My First Ever Writers’ Conference

I walked into my hotel room, hopped on to my fluffy pillowtop bed and relaxed. Tomorrow was the unexpected—my first writers’ conference. A weekend of being surrounded by other writers. Would they all be more advanced than me? The info for the University of Wisconsin Writers’ Institute (UWWI) said writers of all levels were welcome. The sessions offered looked interesting. The Female Superhero. Earning Your Artistic Stripes. The Deep Edit. As long as I could learn a thing or two, it would be worth it.
Then it was day one. Somewhere I read there would be food, but we all know that means maybe a dinky pastry or two so I ate my hotel’s continental breakfast, stuffed my bag with Poptarts and granola bars, and headed to catch the shuttle. I thought I missed the shuttle which turns out it was just late so I huffed it over to the Madison Concourse Hotel. Sweaty, I followed the herd to the lines of those registering. My food assumption was way wrong as I stood next to giant tables filled with pastries, fruit, coffee, tea, juice, and made a mental note to chow down on a second breakfast after I checked in.
The Concourse was a new venue for the UWWI but they’ve been doing this for 24 years so they know their stuff. I looked through the binder I received. It had notes for every session offered which came in very handy when trying to narrow down choices of which session to hit at which time since there were typically four going on in the same time frame.  Opting out of doing any agent pitches, I could focus on the other sessions. I’m still editing my first book and didn’t feel ready to pitch. I am an honest person in some situations and knowing I was ranting about an unfinished work doesn’t thrill me. I’m still ok with this decision and don’t regret it. It was my first conference and not feeling pressured while I was still getting the lay of the land worked out perfect for me.
The first panel was a group of published authors that freely discussed the secrets of published authors. They had good info and I ended up seeing two of them in sessions they presented for. I chose YA trends, How to write a Query letter, and the Deep Edit for day one.  A panel of agents ended our day. So much good info.
Day two was more of the same goodness. Another panel with local publishers started our day. One of the deciding factors in coming to the conference was an agent I Twitterstalk (yes, I freely admit it). She spoke about YA trends and researching/querying agents, but gave more info from a different perspective. I love that you could have duplicate topics that were really different because one was from an author’s perspective and one from the agent’s. I also went to Plotting, Earning Your Artistic Stripes, and The Sane Writing the Insane: Keeping the Dark on the page. Somewhere in the last three, I learned vodka is great for getting through tough scenes (feel free to use whatever method loosens and relaxes you. Point is, relax before the tough scenes). These authors/speakers were candid and offered their email/info should we have questions. The support was unreal. They had a book signing with all the authors, many of whom were success stories from previous UWWI’s, and we got to see all their pretty, shiny babies. I touched the books and dreamed that I could be one of those people someday.
If you ever debate if you should consider going to one of these conferences, I would urge you to do it. I am already saving up for next year! The opportunity to meet people who can become your CP’s or support group is fantastic along with the priceless information that authors who have gone through the publishing process can give. And the access to agents and publishers! You can touch them (though I wouldn’t recommend getting caught. They might think you’ve lost your fruit loops). There are tons of different conferences, workshops, and institutes across the country so do a little research for one that works for your budget and timeframe.  Even if you’re shy, you’ll learn great things from experienced authors and agents that might just spark your imagination. I came up with at least 3 new ideas from a few authors mentioning a couple of words. In fact, during plotting I was plotting one of them! Who knew a joke about downing vodka and pills for the end of the world would spur an idea (Thanks Tanya Chernov).  Did I mention there were a few 80 year old men in the sessions on YA and we all had a lovely discussion as to why there is a market for OA (old adult or golden adult) but no such designation for books? Such gems and more can be yours if you’re brave enough to sign up and go.

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One thought on “My First Ever Writers’ Conference

  1. Jessica says:

    Sounds like you had a spectacular time and are now all stocked up on writerly goodness!

    OA fiction. Now there’s something to think about. It definitely exists but no designation unless you count ‘large print.’

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