Guest Post: Alison L. Randall on Resolve to Conference

By Alison L. Randall

So you’ve made some New Year’s resolutions for your writing.

You want to add sparkle to your voice or make your characters more real.

You’ve vowed to network more with other writers and you’d love to learn what’s really going on in the publishing market.

As for an agent, you’re still trying to decide. It would be nice to find out more about the agent/client relationship.

If these, or others like them, are your goals, you may have already decided that a writing conference would be the best place to accomplish them. The problem is, there are so many conferences out there, which one—or two or three—do you choose?

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Here are a few things to consider.

Does the conference have a track record? 

Is it hosted by a reputable organization or by authors whose published works are of high quality?

What will be the cost for you to attend? 

You’re a writer, so money is a concern, but time away from your writing is costly, too. Make sure you’ll be getting the best possible experience for the expense. Ask writers you trust which conferences they’ve attended and which ones they would recommend.

What are your priorities in a conference? 

If what you want most is to hear from well-known authors and editors, then a large, big-name conference would be the place to find them. You’ll hear keynote speeches and attend break-out sessions with some of publishing’s brightest stars. And since you’ll be one of thousands in attendance, the networking possibilities will literally surround you.

If your goal is to improve your writing, a hands-on, workshop type of conference would be the best fit. Those conferences are typically smaller and longer—usually a week. They might cost more in money than a weekend conference, but the cost in lost writing time will be less because you’ll actually be writing. You’ll also have the chance to make some great writer friends.

It is possible to find a workshop-type conference that also offers access to editors, agents, and nationally published authors. I found one several years ago in Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers (WIFYR, for short).

I workshopped my picture book manuscript with the amazing Candace Fleming and met the editor from Peachtree who picked it up and published it as The Wheat Doll.

(I’ve since joined the staff at WIFYR and we’re ecstatic to have Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith join us this year as faculty.)

Here’s hoping you reach your writing goals in 2014. Chances are a conference can help you do it. If, however, you’re not yet sure if a conference is worth the cost, check out this blog post by debut author Amy Finnegan. She credits conferences with getting her published.

I’d love to hear your conference experiences. Which do you recommend?

WIFYR classroom

WIFYR discussion circle

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