May 24, 2013

Why Writer's Conferences Have Value

By Kellie Larsen Murphy

Writers like to meet other writers, hang out, and trade advice. In today's world, a great deal of this meeting and mingling is done through blogs, facebook, and twitter. And as wonderful as the virtual writing community is (and it is!), there is another, equally wonderful way to meet writing friends - through the writer's conference.

But What Makes Conferences Special?

Although conferences cost money and blogs don't, I believe there is still something unique about seeing and hearing someone in the business share their experiences that can't be matched by tweets or blogs. Certainly, there is nothing more interesting than attending a panel where a published author talks about his or her writing process followed by a lengthy question and answer session. I have been personally inspired by some of these sessions. Conferences offer the opportunity to learn.

Conferences today are more inclusive, diverse, and interactive than ever. Some offer critique sessions on first pages of novels or give advice on how to make your query letter better. Other panels discuss how and when to use social media, how to find an agent, and even how to self-publish.

Conferences also offer writers the opportunity to trade stories and advice with other writers (in the flesh). I was having trouble describing "who I wrote like" (something agents tend to ask) until a new writer friend I met at a conference was able to do it for me.  A romance writer may find a local critique group. Screenwriters mingle with magazine freelancers. Mystery writers sit next to non-fiction writers. It's fun! While the virtual writing community is limitless, writing conferences are up close and personal.

Manage Your Expectations

In recent years, one of the biggest draws for aspiring writers is the one-on-one "elevator pitch" with an agent. For many writers, just the chance to meet an agent and pitch their book is often worth the price of admission. However, contrary to popular belief, that agent meeting doesn't guarantee a full or even partial manuscript request. I have witnessed disappointment in writers when the agent felt the project wasn't ready or the manuscript wasn't complete. Still, I do believe your chances of getting them to take a look are significantly higher than average.

Even if the agent ultimately rejects your manuscript, they have met you and spoken with you. That alone will usually get you the kind of constructive criticism you would never have received from a query letter alone. In my case, I was fortunate to have the agent request the full manuscript. And while she did later reject the manuscript, she included some great advice about my writing. I can truly credit her with having an impact on my writing today and the subsequent book I published in September of 2012. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
Make 2013 Your Conference Year

Add to your writing knowledge base and try a conference in 2013. You may learn more about writing and publishing than you expected and become a member of the writing community in your own hometown or state. Best of all, you may just be a better writer and isn't that what it's all about?
Kellie Larsen Murphy is a freelance writer who has worked in both the banking and publishing industries. In recent years, she has written on a variety of subjects and been featured frequently in several mid-Atlantic magazines. Her debut novel, A Guilty Mind (September 2012), is the first in a series featuring Detective Michael Cancini. The second in the series, Stay of Execution, will be available in 2013. Kellie lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband, four children, and two dogs. She would be happy to hear from readers through her website,

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