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Are writing conferences worthwhile?
The answer is an overwhelming YES!.
I have to tell you, I always enjoy going to the Chicago Spring Fling, and more recently, I attended the Writer's Police Academy.
There are always fun little snippets that come out of the Spring Fling, from Sonali Dev talking about "heartgasms, you know, when you heart engages and maybe triggers a little something down there..." to Robyn Carr talking about "I'm perfectly willing to write crap" (i.e., its better to write ANYTHING than nothing at all). One of my favorite lines was Molly O'Keefe, who was doing a session on how to write a sex scene. They'd moved her conference room and someone came in late, so she said, "this is the sex workshop. Are you here for sex?" The secret to a good sex scene, by the way, isn't in the mechanics, it's in the rest of it - why is it there and what's at stake rather than a gratuitous show of flesh.
But that's some of the silliness. Conferences provide interesting market views, pointers, and writing workshops. One group of authors shared their brain child, a model that no one else will be able to replicate, but it was interesting to see how they pulled it off. And then of course there's the networking. Meeting new people, rubbing elbows with some of the big leaguers, being with people who understand your journey.
Did I mention the publishers and agents? Most conferences offer "pitch sessions," a chance to speak to a publisher or agent of your choice (among those attending). It's an inside view into the industry and what works, what doesn't, and where your work fits (or doesn't). Because I'm starting a new series this year, I had something fresh to pitch, and whereas first timers are generally nervous and shaking in their boots, having been through this a time or two (yes, I was still nervous), I find myself asking more questions about who they are and what they can do for me. It was a fun conversation! (And yes, she liked my pitch, so we'll see what she thinks after reading more of the latest work in progress.)
The Writer's Police Academy is a hands-on, action-packed demonstration for writers of how first responders work. They stage scenarios (is this real? or is this for our benefit? It was hard to tell!) that show you what happens when there's a car accident. Who responds. What happens first? Then what happens? What happens during an active shooting? Policemen, firemen, EMTs, K9 officers, flight for life helicopters, private investigators, all of them are right there, available to answer questions and happy to do so. I learned how to do an IV, how to intubate, and got to crawl around SWAT vehicles.
Conferences provide a wealth of information, everything from fine-tuning your craft, to getting the details right, to publication and marketing. They are absolutely worth your time and effort, and if nothing else, they reinforce that you are not in this alone. These are your people. Your tribe. They get you in a way no one else does, and they support your journey.
Karla is the author of 10 romantic suspense novels, some of them with supernatural elements. To find out more about her work, visit her website at karlabrandenburg.com