7 Important Lessons I've Learned at Writing Conferences


In every author interview I’ve given, one question invariably comes up: “What suggestions do you have for new and aspiring writers?”  I could offer specific and concrete recommendations, like write every day or commit to 1000’s of words daily, I choose to go a different route. My first suggestion is always the same: Attend a writers’ conference.
There are so many benefits to this experience. I’ve never been able to lay them out in any author interview. So, for new and aspiring authors, as well as other writing colleagues, here are seven important lessons I’ve learned at writing conferences.
1. We are alone, together.
Almost every author I’ve known talks about the solitary nature of writing, just the writer and the computer. Each writer may have a different setting for their work—their office, a favorite café, a cubicle in the library—but each one talks about having to create and invent and write alone. It is a solitary, and often lonely, experience. That isolation can make a writer feel it is he or she against the world.
But attending a writers’ conference helps authors see their plight is not unique. Their anxieties and fears of failure and ridicule are shared by others, both new and experienced. When a writer, especially a new writer, participates in a writers’ conference, he or she discovers they are part of a literary community, a welcoming and supportive community, so they can be alone together.
2. Every author has rejections, even the great ones.
Rejection is an integral part of the life of a writer:
Your work is not what we’re looking for.
Your manuscript does not fit our agency.
We don’t know how we would market your work.
Abstractly, every writer knows rejections are simply a part of growing as a writer, but who are we kidding? Rejections hurt. They can be debilitating, even cause a writer to question whether they can do this.
Another thing you learn at writing conferences is that rejections are part and parcel of all writers’ experiences, even famous, best-selling authors. Of course, this may not come as news to most aspiring writers, but to attend a writing conference and hear authors like Stephanie Evanovich or Ken Follett or William Kent Krueger or John Grisham share their personal stories of rejection and disappointment is a different experience. It makes the whole rejection thing visceral and real. Also, new writers can latch on to that.
If famous, well-known authors went through these rejections and came out the other side, then why can’t I?
3. The Importance of Networking
One major benefit of participating in a writers’ conference is tapping into the network(s) of writers and professionals attending. Aspiring writers can connect with other more experienced authors in their genres who are happy to share some of the pitfalls and struggles they’ve encountered. New writers can gain new followers and others interested in their work. They may even connect with other writers willing and interested in reading and critiquing their work and giving feedback.
At conferences, they can also gain access to marketing professionals and be able to tap their expertise and experience. I have attended several different writing conferences, and at every one, members of the literary community share resources and ideas freely.

Read the entire article in the February 2023 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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