Beyond Books: Conferences

LVWCLogoReading craft books is important. I wouldn’t blog about it every month if I didn’t think so. You can reference your dog-eared and highlighted pages time and again when a little brush up in POV or scene structure or grammar is in order.

But other forms of learning are important too: reading, writing groups, critique partners, retreats, workshops, and conferences. A serious writer will explore all that she can to advance her craft.

The Las Vegas Writer’s Conference is once such event and my latest educational exploit. Occurring each year in late April, I’ve gone four years running and never once regretted the expenditure. This year, I attended classes and took pages of notes on topics as wide-ranging as voice, pitching, character development, and contractual law.

At a conference, unlike when reading a book, I can ask questions of and participate in discussion with the presenter and my fellow attendees. In an age of TVs and iPads, one attendee used niche radio broadcasting to great effect when promoting his book. Another lost hundreds of dollars with a fraudulent book contract. I learned from them both. A lunch discussion about banning cigarette smoking in Las Vegas casinos morphed into an inspirational story about ever changing goals and successes.

First Page Critique Panel

First Page Critique Panel

It’s hard to get that kind of dynamism from a book.

When Susan Spann spoke of the four novels she had to write before her fifth finally landed her an agent and a multi-book deal, my resolve redoubled. When Caitlen Rubino-Bradway sat down with me and pointed out precisely which lines on my opening page seemed overwrought, an abstract critique became a tangible lesson. When Judith Briles encouraged the audience to stand proud behind their accomplishments, I flirted with the idea of responding to the next compliment I received as she instructed, “Thank you for recognizing my magnificence.”

However a writer can come by education and inspiration, she must grab it and suck from the experience all she can. I value the books on my shelves and will continue to read (and critique). But, when time and money allow, I’ll push beyond the page and seek the inspiration and community readily available at writer’s conferences. I encourage you to do the same.

Ever had a great conference experience? Please share!

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