Any writer out there will tell you that writing pretty much a solitary activity. We spend a lot of time alone with our computers and notebooks crafting our characters, building our fictional worlds and developing our plots, and, of course, revising things we’ve already written. Yet, while we mostly go it alone, we have to remember that no person (nor writer) is an island. We need a connection with other writers for critical feedback on our work, creative inspiration, encouragement to keep persevering through dreaded writer’s block, and so much more.
While studying as a communications/creative writing major DeSales University, I was spoiled with access to people who shared my passion for writing and that I could rely on to provide in-depth critiques on my work, as well a a slew of classes taught by amazing professors who had been published themselves. It was an environment that fueled my creative drive and pushed me to become a better writer. Now, that I’m in the real world, I don’t have that same easy access to a writing community, and it’s been hard to seek out a local one between working full-time, running this blog, personal obligations, and working on the beginning stages of my original fiction. The internet era and the rise of websites like Wattpad have made building a virtual network a lot easier. However, these virtual connections cannot always act as a substitute for the benefits reaped from face-to-face interaction.
This brings me to the necessity of writers’ conferences. Held across the country and even internationally and often lasting a few days, these events are designed to bring members of the writing community together to explore craft, network, and promote personal and professional growth. I have been attending the the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference (PWC) in Philadelphia, PA for the last few years. This staple of my summer season has become an invaluable part of my writing journey. It is the one weekend every year that I step away from the daily grind of life, and I fully dedicate to my craft and career as a writer.
Thought about checking out one of these events, but haven’t been sure if it’s right for you? Here is why you should pull the trigger and make this the year you attend a writer’s conference.
1. Learn from experts in the field
One of my favorite things about the conference I attend is that I get to attend three full days of workshops. For me, they fill the void I’ve had since I graduated college to learn and grow with instruction from talented professionals. The courses cover everything from specific genres, general plot and character development, and ways to self-promote yourself as a writer as well as your work, as well as tips for breaking into copywriting and freelancing. The classes are often taught by working writers and editors, who have made careers by pursuing their passion. They are a wealth of knowledge with answers to questions you may have about the writing industry and tips on how to find success with your work.
2. Get critiques on your work
We all have people who want to read what we’re working on, but how many of them actually provide honest, constructive critiques? (Saying they generally liked it doesn’t count.) Conferences are a great place to get critical feedback on current projects, bounce ideas for future projects and characters, and even help out your fellow writers with their projects. Some conferences even let you submit work ahead of time to be reviewed by your workshop leaders and attending editors and agents. For those feeling a little more adventurous, check out and see if your conference has any contests you can enter. You’ll have a chance to have your work reviewed and possibly win some prizes.
3. Network with others in the writing community
Let’s face it. Breaking into the writing industry is hard. Whether you want publish traditionally, self-publish, or break into the pulsing industry as a freelancer or editor, all you can do is send out your manuscript or resume out into the abyss and hope you get a response. Writers’ conferences give you the chance to get some one-on-one face time with the people in the industry. You have the opportunity to have your work looked at by published authors, editors, agents, and you get to pick their brains. Two years ago, I even got the chance to meet and speak with Pretty Little Liars author Sara Shepard. You’ll also get to interact with fellow writers and bloggers, and build valuable relationships with others in the writing community. Talk to everyone even if it makes you nervous. Be open to engaging with everyone in the room. You never know who you will meet or who you will hand your business card to.
4. It’s a chance to put your writing life first
Of all the reasons out there to attend a conference, I personally feel that this the most important one. We all have obligations in our lives that can pull us away from our writing goals, like family duties and day jobs. Writers’ conferences give you the chance to take break from your daily life and focus completely on your writing. I always think of PWC as more of yearly retreat than a work conference. It is the one weekend every year that I devote nourishing my creative spirt and really delve into the exploration of my craft. This year, make that one weekend commitment to put your writing first. Hey, we all have at least one weekend a year free. Why not use it to renew your writer’s soul?