NCWA’s Lydia Harris has wisdom for conferees. For NCWA Renewal Conference details, click button on right-hand sidebar.
“Be sure to attend a writers’ conference soon,” a seasoned author advised me early in my writing career. Although I felt hesitant, I respected her judgment and registered for a conference a few hours from home.
Conference One: Learning
I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived. A fledgling writer with only a few book reviews published, I viewed well-published writers with awe. To my surprise, other conferees respected me as a writer in spite of my limited bylines. Attending the conference helped build my credibility.
My goal for attending was twofold: to equip myself to become a better writer and to seek God’s direction for future writing. A class on the basics of article writing provided a strong foundation, and God affirmed my call to write.
I discovered many attend conferences to network with other writers, editors, and publishers and to snag assignments or present book proposals. But I felt reluctant to make editor appointments.
I left the conference with a bundle of new information, stacks of free magazines and writers’ guidelines, and my head spinning. Once home, I sorted and organized notes and samples and pursued writing opportunities. Before long, God surprised me with assignments; and I applied what I’d learned.
Conference Two: Freedom
Wanting to return to the same conference the following summer, I looked for ways to reduce the cost. I applied to teach a workshop on book reviews and was accepted.
At the second conference, I again took classes to hone my writing skills and prayed for God’s guidance. I met with a few editors, but their needs and my interests didn’t coincide. The class on writing nonfiction books showed me I wasn’t ready to write a book.
Was the conference a waste? No. God surprised me with a new peace and contentment about writing. I returned home with freedom not to climb a publishing ladder. I could be myself and cultivate previous editor relationships rather than pursue new ones. God knew the year ahead would be filled with my first grandchild’s birth, my son’s marriage, and planning a reunion for my extended family. I had less time to write. For everything, there is a season.
Conference Three: Networking
The next year, I attended the same conference for a third time and again taught a workshop to help pay my expenses. Beforehand, I studied the list of editors and publishers attending to determine if my writing interests matched their needs. I also updated my résumé, purchased new business cards, and prepared articles and ideas to pitch to editors.
I felt like a veteran conferee and had the courage to make editor appointments. I found the editors friendly, affirming, and helpful. They listened to my ideas and encouraged me to write book proposals. I also received a market lead for a completed manuscript. The conference was a time of learning, teaching, and networking. I returned home better equipped as a writer and with a stronger sense of God’s direction for my writing.
After attending many conferences, the best advice I can give is the same advice I received: Be sure to attend a writers’ conference soon. Go with a a teachable heart and a willingness to learn. Rather than attending with specific expectations, pray and be open to God’s leading. And—oh yes—expect surprises.
Lydia E. Harris has accumulated hundreds of bylines by writing articles, book reviews,
devotionals, recipes, columns, and stories. She has been a member of NCWA since 2004.
In 2010, AMG Publishers released her Bible study, Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting. Learn more about the book and read her blog at www.PreparingMyHeart.net.