How Conferences Make you more Professional

Professionals attend conferences. One thing all conferences have in common is the availability of workshops so attendees can customize their experience.
Writing workshops will help you improve your craft , making your writing more publishable. Conference workshops can also enlighten you on the use and availability of helpful tools of the trade.
One of the things about the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference that appealed to me were the number and quality of the writing workshops (which were included in the tuition). For several years, I’ve wanted to attend these smaller, interactive classes, but the additional fee for them at other conferences (or the stand-alone tuition) made it an either/or proposition.
I can either attend the workshop for a day (or a few hours) OR I can attend several days of sessions at the conference.

The variety of the conference sessions always won.

But at OCW Conference, I didn’t have to choose. An eight-hour workshop came with the regular tuition for the event. The only thing I had to choose was WHICH one of the workshops would benefit me most at this time in my career.

The Choices

OCW Conference organizers called these “coaching classes.” The instructor becomes a coach. Check out the popularity of coaches in every area—life coach, fitness coach, writing coach, nutrition coach—and you’ll understand the high appeal of this concept.
These were the nine coaching classes available at this year’s conference:

  • Weaving Spiritual Themes into Fiction
  • Children’s/Young Adult Critique (yes, you brought pages which were shared with the class and coach and picked apart)
  • Writing Historical Fiction for Contemporary Readers
  • Destined for Glory: Crafting Your Protagonist and His/Her Inner Journey
  • Get Published Fast: The Art to Writing Great Articles
  • Imaginative Fiction Critique Class (yes, more sharing your manuscript and getting feedback)
  • Telling Your Story with Authenticity and Empathy
  • A Novel Career: for both indie and traditional authors at every stage in the writing journey

With such an incredible selection, you can imagine my struggle in choosing only ONE.

I considered the critique classes but decided I have enough published authors reading my manuscripts in the beta stage that my time would be better spent on something else.


Since I chose to pursue the nonfiction path with all the one hour sessions, I decided against taking the coaching class. Although, after meeting with that coach in my mentor session, I know it would have been profitable for me.

My Workshop

In the end, I asked myself: “Why am I going to this conference this year?”

The answer was three-fold:

  • To pitch my Christian projects
  • To learn more about writing and selling nonfiction
  • To further my writing career through networking and accrued knowledge

Susan May Warren is the author of more than 50 fiction novels. She was the coach for the “A Novel Career” workshop, and because I respected her writing and knew she had a career writing novels, I decided to let her impart some of that knowledge on to me.

It was the right choice.

It will take me months to work through all the information she covered attempted to cover during our eight hours together. Thankfully, she emailed all her slides to class members, so I’ll be able to look back at her presentation rather than trying to make sense of my notes.
Along with talking us through finding our brand and forming a writing plan, she stopped to answer any questions we had. On the first day, she filled a white board with all the things we told her we wanted to learn about in the class.
She covered all those subjects, too. If not thoroughly, she included the information in the mailer to us.
It would have been worth $550 just to take her class. Although I’m a frugal-minded author since my writing paychecks have yet to cover my writing expenses, so I doubt I would have understood that in advance. So I would have passed.
This single coaching class made the time and money invested in the conference an epic win for me.
I pray my writing career bears witness to that claim in this next year.
Do you think networking or knowledge is more essential in business? What’s the best class you’ve ever taken?

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New Conference: New Benefits

Professionals attend conferences. Since deciding to be a professional writer, I have attended three conferences in person and two online conferences. The new conference I’m attending this year offered some benefits the others didn’t.

I’ve been eyeing the Oregon Christian Writers’ Conference for a couple years, but in the past it didn’t meet my needs.

For one thing, I wasn’t focusing on writing exclusively for the Christian market. And I’m still not. But I do have two projects in a “sellable” state that fit this market.

For another thing, it seemed to be heavy on nonfiction the first time I looked into it. Nonfiction? That translates to “no fun.” Right?

Or not. This year, one of the manuscripts I’m pitching is nonfiction.

Why This Conference?

There are two large writer’s conferences in the Portland Metropolitan area each year. I’ll be writing a post comparing and contrasting these two events.

OCW is what I need at this point in my career.

Let’s talk about the women’s fiction manuscript I’ve been laboring over for a year. It has a slight Christian bent, and that could be accentuated if I found a publisher that wanted to market it in the Christian marketplace.

I’ve pitched this story to one editor that I hope to meet with at the conference. There are a few other editors that I hope to get an opportunity to pitch this novel to.

Then there’s the thing I’ve lovingly referred to as “the grief memoir” for the past three years. Not that I was even writing it until last year. And even then it was sporadic. This book sucks my emotions dry.

What else would you expect from a book about dealing with grief?

Two agencies look right for this project. Both of these agents prefer memoir-like writings and are looking for nonfiction. I pray I’ll meet with these women and they’ll see the gaping hole in the market that this book can fill.

At least one of these women also represents fiction writers. You know that’s the one I really want. And I want her to ask when she offers me a contract, “What else are you writing?”

This year, OCW meets my needs much better than WW ever did.

Included Benefits

One great thing about this conference is that the fee ($550) includes everything.

Okay, it doesn’t include a room at the hotel and breakfast. So maybe not everything. But it does include:

  • Personalized workshops where I will interact with the instructor
  • Two full meals each day
  • A bookstore where I can sell my own books
  • Free manuscript critiques
  • A 30-minute mentoring appointment
  • Three pre-conference pitches
  • Appointments for pitching projects during the conference
  • Classes on everything from indie publishing to writing a memoir to building your brand

It’s pretty amazing that so many things I paid extra for at the Willamette Writer’s Conference (WW) are included while the main fee isn’t that different.

Also, the organizers are so incredibly helpful. They’ve made themselves accessible via email. They created a Facebook group for first time conference attendees (where they posted everything from a packing list to critiques of pitches).

Expectations

Professionals should know what they’re getting when they attend a conference. What’s more? They should have expectations about what the take-away will be.

After all, this isn’t my employer shucking out the money from a multi-billion dollar budget. It’s me and my “I’ve yet to make a profit writing” business. Is this conference worth the time and money invested?

Well, if it meets these expectations, the answer will be yes.

As far as workshops:

  • I’ll learn new things about how to get published
  • My writing craft will improve
  • I’ll understand the nonfiction proposal process
  • The author of my daily class will help me form a plan for being a novelist

As far as networking:

  • I’ll meet published authors who are real, approachable and helpful
  • I’ll meet publishing professionals who want to connect with me
  • Other newer writers will interact with me
  • Perhaps they’ll be some like-minded authors who want to form a writing critique group

As far as career advancement:

  • Half the books I take to sell will sell
  • The agents I meet with will request pages
  • The editor I meet with will request pages
  • The mentor I meet will help me formulate a nonfiction proposal and writing schedule

So, really, I’m not expecting much for my $550. It should be easy-as-pie to get all these things.

Look for a post later this month detailing whether the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference met or exceeded my expectations. (Notice I’m not giving it the option of NOT meeting them.)

Do you attend professional conferences? Why or why not?