One of the things I love about writing is the ability to do my job all scruffy, hiding behind my desk, or some nondescript cafe table. A conference? No, thank you very much.
But last week I did attend a conference (the Asia Pacific Writers and Translators Conference), my very first. I admit I’d gone there just for the workshops— they sounded great. One of my first ever ‘writing’ books was Tim Tomlinson’s Portable MFA in Creative Writing, and he would teach a workshop. Dr Sally Breen from Griffith University would lead an editing workshop, and Francesca Rendle-Short would do a session on voice.
I attended all three, and let me tell you– if you ever hear of a workshop from any of them, queue up. My only wish for those sessions? They should have gone on longer. (I’m sure the others were equally good, but they either didn’t relate to my fields of interest, or clashed with these three.)
A few things I learned from the workshops:
1. Fragments strung together can make a story/ novel, you just need the right connectors.
2. It is perfectly acceptable to write with your left hand, eyes closed, when working around a writer’s block. Or otherwise.
3. Look at each word you use while writing. Take away as many as you can when revising, leaving a spare, beautiful structure.
I had a short editorial consult with Literary agent Kelly Falconer, and her insights were helpful. Her comments would help me polish my work further.
I also went to book launches. I watched authors read, talk in panels, and chat with each other during breaks. Authors are some of the most interesting people you can meet– they talk about everything from speculative poetry to sunflower seeds and everything else in between. They are also kind, generous, and courageous souls with a sense of humor, who stand up against injustice. (There could have been bitchiness and negativity somewhere, the stuff writers’ events get a rap for, but I didn’t see any that I can report. Quite the opposite!) It all ended in a great open mic session with singing and poetry. Couldn’t have ended on a better note.
So if there’s another writer’s conference I can go to, I’ve decided I will.
Especially if it is organized by Jane Camens, because if not for her help, I wouldn’t have been able to register for the conference or the workshops during weeks of traveling madness. Besides, throughout the conference I saw her add that touch of compassion and good cheer to each event I saw her at– it brought home to me why at the heart of writers’ events we need writers. Not just a great organizer, or fundraiser, but someone who understands writing and writers. (For more details on the conference, read this excellent article.)
What writing conferences have you taken part in? What was your experience like? What advice would you give me and the Daily (w)rite audience on writer’s conferences?