Why Bloggers Should Attend a Writers’ Conference

Grace Fox and Laura Christianson at Mount Hermon 2011

Author Grace Fox and Laura Christianson attempt to conquer Facebook at the 2011 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

By Laura Christianson

Ten years ago, I had a dream to write a book and get it published by a royalty publishing house.

I’d been a freelance writer for magazines since 1993. Before that, I’d taught high school journalism and English for 11 years, and I’d spent a lot of time in the newsroom and production room of a daily newspaper. So I assumed I was well-acquainted with the world of publishing.

I was wrong.

Yes, I did have a good handle on the world of magazine and newspaper publishing. I was used to pitching ideas to editors and having less than 10 percent of my stories accepted for publication. But book publishing is an entirely different breed of cat.

I learned that when I attended my first writers’ conference in 2003. My friend and neighbor, Jenn Doucette, had a book on her heart, as well. She invited me over one day to review her query letter and book proposal and suggested we attend a writers’ conference together.

A writers’ conference? I’d heard of such entities, but why did I – a person with a master’s degree in teaching English and journalism… a person who’d taught others how to write for 11 years… a person who’d been getting her own writing published for a decade – need to go to a writers’ conference? What could they teach me about writing that I didn’t already know?

But I agreed to give it a try, mostly to support Jenn, who was more than a little nervous about pitching her book project to editors and agents. I completed my book proposal and off we went, proposals in hand and hopes high.

A day later, after receiving multiple face-to-face rejections from agents and editors – Jenn and I sat in our hotel room, sobbing.

While the rejection part was definitely discouraging, other parts of the conference opened my eyes and my heart.

I got to spend two days hanging out with hundreds of people who loved the craft of writing as much as I do.

I got to meet editors and agents, and discovered that many of them are published authors who have also experienced more than a few rejections of their own projects.

I was touched and entertained by the keynote speaker.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that I learned things about writing that I had forgotten, neglected, or never knew in the first place.

Long story short, I eventually did get my book published with a royalty publisher. But it took three years of attending writers’ conferences and a heavy pile of rejection letters before I found the right home for my book.

After attending a couple of writers’ conferences, I thought, “I do know a thing or two about writing. And about writing professionally for magazines and blogs. I could teach what I know and encourage others.”

So I applied to teach at writers’ conferences. And got accepted! Since 2005, I’ve been sharing what I’m learning about writing, publishing, and social media marketing with others who are on the journey.

Teaching at writers’ conferences brings me inexpressible joy. I get to hang out with my writing peeps. I get to learn from them. And I get to see lightbulbs click on above their heads (virtually, of course) as new ideas flash into their mind.

The Big Deal About Writers’ Conferences

If you are thinking about becoming a writer – either a writing hobbyist or a published writer – I highly recommend attending a writers’ conference. They’re offered all over the country, and there are conferences for both general market and Christian writers.

Writers of all ages and stages attend. So whether you’re a novice who wants to learn about writing and publishing or you’re a multi-published author who wants to fine-tune your craft, you’ll benefit.

If you’re looking for good conferences to attend, I’ll be teaching at two in March.

Oregon

The Oregon Christian Writers Conference (in Salem, OR) is Saturday, March 16, 2013. It’s a one-day conference and would be a great “starter” conference if you’ve never been to one.

Davis Bunn, a best-selling novelist (and long-time Blogging Bistro client) will be the keynoter. I’ll be teaching two workshops:

  1. Marketing Your Writing Online
  2. Blog Your Way to a Book Deal

California

The Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference (near Santa Cruz, CA) is Friday, March 22-Tuesday, March 26. There is also a “head-start” clinic March 20-21.

Mount Hermon is one of the largest and lengthiest Christian writers’ conferences in the U.S. Many of the “rock stars” of the Christian publishing industry attend – agents, editors, and authors. This year’s keynoter is McNair Wilson.

This will be my sixth time attending Mount Hermon. If I had to choose one writers’ conference to attend, Mount Hermon would be #1 on my list. It is simply a phenomenal conference from start to finish.

This year, I’ll be teaching a Major Morning Track (8-hour course) called “Marketing Your Writing Online: The Art of Thinking Backwards.” Unlike the “Do-Re-Mi” song from The Sound of Music… “Let’s start at the very beginning….

We’re going start at the very ending – a very good place to start! We’ll define what makes your marketing successful and work our way backwards through a simple, 7-step social media marketing strategy you can use to promote your writing, ministry, or business. This is going to be a hands-on course and I encourage you to bring your laptop or tablet.

It’s not too late to register for either of these conferences. I’ve heard that many people register at “the last minute,” so you won’t be alone. Come! Join us! It’ll be the experience of a lifetime. I promise.

Have you attended a writers’ conference?

If so, what’s your top reason for attending?

If you haven’t been to a writers’ conference, what questions do you have about them?

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  • http://gratefultable.com/ Jennifer Cote

    I really love the idea of attending. Alas, I looked at prices for Mt. Hermon (close enough to where I live), and realized I can’t quite afford it yet. But I can appreciate that it would be very worthwhile. There is so much to know. Although I have self-published, there’s so much I would’ve rather learned from someone else, than to have learned from personal experience!

  • Angela D. Meyer

    Did I miss the author’s name? I had to follow the link to the Art of Thinking Backwards class and scroll down the page and find her picture before I found her name.

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Angela, Um… that would be me. Laura Christianson. I own Blogging Bistro, LLC and am the person who is teaching at both conferences. Sorry for the confusion. I added my byline to the post and the photo caption to prevent further confusion.

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Next year, Jennifer! And you wouldn’t even have to attend my internet marketing course, because much of what we did during our brand identity coaching sessions will be taught — in condensed form — during my workshops.

  • http://gratefultable.com/ Jennifer Cote

    Next year? Ah, one can dream, right?! :D

  • Marilyn Rhoads

    Wonderful information and true. I thought the same thing when I attended my first conference, and now I understand why learning these new skills and networking are invaluable. OCW has helped me grow and get connected to the Christian writing world.

  • Marsha Hubler

    This blog post is EXACTLY what I experienced in my writing life. Writers conferences ARE where a writer learns to write, to be accepted, and to be rejected, only to become a better writer. A writer who thinks he/she need never attend writers’ conferences is sadly mistaken. The fellowship with other writers alone make it all worth the time and money.
    The best one I’ve ever attended is the Montrose Christian Writers Conference in Montrose, PA, every third week in July. I’ve served on the faculty at least 5 times but have not missed one for the last 14 years or so.
    Writers conferences are invaluable. Absolutely.
    Marsha Hubler http://www.marshahubler.com

  • http://bloggingbistro.com/ Laura Christianson

    Marsha – Thanks for sharing. It somehow makes me feel better to know I’m not the only person in the world who assumed I was too experienced as a writer to be able to learn anything from a writers’ conference. I was so wrong! Now, writers’ conferences are my absolute favorite place to be (in terms of professional growth), and I encourage everyone to go. I’m even bringing my husband (who is a math teacher) with me to the Oregon conference. Thanks for telling us about the Montrose conference. That’s a bit far from my home in the Seattle area, but it sounds like a good one. Would love to teach there.

  • Angela D. Meyer

    I knew it was probably there somewhere :) I just didn’t connect that this was your blog.