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All APW conference photos published with permission from Tim and Deedle Tomlinson.

All AP writers conference photos published with permission from Tim and Deedle Tomlinson.

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?Β  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.

AWP Writers' conference

All AP Writers conference photos published with permission from Tim and Deedle Tomlinson

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?

 

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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68 Comments

  • ram kumar says:

    Always been skeptical about conferences but this is an Excellent insight. Changes the perspective.

  • Jax says:

    I have never been to a writer’s conference, but I have spent 3 years organizing sessions at a conference that was about everything under the sun. Seeing people who would otherwise have never spoken to each other have conversations was really inspiring. What could be really cool would be to have a band of writers go to other conferences – be they about particle physics, economics or basket weaving – and have a writer’s mini-conference on the sidelines.

  • Mary Blowers says:

    Reblogged this on Writing by Mary Blowers and commented:
    It’s one of my goals to attend a writer’s conference. How about you?

  • Reblogged this on Retirement Lifestyle Blog and commented:
    I’m planning my first writers conference this fall and I’m looking forward to the experience, loaded with the knowledge I have read here.

  • I love the comments from so many diverse groups of writers. I’m planning my first writers conference this fall and I’m looking forward to the experience, loaded with the knowledge I have read here.

  • Natasha O says:

    I love writer conferences. I just wish we had more!! I’m a sci if & fantasy writer (so genre), and a genre writer’s conf would blow my mind!!!

    But I do enjoy the SWF!

  • What writing conferences have you taken part in? Just one, a long time ago. I forget the name.

    What was your experience like? It was all right. I wasn’t especially inspired by it, but I think I needed to grow more as a writer. I wasn’t used to being a regular part of a writers’ group, making connections with other writers as a part of my life, like I do now.

    What advice would you give me and the Daily (w)rite audience on writer’s conferences? Go and enjoy the day. Roll with it. If you learn something you didn’t know before or make a connection you didn’t have before, it was a good day.

  • Dave says:

    Hello.

    I have nominated you for an award.

    Yep, you’re SUCH an inspiration I included you twice.

  • I’ve only been to a couple conferences, one I’m not part of putting together, but they’ve all been great experiences. I was even faculty at one! Glad you had a great experience.

  • I have avoided them until now, but you have given me real encouragement to try them out.

  • Writing conferences to sound great, but I think I’d feel really shy at the thought of getting out there as a writer. Going to events as a regular person is one thing, but putting yourself out there as a writer is a bit harder (I think anyway!)
    Although those workshops sound great. I love that tip for writer’s block, I’ll have to try it out next time I get blocked! πŸ˜‰

  • It’s great to hear you had such a positive experience at the conferences!

  • Lori D says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s given me reason to look forward to the conference I’ll be attending in October.

  • katiewilda says:

    I went to the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and the Nebraska Summer Writing Festival (I don’t remember the names exactly) and very much enjoyed both of them. At Iowa I studied with jonis Agee for two years and at Nebraska I took courses from Sharon Oard Warner and Rita Mae Brown. Jonis is a wonderful teacher. If you ever get to work with her, do take advantage of the opportunity. Someday I’d like to go to the conference at Vermont College and/or the one in Taos as there are some pretty wonderful teachers at both. It is like summer camp for adults.

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this conference yourself and gained so much from it. Oh and thank you for following my blog. I very much appreciate that.

  • atempleton says:

    I haven’t been to a writers’ conference, but your description makes me want to go and just immerse myself.

  • arielpakizer says:

    I plan on it. Future vacation days will be spent at such events!

  • Tonja says:

    I recently attended Antioch Writer’s Workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio. It was a great experience, but it was pretty much non-stop from 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. It would have been nice if they had designated quiet rooms for people that need a break from the action and socializing. It took the introverts a few days to realize we needed to make a quiet space for ourselves.

  • No doubt a great experience… Will surely love to attend one……. Thanks for the share…….

  • ajaysharda59 says:

    Good post with different perspective. Never attended any till now but may be now will look forward to next available opportunity in Bangalore.

  • Asher Ben says:

    This is an important tip. Probably I will start looking for conferences in my city.

  • Glad to hear that you had a great experience!

  • I have attended Greater Los Angeles conference aonth ago, it was great! I think these kinds of events are important for writers to get out and realize that we are not alone and everyone has similar problems, to learn from each other and just have a great creative time.

  • lexacain says:

    It sounds like you had a great time, not to mention learning a lot too! Thanks for giving me a taste of a conference, since I live to far to go to any.

  • I went to the PNWA conference in Seattle for the second time this year, and it’s safe to say I’ll keep going for many years to come. All aspects are helpful. Eventually, I would like to attend two conferences a year, but for now will be happy with the one because it’s great and so worth it.

  • The RomCon in Denver appeared to have organized a great conference. I signed up a year in advance. I won’t go again. Partly because of the chaotic feel of the four days, insults from readers and authors who apparently don’t like Canadians, and partly because of the huge travelling cost. The cost would have been acceptable if I had enjoyed the lectures,which is why I signed up. Some speakers strayed from the topic or didn’t talk about their assigned topic. There were some great social events but I didn’t spend $2500 to attend four days of partying.

    I wrote an article on my blog about my experience. I’m attending a local conference and have hope this one has more meat and class. http://featherstoneauthor.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/romcon-the-cost-versus-the-benefits-of-a-writerreader-convention/

  • I have not attended any writers conference yet. Will do when I get a chance. Story telling looks to me as the best form of sharing – be it blogging, writing a book, teaching, or selling an idea. People connect with facts, numbers, personal experiences and feelings, when weaved through words!

