Writers Conferences: Why You Need To Go, by David Hirzel

May 2, 2012

Writing Tips

Dave Hirzel, writer, member of the CWC

You might think of famous writers whose names you know, who have already established themselves in the minds of the reading public, whose work you read and respect, and think: They don’t go to writer’s conferences. They don’t need to.

Well, many of those who come to your mind do attend conferences. They get paid to. And I suspect they get more out of the experience than just a paycheck. None of us are free from the need to constantly refine our craft, or enlarge it. We are all of us writing geeks in one way or another who seek out the company of other geeks of only to reassure ourselves that we are not after all so strange in our obsession with the written word.

This is the biggest single benefit of attending a conference: community. You can find a similar community in your critique groups and workshops, and for those of us lucky enough to call the golden state our home, the California Writers’ Club.

Conferences cost money? And for most of us out there pounding away at the keys, we have not done it for money, or not much, at least not yet. And I suspect for most of us, that was never the reason we set out on this strange course in the first place.

One of the best conferences you can find for the money is the one-day Redwood Writers’ Conference just ended. I went in 2009, missed the one following, and was up in Santa Rosa Saturday for the best $125.00 I could have ever invested. It’s not exactly an annual event; remember to stay with their website http://redwoodwriters.org/, and look for the next in about a year.

Here’s what you get: Keynote address, four breakout sessions (two before and two after the included lunch) in each of four tracks: Craft, Genre, Publishing, and Marketing. Sixteen choices, and there is such a wealth of knowledge to be gained that some of them are tough to make. Lunch this year included a panel “Leap into Tomorrow’s Publishing” with ePub maven Mark Coker (Smashwords), agent Laurie McLean, and self-publishing guru Joel Friedlander. Three viewpoints looking deeply into a rapidly changing business. I was taking notes the whole time.

The four sessions I attended–Christopher Gortner on historical fiction, Pete Masterson on indie publishing how-to, Lee Stein on getting found through Google, and Ana Manwaring on revealing character through dialog–were each wonderfully informative, well presented, and immensely useful to me in my own writing career.

Tie all this in with an amazing networking opportunity, the chance to make new friends in the writing world and learn things just in conversation that will help to shape your own future.

Some conferences cost more money than you can afford. Redwood is not one of those. It is one of the best investments you can make. For those who don’t live within a few hours of Santa Rosa CA, look for something similar in your area that you can drive to. They’re all over the place, if you care to look for them. You won’t be sorry you did.

— David Hirzel, member CWC SF/Peninsula Branch

Visit his blog

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