This is the third in a three-part series on finding and building a writing community. The first post focused on online resources, both free and paid. The second post was about local resources, both free and paid, and this one will discuss traveling to workshops, retreats, and conferences.
One of the most educational (however overwhelming at the time), experiences that I’ve had as an aspiring writer was the first time I attended a major writing conference. I may have taken on a bit too much at once by attending the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York in 2009. There were keynotes, panels, workshops, and a “Pitch Slam,” where attendees had the opportunity to interact one-to-one with agents in 5-minute intervals. The goal was to sell them on your work in about 2.5 minutes and get their feedback/questions in the next 2.5. Success meant that they handed you their card and asked you to send something. It was a very high-pressure, but fantastic, experience, and I was more successful than I had hoped.
The connections I made at that particular conference have served me well. I’ve had ongoing relationships and have crossed paths with a number of writers and publishing professionals that I first met there. The learning curve was quite vertical; I consider my knowledge of the writing “business” in terms of before and after attending that conference. It’s widely known as one of the best, and includes topics on almost any aspect of writing, publishing, platform building, and several specific craft workshops. I’ve attended Writer’s Digest Conference twice more since, but have also added/diversified my conference schedule.
One conference I attend is strictly devoted to creative nonfiction, as it is sponsored by Hippocampus Magazine, tagline: memorable creative nonfiction. I write mostly memoir, so this is tailored for someone like me. I also regularly attend Woodstock Bookfest, held in Woodstock, New York. This one is a real artist adventure that opens with a huge story slam/cocktail party and continues with panels on spirituality, music, writing, more cocktail parties, keynotes, a lovely breakfast hosted by amazing authors, lots of book signings, and the opportunity to spend a full day with an author/expert in a small group workshop.
Again, I’m only sharing what I know, but there are all sorts of workshops/conferences/retreats that are available if you are willing to travel and spend some time and money. I have found that the connections I’ve made in person, and then fostered through social media, have become real friendships born of mutual interests and respect. I just returned from a trip to Rochester, New York to see two friends that I’d met at two different writing conferences. Now we are all friends. Real, supportive writer friends. And I love them. Now, I can’t guarantee that will happen for you, but I do know that if you reach out for a writing community, you can find it.