What will you experience at a writers conference?
by Andy Scheer
Since late spring, the writers conference season has been in full swing. Facebook has been filled with posts about people preparing for conferences. Writers attend with various expectations:
- industry news
- new friends
- late-night conversations
- sleep deprivation
- caffeine quests
Those appointments carry the highest expectations and bring the deepest disappointments—perhaps because of unrealistic expectations.
Editors never expect to say yes to every person they meet. Even if every project were suitable for their house and ready for publication, their year’s calendar would never have room for so many projects. No agent can be adept in handling every genre.
When I was acquiring for a monthly magazine and often attended large, multi-day conferences, my goal was to acquire two or three new authors. I typically met that goal, but only after some teaching. I’d show authors places they could strengthen their craft, not just for this project but for future writing.
Often authors are still growing in their craft—and too close to their topic. An outsider’s experienced eye can quickly see problems and potential they’ve missed. During a fifteen-minute session, I often find myself offering ten minutes of coaching based on a class I’d just taught, but that writer had seen no need to attend.
Because I haven’t said yes, those writers could easily go away disappointed. Especially when I’m the third professional who has given a similar response. But in the days after the conference, I hope they can convince themselves they’ve received the two elements they most needed: redirection and personal coaching. Except at a conference, those are hard to find.