I started attending writers conferences in 1988 and I’m still going to them. In fact, I spent last weekend at a conference. A lot of those years, I attended more than one. I’ve probably attended at least fifty conferences through the years, You may be thinking I should know everything I need to know about writing by now. Wrong. Here’s why.
I believe we never stop learning as long as we’re alive. It’s true we gain a certain amount of knowledge over time and acquire skills to carry us through life, but life is ever-changing. And so is the publishing industry. It’s important to keep up with what’s happening in publishing if you want to see your writing in print whether it’s in magazines, online markets, or in book form. I’ve never been to a conference where I didn’t learn something. And I’m of the mindset that even if it’s only a new magazine market or a new way to market my books or making new contacts that it’s worth my time and money. Some conferences are work events where I’m actually teaching a workshop or working in a booth, but I still learn new things. For new writers, I think it’s a must to attend some conferences to learn the craft and the business. But it’s a must for the rest of us too. We need to stay up-to-date and in touch.
But there’s another reason I go to writing events. The people. I’ve often said, and believe it to be true, that no one understands a writer like another writer. In spite of individual ability, knowledge or success, we seem to understand each other. Whether I know your name or what you’ve written, I feel a certain kinship with you because we share a love of the written word and all the work and struggle it requires of us. I love my family and friends and appreciate their support of me as a writer, but unless they write, they can’t know the emotions that frame our days and keep us going back to the keyboard day after day.
The people I met this past weekend helped create memories I can recall on those days when I’m feeling a bit down because the piece I’m working on doesn’t work or another rejection letter shows up in my email box. Harold Rawlings, a member of the faculty, showed me a copy of a Tyndale Bible from the 1500s, it’s yellowed, brittle pages a reminder that the written word lives on long after we’re gone. Donn Taylor, an accomplished poet, bravely came to the conference with a smile and a hearty greeting to teach poetry again this year even though he lost his wife to cancer not long ago. David King shared his faith through his teaching and prayed with us. Terry Burns, my agent, came in smiling even though he and Saundra were in the middle of a big move and he probably needed to be doing other things. While I manned the bookstore, I had some great discussions on the Bible with Bill Keith and Barbara Arent. I could go on naming individuals who touched my life this past weekend and at other conferences in the past, but I think you get the idea–I believe in writers conferences. I always come home inspired to do more, to keep writing. I feel like my tank has been filled again and I can keep traveling the writing road.