If you are a writer or are even considering the possibility of becoming a writer and have never attended a writers conference, I urge you to do so. The primary benefit of attending a conference is, of course, the wealth of information, insights, and encouragement provided by the authors, editors, agents, and other publishing professionals in the many workshops and panels. An additional and equally important benefit is meeting and connecting face to face with other writers. Writing is a solitary occupation and when we writers face difficulties, we often feel alone, discouraged, and overwhelmed. Hearing stories from others who are encountering the same frustrations and difficulties — as well as sharing each others’ strategies and successes — is inspiring and empowering. Catching up with rarely seen friends, making the acquaintance of fascinating writers in diverse genres, and having diverse, interesting discussions enhances the whole experience.
If you hesitate to break out of your comfort zone to attend a writers conference, you might try attending a smaller conference first, especially if you tend to be introverted like I am. The Write Stuff Writers Conference, hosted by the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group (GLVWG), is a good place to start. I’ve attended this conference a number of times, sometimes with a friend, sometimes alone. While I prefer attending conferences and conventions with a friend, I meet more people when I go by myself, as I did this year. The writers who attended The Write Stuff this year were an especially friendly, welcoming group. When I sat at any table, people introduced themselves and we soon became involved in lively conversations. So I must give a big shout out to all the conference attendees. You are all awesome! (And that is not an exaggerated cliche.)
Registration for the conference begins in mid-January. Since space in the hotel is limited and the conference sells out each year, I advise you to sign up early so that you don’t miss out.
When you arrive at any conference or convention, you have to go at the registration table to pick up your name tag, conference schedule, and materials. The table at The Write Stuff is located in the same place each year. I greeted the woman behind the table and she asked me what grade level I taught. The question astonished me — while I am a retired high school teacher, I don’t think people automatically categorize me as a teacher when they see me. After I answered the question, the woman asked me if I had come for the writing or the iPad workshop. Another odd question. I hadn’t looked at the list of workshops for a while, but I didn’t remember seeing an iPad workshop. I said I had come for writing. She searched for my name on the list, and it wasn’t there. That’s when she asked if I had come for the writing conference and not for the teachers’ writing workshop. We had a chuckle over the mistake, and I went on to find the correct registration table.
The keynote speaker, Hank Phillippi Ryan, best-selling author and investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate, gave a rousing address “It’s All About the Story.” She related the riveting story of how she became the on-air reporter relating news of the Boston Marathon bombing and ended her speech with words of encouragement that left us all inspired.
I wish I could pass along all the information from the conference, but since that isn’t possible — I took fourteen pages of notes — I”ll just offer a few tidbits that especially caught my attention. [If you’d like to know more about the workshops offered, check out my post on the Author Chronicles and go to the conference website link above.]
Here are some of the gems I came away with:
- Don’t lock yourself into one format. If you’ve written a novel, consider making it into an audio book, a graphic novel, a screenplay, and/or a comic book. Multiple formats of your story can provide multiple revenue streams. [From “Re-Imagining Your Writing” with Scott Nicholson]
- Social media is an important marketing tool, regardless of how your book is published. All your social media should connect back to your website. 90% of consumers depend on peer recommendations. Email is still the #1 way content is shared on the internet; Facebook is #2. Facebook advertising is effective and relatively inexpensive. [From “The Essential Elements of Online Marketing” with Don Lafferty]
- The #1 rule of social media is to give a lot more than you get. You should post 10-12 other things for each sales post. Put your book covers on Pinterest; a good book cover is essential for print books. Authors should have an online newsroom on their websites to provide convenient access to all pertinent information for editors, reporters, and other interested people. [From “I Finally Finished My Book! Now What? Options for Modern Authors” with Mary A. Shafer]
- Remember that what we think is a typical teen voice is a stereotype. Each teen is an individual with a unique voice. Dialogue is not speech but “an imitation of the essence of speech.” Each person’s voice has its own rhythm, vocabulary, humor (of lack of it), attitude, and expression. Be careful of the use of slang — it will soon be outdated. Don’t forget that part of the dialogue for today’s teens will include email, texts, and IM. [From “Teen Voices: Writing YA” with Jennifer Hubbard]
- Figure out where you are wasting time during the day; use that time for writing or planning. You might have to sacrifice something to gain the time to write. If you are too tired or stressed to write on a particular day, use the time to do research or some other phase of the writing process. Remember that small victories are important. [From “Time Management for Writers” with Phil Guinta]
- Think about having more diversity in your characters. Create characters of a variety of races and ethnicity. Think outside the box for marketing. Who are your readers? Think of unique ways you can connect with them. Instead of just putting your book fliers out on tables at conventions, plaster them on bulletin boards and utility poles around town. [From “Guerilla Marketing” with Karen E. Quinones Miller]
And now a plug for the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group: if you live with an hour or two’s drive from Allentown, think about joining the group. In addition to monthly meetings, the group offers a monthly Writers Cafe (craft discussion with reading and critiquing), newsletters, forums, and other programs which are free to members and low-cost for non-members.
See you at the convention next year!