Say hi. Get their business card. Pitch your novel. Make a friend. These are the kinds of people you will want to help you when it’s time for you to get your novel out into the world.

4. You might be able to go for free or at a reduced cost. I’m not sure about all conferences, but West Virginia Writers allows high school and college students to attend the conference for free in exchange for working as interns. Which is fine by this college student, because it means I do everything I normally would anyway, plus I get to help in workshops and get close to the presenters. This year, WV Writers offered conference scholarships in the name of Terry W. McNemar, a former WV Writers president who recently passed away. Do some research on your local conferences. They might offer scholarship or reduced rates. But you’ll never know if you don’t look.

5. You’ll make new friends. One of my favorite parts of conference is seeing the two dozen or so friends that I only get to see once a year. Sure, I keep up with them on social media, but it’s nice to catch up in person. And every year I make new friends. All I have to do is sit down next to someone and ask an opening question: Where are you from? or What do you write? Then I let the conversation flow. It’s great to listen to fellow writers animatedly talk about their current projects or favorite books. Let’s be frank: it’s just awesome to be surrounded by people whose weird matches your weird. Because those people, my friends, become your tribe.

The After-Conference Afterglow: Seven Ways to Keep the Creative Fires Burning

Rhonda Browning-White

You’ve put your life on hold for a weekend, a week, or even longer. You’ve attended a fabulous writers’ conference, and you’ve come home with a load of books, handouts, and scribbled notes. You’ve made dozens of new best friends who actually get you, who understand that it’s okay to have morning coffee with the voices in your head. You’ve found your tribe, and you’re inspired to write, write, write!

And then there’s the laundry. And the grocery shopping. And the kids and pets. And the day job.

How will you ever maintain the momentum and apply the advice you garnered at The World’s Greatest Writers’ Event, when you have to face the real world?

Here’s a list of sure-fire ways to keep that exciting energy flowing from your mind to your manuscript. Let me know how they work for you!

1. Sleep. Yes, this sounds counterproductive. However, chances are good that you rose early, stayed up late, and have jet lag or are road weary. You’ve also been away from your family and friends, and if you want their support throughout your writing career (you’ll need it!) then you must revive and reconnect. Twenty-four hours of R & R won’t sideline your journey to the bestseller list. In fact, once your brain is rested, you’ll be more productive, and since you’ve caught up with all that’s happened in your family’s life, you’ll feel good about shutting the door to your home office while you get some serious writing done.

2. Sort. All those notes, handouts, and manuscript suggestions need an organized home. If you don’t have a folder for handouts, make one now. If you have several handouts, consider sorting them by topic: characterization, plotting, publishing advice, and so on. Hopefully you thought ahead and took a notebook with you, so all your snippets of advice are in one handy place. If not, transcribe the best notes into a notebook or onto index cards, so you’ll have them at your fingertips when you revise your work. Then gather all the business cards and contact lists you’ve received, and set them aside. (We’ll get to those later.) Lastly, if you’ve been lucky enough to attend a conference with a workshop, sort all the critiqued copies of your manuscript by page number (all page ones in one stack, page twos in another stack, etc.). Then, when you revise your manuscript, you can work through one page at a time on your computer, applying what you wish to use in your story, then discard the rest.

3. Write. Yes, you have a stack of signed books you can’t wait to read. Yes, you still have laundry to do. But before you do any of those things, take fifteen minutes (or two hours, if you’ve got it) and write! Tell yourself that this is a requirement for your conference. Use a prompt from a class that you didn’t have time to work on during the event. Or go ahead and begin tackling those revisions to your story.

Sometimes we return home intimidated by the amount of work we think we need to do in order to make our manuscripts publishable. The truth is, however, that unless you start working on your writing, those manuscripts will remain unpublishable! Start where you are right now. Don’t worry: if you mess up, your computer has a delete key.

4. Say “Thank you!” That perfect snippet of advice you received about transitioning from one scene to another? The recommendation a published writer made to his editor? The handout that you plan to post on your bulletin board as a roadmap to finish your novel? Say thanks! Pull out those business cards you collected, and drop a handwritten thank-you note in the mail. Don’t have a street address? Send a thoughtful, personalized email thanking the presenter or mentor who shined a light on your writing path.

5. Connect. While you have those business cards, presenter list, and workshop critique schedule in hand, update your social media accounts. Add to your Facebook friends list, follow your new connections on Twitter, and update your Instagram. Be sure to follow the blogs of your favorite presenters, authors, and new friends. If you’ve become especially good friends with a few of your fellow attendees, ask them to return the favor and follow your blog, as well.

6. Read. Finally! You’ve caught up on the business end of writing, so before you nod off to sleep, grab a book from the stack you’ve brought home from your conference. When you’ve finished each novel or book, be sure to review it in at least two or three places, such as on Amazon, Goodreads, or Facebook. Better still, write a formal review and submit it to a literary magazine or newspaper. If it’s accepted for publication, you’ll have yet another byline for your bio!

