When To Consider Attending A Writers' Conference
When I was a young whipperwriter, just starting out, my sole experience with writers' conferences was working in the kitchen at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. Conferences didn't litter the landscape back then the way they do now, so attending them wasn't something I gave a lot of thought to. Things are different now. Conferences are everywhere.
Conferences could very well be a good next step for an unpublished writer who has put in some time writing, studying, and maybe with a writers' group. I wouldn't advise it as the first thing someone considering getting started writing should do. You will get more out of a conference, if you have some kind of knowledge base to begin with.
Many people will tell you that the big benefit of conferences is networking and making connections that will help you professionally. Cannot say that has ever happened with me. I still think conferences are beneficial if there are workshops being offered that specifically deal with the kind of writing you do or with writing problems you have. That increases the probability of you getting something from the experience. That's another reason to wait to attend until you have some knowledge of writing. Without that, you won't even know what conference options are best for you.
Going to a writers' conference and sitting in the same room with other writers can make you feel like a writer. It's good to be with your own kind every now and then.
What To Look For In A Conference And What To Expect
Conferences are iffy things, though. Anyone can rent some space, higher a few people to speak, and call it a conference. Look for conferences run by organizations that have been around for a while, like the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and its regional branches or Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America or established colleges, like Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Even then, not all conference workshops/panels/lectures are created equal. Many are taught/given by writers who have different amounts of experience both as writers and as speakers. Publishing one book doesn't make anyone an authority on anything, no matter how successful it was. Publishing a dozen books doesn't mean someone can speak well and explain what s/he does. You have to go into these things thinking of them the way you would a book of essays or short stories. Some essays/short stories in an anthology are mind boggling. Some you don't know what they're doing there. You're going to come away with some transforming moments from some conference workshops, you're going to have wasted your time in others. That's just the way it is.
Which Brings Us To WriteOnCon
Are you all excited now about attending a writers' conference? You want to go to one very, very soon? You can get a little exposure to one, cheaply and easily, by attending WriteOnCom, a free, online, children's writers' conference being held August 13th and 14th. "...keynote addresses, agent panels, and lectures are presented as blogs, vlogs, moderated chats, webinars, podcasts, and livestreaming." If you can't be in front of your computer one of the days of the conference, you can check out most of this online material at your leisure. I "attended" last year's WriteOnCon about two weeks after it was over.
I hope to go closer to the actual dates this year, and will, no doubt, be blogging about some of what I see there.
A Change Of Schedule
Some of my faithful readers may have noticed that I'm having difficulty blogging on weekends this summer. To deal with the reality of this situation, I am going to cut back to blogging just once a weekend. I'll be alternating The Weekend Writer with Weekend Links.
So you shouldn't expect to see The Weekend Writer again for two weeks.