Friday, August 19, 2016

Why Attend a Writer's Conference?

By Kelly Bridgewater
I have been asked by a number of people why do I attend writer’s conference. Having only attended three in my life, I don’t have a lot of experience, but the three writing conferences I went to were pretty great. I suggest researching the type of conference you want to go to, and glance at the reviews to see if it is well worth the investment. Most conferences cost a pretty penny. Tie in room and expenses to drive or fly there, it can become quite expensive. But I have three reasons that might make the money and time worth it.

1.)    You meet and make friends with like-minded people.
At my first ACFW conference last September, I attended the First Time Orientation where Brandilyn Collins answered questions and discussed what we could expect. After the Q & A session, Collins asked us to divide into our different genres to meet someone who writes in the same type of plot line. Since I write in suspense, I joined the suspense group, which sadly, was mostly populated with guys. Most of the woman grouped in romance or historical romance groups. After talking for a couple of minutes with the guys, a young woman about my age with shorter dark hair and black rim glasses with a camera around her neck approached me. We started talking about our writing and love of suspense. Instant friend. We talked a lot that weekend and still keep in touch. We plan to room at the 2016 ACFW conference next week. I can’t wait to see my friend, Emilie Hendryx again. Plus, I get to meet Natalie Walters, who I have only had a relationship with on Facebook. :)
2.)    You meet accomplished writers.
As an avid reader and writer, I become excited when I meet an author who I have enjoyed their books. At the ACFW conference, I took writing classes from Tosca Lee, Karen Witemeyer, Jeff Gerke, Susan May Warren, Rachel Hauck  . . . Additionally, I took a pictures with Colleen Coble, Brandilyn Collins, Rachel Hauck, Susan May Warren, and Robin Jones Gunn (shown above with not a good picture of me) after they autographed their books for me. One of my favorite, and most valuable experiences, was meeting with mentors. I met with Ronie Kendig who looked at the first two pages of my chapter and scribbled all over the page to improve my writing. She actually enjoyed my beginning. It was nice to see these established writers as normal people who didn’t mind meeting with you. At the Writer’s Advance Boot Camp, I met Steven James and Lynette Eason, two of my favorite suspense writers. 
3.)    It's not WHAT you know; It's WHO you know.
At the ACFW conference, at every meal I attended, an agent sat at our table and asked questions. Steve Laube, of Steve Laube agency, sat at the same table as me for lunch one day. He asked the table about our writing and if anyone had an agent take a bite on their pitch yet. After a while he asked a grammatical question to the table. While everyone else declared yes to the answer (sorry, I don’t remember the exact question, but something to do with a title of a book), I kept repeating, “no, you don’t.” Laube asked me to explain my reasoning while he smiled in my direction. After lunch, he approached me and handed me his personal business card. He told me to keep in touch. It was awesome. At the Writer’s Advance Boot Camp, Lynette Eason wanted to see the first couple of chapters of book and wanted to help me write better since I looked like someone was teachable.
I hope these suggestions inspire you to find a conference to attend. Personally, I had a blast at all three writing conferences and can’t wait to return this year to the ACFW conference in Nashville, Tennessee.
If you have attended a writer’s conference, do you have any other reasons for attending? Do you have any memorable moments that fall under my three categories that you want to share? Please do, I would love to read your funny conference stories.

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