The first writer’s conference I ever attended was the Southern Christian Writers Conference in 2004. The church was still under construction and my writing career looked just as rough. I had no idea what to expect, but I went with an empty well looking for something to pour in it. It was a Neverland type experience for me and I came home with the belief that I could fly.
Over the years, the Southern Christian Writers Conference has served as a time of motivation and inspiration for my journey. The people that I meet there guide me to new and wonderful adventures. Each year I have a unique and amazing experience, but I have found that ten things hold true each and every year.
My Top 10 Conference Requirements
1. Build relationships - I discover as much from the participants each year as I do from the presenters. Listening to stories of writing adventures and mishaps opens my eyes to my own journey. The people that I meet at these events inspire me to do and to be more in the days ahead – and often then are the encouragement and accountability that keeps me moving in the right direction.
2. It depends – any one that talked to Jonathan Clements for more than a minute heard this line. But what he said instantly connected for me – particularly in my walk as a Christian writer. My journey has to be unique, so it will depend. The first step has to be my connection with the Father and then I have to learn to allow His direction to guide me on my own path. No matter how many numbers I get from the agents or publishers, my journey will still not be the same as the person before me or the person behind me. The path to my success depends a LOT on me.
3. Do some research – learn about the people that will be attending the conference. You will find social media groups where you can get the names of people that will be attending (and where you can ask questions of those that have gone before). I also find it extremely valuable to research the presenters. Knowing who they are and what they do can help me prepare a pitch, a manuscript or a proposal that meets their requirements even if I do not have a chance at the conference to give it to them.
4. Find accountability – I still struggle with this one concept, but I know from past experience that when others are gauging my progress then I tend to push a little harder. It helps drive you to your purpose if you can find people along the way that will encourage and motivate you to that destination. You may discover that at least one of the people attending the conference lives just up the block from you. Use the opportunity to create an accountability group that can meet when you get back home.
5. Write something – you will never be a writer if you never put words to paper. Take breaks to journal about your experience or to create an outline of your next story or book. Use those words to inspire more words when you get home. Just keep writing!
6. Create a path to readers – I know something that you do not know – it is the nature of life. The more I am willing to help you get to where you want to be then the more I will find that I am getting to where I want. The path to readers and fans starts with a willingness to reach out and be a blessing.
7. Keep learning – it may seem like I know everything but if you promise NOT to tell my children or husband I will confess that the more I learn the more I discover there is to learn. I attend each conference with the understanding that I am going to walk away with a new insight. The moment I quiet growing is the same moment my writing will die.
8. Know your own definition of success – Angela Benson provided a moment of clarity that made my conference day. If I do not define my success between me and God then the world will define success for me. I rarely like what the world does or says, so I have been spending time in prayer and thought to write down a specific definition of MY success.
9. Laugh! – Laughter is not only the best medicine around, but it is the fuel of hope and joy. Enjoy the experience, spend plenty of moments laughing, and no matter where you are you will be blessed in the being.
10. Follow up – one presenter told me that less than 10% of attendees will follow up on requests made from editors, agents and publishers. It seems crazy, but I understand. Set your schedule so that the two or three days after returning from and event are dedicated to sending out queries, emails and thank you notes. If you do NOT schedule the time then the time will slip past!
Not matter how big or how small the conference you attend, you will only get out of the experience what you are willing to invest. Go with an expectation to learn and grow and share and you will come away with a positive experience that you will want to repeat time and again.