Friday, August 19, 2011

Writing Conference Blues

An acquaintance of mine confessed that she cried all the way home from a recent SCBWI conference. I am not that girl, but I have been. This business is hard. For every writer that has a dream conference experience, there are hundreds who leave less than thrilled. Most are beginners. It's all about setting appropriate expectations.

I left my last conference in a mellow mood, but then I'm no longer expecting an editor to jump across the table and buy my book. So what exactly are realistic expectations from attending a conference?

1. You'll discover great books that you might not have heard of otherwise.
2. You'll have the chance to meet other writers that share your passion. Some of them will turn out to be lifelong friends.
3. You'll compile market information and begin to know which houses are appropriate for your work.
4. You'll attend workshops and pick up tips to improve your writing.
5. For an additional fee, you can usually have a chapter of your work critiqued.

That's it. That's what 99% of us can expect for our conference dollars. But as a disclaimer, I know four writers who actually met the editors who bought their books during critique sessions. So it can happen, but keep in mind that I've been attending conferences since 2005. My advice is to save yourself a lot of heartache and set realistic expectations. Any good thing that happens beyond that will be icing on the cake!


  1. So true, Shannon. Lightning does strike, but seldom at a conference. Great advice.

  2. I wish somebody had given me that advice back in 2005. It took me a while to set realistic expectations and learn to just enjoy learning more about craft.

  3. Great post, Shannon! I think each of us has his or her own path to follow, with it's unique pot holes, hills and valleys, etc. It is great advice to keep expectations low and focus on the many benefits of conferences--such as learning about great books and writing, bonding with wonderful people, and becoming inspired anew.

  4. Thanks, Cindy! Each of us has a different path that's for sure. Mine has had more highs and lows than a roller coaster!

  5. Although the connections you make might not be obvious on the drive home from the actual event, sometimes it takes a while for them to develop. It's so worth at least giving it a shot, I think. I met my agent at a regional SCBWI conference. She didn't "love" what I wrote then. But she liked it enough to remember me.
    Three years later, I sent her something else that she did love.

  6. Exactly, Augusta! Networking pays off. Maybe not immediately, but somewhere down the road.