1. aberdeen

    aberdeen Member

    Mar 26, 2014
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    Are writing conferences a waste of time and money?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by aberdeen, Jul 1, 2014.

    A few days ago, I found an independent press that is very interested in publishing essays. Not all the way over in London (Notting Hill Editions), but here in America, only three hundred miles from where I live. Not all is good, however. It's a small non- profit which seems to rely on crowd financing and has only published two books so far. Although I'm not exactly sure on this, their focus seems to be more on literary and personal essays that the more intellectual and opinion pieces that I enjoy. I can't hope for much, but at least it's better than having no one at all to share my interests.

    The founder of this website suggested that in three weeks time I attend a four day long writing conference sponsored by the school at which she teaches part-time. I have never been to such an event, and it's only fifteen miles away. Meet some people, listen to some speakers, and even learn a thing or two, so why not go? Well, it's close to a thousand dollars in cost, including tuition, meals and the like. At the moment, that's not something I can do. I will be contacting the conference coordinator soon and will explain my situation. All I want to do is just show up for a day, talk to the founder of the website/ small publishing press (she's giving a presentation there), and in general just check out what a writers conference is all about. It's possible something can be arranged. I don't mind spending a little bit to attend.

    The more general point – are writing conferences even worth it? I admit that I have never been to one and may be somewhat biased against them. Whenever I see one advertised in Writers Digest, I ask myself, why can't people get all the information they need just by reading? Why listen to some speaker? Isn't it usually extravert types who gravitate to these places? Why should some newcomer spend lots of money to attend? With all due respect to the speakers and sponsors involved with these conferences and workshops, it seems to be a racket. Come give me your money, so I can teach you how to write better. With the exception of a few superstars, it seems as if the only people making money in writing are those who teach and speak about it, do editing and proofreading, and those who own the companies and websites. Everyone has their dreams, of course, and there will always be those willing to help along the way. I have read and heard several times that the best way to make money in the days of the gold rush, California and elsewhere, wasn't to actually dig for the occasional gold one might find, but to instead supply the picks and shovels. No matter what, those folks make their money.

    Despite my reservations, I will probably go to this conference, if only for a day or two. That's provided the event coordinator let's me come at a reduced price. I have nothing to lose, and it would be good to meet the young woman who runs the independent press. At the very least, she's interested in those who write and publish essays. Any of you been to writing conferences? Felt it was a waste of time and money, or actually got something out of it?

  2. chicagoliz

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    May 30, 2012
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    Many writer's conferences are just fantastic -- there is nothing like being with other writers. (And most writers are introverts). That said, of course there can be some stinkers. I'd be wary of a conference given by a small publisher or someone who seems to have a direct tie -- that is, someone who implies that they will publish your book if you attend this conference.

    Most conferences do have wonderful speakers and many have agents who attend who will make presentations and/or do pitch sessions, etc. But those agents are not the ones giving the conference -- it's kind of an added bonus that you *might* find an agent there.

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