Last summer in my writing group, I joked that I was a writer’s conference rookie–I am no longer. In August, I attended The Quills Conference, the writer conference sponsored by The League of Utah Writers. Though writing is, in many ways, such a solitary activity, and deeply insecurity inducing, we can’t do it alone. At a writer’s conference, writers and aspiring writers get together and talk about, surprise, writing. Publishers, agents, editors, successful writers and other professionals share their knowledge and insights. And everyone that is there is trying to write.
This is what I learned about writers (at least the writers who attended Quills).
They are friendly. It didn’t matter where I sat in classes or at meals, it wasn’t long before we were talking as if we’d known each other for years.
They are encouraging. It honestly felt like everyone I met wanted everyone there to succeed. Maybe there is some competitive feeling, but I didn’t see it or feel it.
They are generous. I signed up to pitch my Regency Romance to an agent. (This was a “practice” pitch, as I hadn’t as yet finished my novel). I was incredibly nervous. I found I’d rather be asked to speak publicly to a large group than speak to one professional about my writing. Because I was so nervous, I wrote out a script, but still wasn’t confident. I was talking to another writer who was preparing for her pitch appointments and shared my apprehension. She offered to help me. We found a few chairs, and she listened while I practice. She helped me refine and polish. She encouraged me.
We had never met before that morning. I’m sorry to say that I don’t remember her name. And I was still nervous and stilted, but, in part because of her generous help, I was able to walk into that room (well, it was in a tent) and pitch my novel. And the agent, too, was generous with feedback and suggestions for my book.
Writing is perhaps unique in this way. I probably shouldn’t have been so surprised. In writing, there is room for everyone. If another writer is successful (in any definition of the word successful, from accurately recording ideas or experiences or emotions to getting published and making a ton of money) that doesn’t mean that I will be somehow less successful. There is room for as many writers who want to put pen to paper, or fingers to computer keys.
I suppose it all comes down to this, while publishers have limits in what they accept and publish, and getting noticed may be as much luck as skill, readers are not a finite resource. My job is to write (and edit) as well as I can, to polish my craft, to keep writing. And other writers will help!
What writer’s conferences have you attended? What was most helpful to you?