  • I found your post quite motivating. Now I’m looking forward to attend a writers’ conference in the near future.

  • Topaz says:

    I’m so happy you had a good time! It sounds like it was wonderful – I wish I could have been there.

  • lohendri says:

    I’m actually heading to my first one this week (Writer’s Digest Annual in NYC). I’m so excited. I am polishing my first novel so I’m hoping to make some contacts and learn about the business. This was great info!

  • lohendri says:

    Reblogged this on LAH's Transition and commented:
    Great info as I prepare for my first writers conference this week!!

  • suecoletta says:

    I have always wanted to go to a conference. Unfortunately, I live in the boonies. No conferences come my way πŸ™

  • anitij1804 says:

    I have never been to a conference, and I don’t think i have the courage to face too many great writers, as I have never written anything great. I wish some day I could also write good and and have the courage to attend such conferences!

  • Peter Nena says:

    I have been to a writer’s workshop. Storymoja’s Storymoja Festival organizes one every year in September. I take my leave around that time. It is awesome.

  • To me learning has to be non stop and these workshops are places where you learn tons and that too in a very short while.

  • clare1983 says:

    I’m a regular at the Melbourne Writers Festival. I love it! My advice – attend even the ones you don’t think you’ll find interesting. You could be surprised. I actually got to speak at a writers fest this year – for ABC open in Australia. Smaller, but cool!

  • Wayne says:

    I haven’t been to a writer’s conference, yet. My body fights me so much I just never get up the courage to go.

    But, I keep saying I will.

    Hope to see you there.

    Wayne
    Luvsiesous.com

  • I attended a writing-for-film workshop before. The speaker-teacher was very good and had great lessons to teach. But that’s when I realized scriptwriting may not really be for me. Still, I was glad to have attended the workshop and learned stuff, stuff that I can also use when writing fiction and a somewhat filmmaker (well, back then).

  • This is great!! Thanks for sharing.. And conferences are a great place to exchange ideas

  • I never go to writers conference

    >

  • Bookgirl says:

    I’m a writers conference addict. I think it’s the camaraderie I like, as you said writers are interesting, generous folk.

  • I went to three conferences this summer–sadly, none for writing (all under my alter-persona, geek). I loved each of them. I am on the lookout for a good writer’s conference, too. Though, somewhere in America would be best.

    • Damyanti says:

      America has so many good ones. I’m sure you’ll find a good one if you look, Jacqui. A friend of mine just went all the way there for the Writer’s digest conference.

  • I go to meet people. And yes, I’m a stereotypical writer personality…I’d rather sit at home and be alone, but this is your chance to get connected. You never know who you’ll meet or what may come of it. Just keep an open mind and force yourself to get in the mix.

  • lorellepage says:

    I think I’m too scared to go to one at this stage because I might want to go back and rewrite my whole book!

  • I admit I’ve never been to one.
    Good to hear you encountered only positive people.

  • Dan Antion says:

    I have never been to a writers conference, unless you include writing computer code, but I’ve been to many conferences and I have found workshops and panel discussions to be very helpful. A friend of mine who worked many years as an editor echoed the lesson you mentioned. He was helping me develop a training newsletter. He told me to remove every word unless their removal altered the message.

    • Damyanti says:

      Dan, that is excellent advice, isn’t it? At my workshop I also learned which words to (definitely) take out, which was even more helpful!

  • I’ve just returned from my own writing conference at Ball State University this past weekend. I love going to writing conferences and try to do one a year if they’re local. Outside of my critique group, it gives me a fresh perspective on what I’ve written and gives me a chance to learn the craft. My advice would be to attend a conference at least once a year whenever possible. It provides great networking opportunities, gives you a chance to meet others who write in the same genre as you, your knowledge of craft increases, you get books signed and advice from accomplished writers, and best of all, it gets you out of the basement! πŸ™‚

    • Damyanti says:

      Agree with you on all counts. Tag this post if you do write about your conference, so my readers can get to know about your conference, too. πŸ™‚

  • Beth Caplin says:

    I would love to go to one someday, but they never seem to be in my area or within my price range :/

    • You might try contacting writers groups that might be in your state or area. Sometimes they will host mini workshops at a local library or somewhere that will help promote published authors within the group.

  • I haven’t been to a conference, but I have been to a 3 day intensive workshop help by The Christian Writer’s Guild. It was wonderful. My advice would be make sure you’re ready to take a lot of notes from to moment you walk in. You’ll be getting more information from the get go than you’ll ever be able to remember. Also, this is one time not to be a people watcher. On the down-time, make sure to get in the thick of things and talk to everyone you can.

    • Damyanti says:

      I took lots of notes, and exchanged name cards, but I know I was nowhere near as good as I should have been. In my earlier life, I used to be a manager, and an editor, so I use the lessons from those times to help me get by at such events.

      • That’s great! I brought business cards with me and handed them out. Whatever you can do to look professional is always best. Another tip, if you didn’t know, would be not to dress casually. Dress the way you would for work because workshops and conferences are fantastic networking opportunities. You never know what editor or agent you might meet.

        • Damyanti says:

          Yep, I dressed more or less formally on all the days. It’s hard because Singapore is hot and humid, but most authors I saw were dressed for style as well as comfort. That’s a good tip, though, thank you. πŸ™‚

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