During the last few days, I’ve been in Amarillo, Texas at the Frontiers in Writing Conference. What a great opportunity to escape my computer and my piles of manuscripts to get some one on one time with writers. The conference was one of the best organized that I’ve attended in some time and ran like clockwork with every detail under control. Because I’ve worked behind the scenes to organize conferences in the past, I appreciate the amount of energy, planning and effort that goes into these conferences. Often the organizers don’t get to attend any of the workshops but they generously give back to the faculty and the attendees to make sure they have the greatest benefit from the gathering.
I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with writers, listen to their dreams and aspirations then explore possibilities. I taught a couple of workshops including understanding and negotiating contracts plus about book proposals that sell. My intention whether interacting with an individual writer or teaching a workshop or leading a critique group is to expand their possibilities and give them the greatest value at the conference. I understand it’s a high expectation and goal but I understand each person has invested time and money to be able to attend the conference. I hate for people to go home feeling like they wasted their effort.
In my workshop about book proposals, I saw several people catch a new idea (really an old idea for those of us in publishing). These writers understood for the first time that if they are writing a nonfiction book, they didn’t need to write the entire manuscript before submitting it to a publisher. Instead, they can write a terrific book proposal plus a couple of sample chapters (to highlight their writing skills) and get a book contract from the proposal and chapters. Then if a publisher accepts and contracts the proposal, the writer will create the full book manuscript. If not, then they haven’t invested hours and hours of writing into a manuscript which isn’t published. It’s how nonfiction works within the publishing community. A proposal is needed not a full length manuscript. The proposal contains many elements that never appear in your book manuscript—but these elements are critical for a publisher to make a decision. Several in my workshop caught this idea for the first time.
Also at the conference, I met some people who may expand possibilities for my own writing life. They will only become reality if I follow through with the opportunity.
Writer’s conferences are terrific. They are opportunities for new relationships and instructive teaching and life-long friends. Some people attend these conferences for the inspiration (a good aspect) and yet never follow up on their opportunities (a negative aspect). You can only expand your possibilities, if you follow up from the conference.