7. Now, back to work! While we’d love to get lost in reading the great works of our peers and researching details for our stories, our job—first and foremost—is writing. Build off the momentum you gained at the conference. Remind yourself that another conference awaits you in a few months, or next year, and you’ll want to have a polished manuscript to present when that time arrives. If an agent or editor has asked to see your work, be sure to have it professionally proofread or edited (Inspiration For Writers, Inc. can help with that!), and send it out as soon as you can. Include a note reminding the agent that she requested your manuscript at XYZ Writers’ Conference. Then, once it’s out the door, get back to work! It’s time to start your next story!


Resolutions for Writers
Rhonda Browning White
Turn the calendar page. Better still, break out an entirely new calendar. We have more than a new month ahead; we have a whole new year in front of us! Blank squares waiting to be filled with important appointments, blank lines waiting to be filled with significant words. The year 2014 presents a fresh start—a chance for growth and improvement—for every writer, so let’s resolve to do something vital and vivacious with each new day that’s given to us. What good is a New Year without a few resolutions, anyway? Print out this list, and make it yours.
·         . . . Write five days a week. If you’re one of those writers who lives by the mantra, Write every day, then goody for you! I live in the real world, however, where writing is a job—my career—and like any job, I do it five days a week, reserving the other two for my family and myself. Besides, life gets in the way, and it’s unrealistic to think we can (or would even want to) write every single day. We set ourselves up for failure when we insist we must write 365 days a year. Don’t fail. Allow yourself a couple of days off, but write the other five.
·         . . . Write 100 words a day (five days a week). Anyone—anyone!—can do this. You pound out several hundred words a day on Facebook, a thousand or more via email and a dozen at a time on Twitter. One hundred words a day is nothing. Nothing! A few of my friends and I started this 100-words-a-day challenge, and we hold each other to it. We report in daily, sometimes admitting defeat (kid is sick, car broke down, computer on the fritz), but more often gloating that we wrote 200 words—or 2,500 words. You’ll find that, more often than not, 100 words leads to 500 words, and soon you’ve written multiple pages. Even on the busiest days, you’ve accomplished something toward your goal, even if it’s only 100 words.
·         . . . Read, read, read! You can’t be a great writer unless you’re an avid reader. Read the genre in which you want to write. If you write romance, read the latest romance novels on The New York Times bestseller list. Be sure to read the masters. If high school was the last time you read Hemingway, Hawthorne or Flannery O’Connor, you’ve done yourself a great disservice as a writer. Works by these canonical writers are still around for a reason. Figure out what that reason is, and apply those lessons to your own work.
·         . . . Study the craft of writing. Resolve to read six books on the craft of writing this year. That’s only one book every other month. Easy-peasy! Some of my favorites include The Lie that Tells a Truth by John Dufresne, Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose, and Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern. Especially good for beginning writers is Sandy Tritt’s Tips and Techniques Workbook  (available for automatic download online HERE), which includes fill-in-the-blank worksheets and direct examples to help improve your writing. Take a writing course at your local college this year, or attend a writers conference that offers courses in writing craft.
·         . . . Type “The End.” Have a file full of half-finished short stories? Seven different novel beginnings? Three memoirs that total less than a hundred pages each? Stop procrastinating, and finish something! This is where the 100-words-a-day challenge can help you reach the end of your first draft. Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard. Write!
·         . . . Have my work professionally edited. What’s the difference between a traditionally published author and an unpublished writer? Many times, an editor. What do author-editors have in common? We have our work professionally edited. Yes, editors hire editors. It’s true that we can’t see our own mistakes in our writing, so it’s important to have trained eyes look over our final drafts. Professional editors will do more than find typos and grammar mistakes; they’ll point out that your character has green eyes in chapter one and blue eyes in chapter twenty. They’ll remind you that you left a loose sub-plot thread dangling back in chapter eleven, and explain where the middle sags. They’ll show you where you forgot to include internal conflict in a scene full of external conflict. In other words, they’ll help you make your writing much better.
·         . . . Network with other writers. Join a writers group in your area. Don’t have one? Start one. Your local library is a good place to begin, or post a bulletin on Attend a writers conference where you can meet writers at your same skill level, as well as network with professionals in the field from whom you can learn. And by all means, support other writers. Write a positive review on or of any novels or books you’ve loved, especially if those books are written by new or up-and-coming authors. One day, you’ll want someone to return the favor and write a review of your latest novel.
·         . . . Submit. Writing a novel and having it professionally edited will do you no good at all if you allow it to molder on your laptop. Whip out a polished query letter (which, of course, you’ve revised, edited and proofed), and send that manuscript out the door. Realize up front that you’ll receive rejections, and know that you may have to send out a few hundred queries to land an agent or publisher. Still, you must submit your work in order to have it traditionally published, so you may as well get started this year.

Make 2014 the year you take your writing to the next level. Start today!