April 28, 2018
Writing conference season is in full swing. Many writers wonder if attending a conference is worth the time and money.
Short answer? Yes!
Longer: Writing conferences offer information, inspiration, and networking opportunities with writers, agents, editors, and/or other industry representatives. They can also lead to opportunities to query magazines and publishers closed to submissions; article and book contracts; and/or work-for-hire assignments.
I’ve discovered that writing conferences also inspire the strength, stamina, and perseverance needed to remain committed to writing – throughout the year!
My attendance at a 2017 conference sheds light on some of the benefits of attending such events.
One year ago this weekend, I attended Write It!, a conference hosted by Apostle John Eckhardt, a pastor and prolific author. I learned about him and the event on Facebook. I didn’t know who he was so I bought many of his newest books, and followed him online to learn more about him.
There were reasons I should not have attended Write It!, They are the same reasons many writers give for not attending conferences:
- I didn’t know the conference sponsor.
- I didn’t know any of the attendees.
- It was a new event so I couldn’t cull opinions or information about its strengths or weaknesses.
- The event was inexpensive for a writing conference, but it was held in Orlando, necessitating extra expense for out-of-state travel.
So why did I attend?
- Location. The event was held at the headquarters of Charisma Media, which, among other things, publishes books and Charisma magazine. When I first started writing for magazines decades ago, I dreamed of writing for the publication. My dream came true (read my writing testimony), and the magazine has always held a special place in my heart.
- Programming. The sessions focused on writing, marketing, and other aspects of publishing.
- Special feature. The programing promised that attendees would receive prayer for creativity. I sorely needed such prayer!
- Newness. The advertising inspired my desire to attend. I attended in 2017 just in case it would not be held this year. Guess what? To date, no plans have been announced for a 2018 conference.
After learning about it, I quickly signed up for the event that had a registration limit of 300 writers. I joined the related Facebook group but intentionally didn’t share much about my writing before the conference. I arrived at the event eager to learn and receive. And did I ever receive!
In a Facebook post on May 1, 2017 I wrote about my experience, noting: “I wanted the information available at the conference, but I NEEDED – was hungry, thirsty, desperate for – the inspiration and impartation….I received much more than I wanted and needed….”
BLESSED BEYOND MEASURE
The inspiration and impartation received sparked my creativity and undergirded my perseverance. Over the past year, I:
- Wrote four new nonfiction books for teens. Two release in August; the other two release next year. The subjects: race relations, and disabilities. These are heart topics for this African American writer born with a total of only seven fingers.
- Created this blog. I started this blog to help encourage writers. I stopped writing it to regain perspective, and renew my commitment concerning who I am as a Christian writer and communicator. This article marks my return to blogging.
- Received financial support. I applied for, and received, a scholarship to attend the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference. I was so grateful. Unfortunately, I later declined it because I could not attend. (If you need financial support to attend an event, humble yourself and ask or apply for it!)
- Wrote shorter pieces. Writing four books left little time for other projects. However, I did write shorter pieces, including an article for the current issue of the membership newsletter for the Evangelical Press Association, of which I’m an associate member. I’m contracted to write a week of devotions for a favorite devotional magazine, The Quiet Hour.
- Received two writing conference invites. I accepted two invitations to speak at Christian writing conferences in 2018. I love teaching at conferences, and I’m so excited about serving on faculty of these events.
- Met new writing friends. I’ve met some awesome writers at Write It!, and through the related Facebook page. They’ve enriched my writing life, as well as those of other writers I connected them with.
- Read more nonfiction. I write nonfiction, but love reading fiction. However, prior to attending Write It! last year I started reading more nonfiction books, which led to a year of reading lots more.
- Received rejections. I had writing disappointments over the past year. Some were particularly discouraging, such as not being accepted to participate in a regional literary festival. Others did not hurt as much. In all cases, the rejections proved I was actively pursuing writing gigs and other opportunities.
- Pursued other opportunities. I’ve turned down some because the disadvantages outweighed the benefits. However, I’m excited to share I’ve been selected to serve as a leadership coach for an undergraduate student interested in journalism (will share more next month). This week I received an astonishing writing-related opportunity thanks to a referral of a writing friend; an “extraordinary helper” (see below for where I learned the term) who has sown encouragement and opportunities in my life since I met him in an online writing group (will share more when able).
- Learned about other writers, and events. Last year from Apostle Eckhardt’s social media pages, I learned about prolific author Michelle McClain-Walters and her event, “The Chosen Conference.” I bought all of her books, and attended the spectacular event designed to spark spiritual renewal. One special moment at the conference: seeing a former pastor and his wife who I hadn’t seen in more than 20 years. One healing moment: I cried ugly tears during Apostle Michael Posey’s inspirational message about “Extraordinary Helpers,” people who help others succeed. Listening to him, I grieved my desire to serve as such for other people and yet lack many of those individuals in my life. More so, I gave thanks to God for being the greatest “extraordinary helper” I’ll ever need!
RESTORATION, OPPORTUNITY, ACCELERATION
Throughout the past year, I’ve been able to persevere in part, because of my attendance at Write It! In a May 21, 2017 Facebook post I wrote: “At Write It! in Orlando, it was apparent Apostle Eckhardt’s – the – impartation covered more than ‘just’ our writing. It released restoration, opportunity, and acceleration in every area of our lives, if we had faith to believe that, I did, and have been in expectation.”
My expectation was high leaving the event.
Honestly, my year was a mixed bag filled with ups and downs. Excruciating back pain, for example, made it nearly impossible to write and made me want to contact my publisher and ask to be released from the contracts on my two disability titles. Ironic, I know.
Other factors also fed into my desire to quit writing altogether. But, I’m still writing, seeking writing and other opportunities, and remain staunchly committed to supporting other writers.
As conference season continues, I encourage you to research writing events that will help you grow and stretch. Look for those offering classes on your preferred genre(s), as well as those designed to help you develop new skills. I guarantee if you choose well you won’t regret attending!
Finally, don’t overlook new events. This year, I’m attending two events, including Publishing in Color. It’s a new conference designed to help spiritual writers of color. Like Write It!, it’s being held by a sponsor who I don’t know, and will entail out-of-state travel. There are lots of reasons why I shouldn’t attend – but I wouldn’t dream of missing it!
Lisa A. Crayton is an award-winning freelance writer, multi-published author, conference speaker…and more. She loves helping writers, and challenging them to achieve their goals and dreams! Meet her at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference in July. Connect with her on Facebook.