Friday, January 13, 2006

Choose Your Conference Wisely

I love the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indy finally reaches the location of the old crusade knight. Deep in the cavern, the knight is guarding the holy grail that Jesus used during the last supper. There are many different grails and the knight advises, “Choose but choose wisely.” Indiana Jones & Last Crusade

As they are talking, the evil character burst on the scene and also decides to choose a grail. The evil man chooses a shiny gold grail (see the photo). You have to watch the film to see the result (I’d hate to spoil it for you) but there are ramifications for the evil character and for Indiana Jones and the wisdom of their choices.

The same type of wisdom has to be used when selecting a writer’s conference. There are literally hundreds of these conferences.  Some have a very simple one-day format while others take four or five days and involve many different people. Publishers have a love hate relationship with these conferences.  Editors can form new relationships and find new talent at these conferences. Yet these conferences take precious time away from the business of publishing. After a conference, some times an editor feels even further behind in their day to day work.  As a result, some editors have decided they can only attend one or two of these sessions a year. Other editors attend even less of these conferences and attend every other year.

From my perspective, you should choose the conference for your need as a writer. What is your need at the conference? Is it basic information? Are you attending to meet a particular editor or group of editors? Maybe you have decided to focus on a new area of writing such as nonfiction or fiction? You’ve done your homework and decided you could learn a great deal from a particular instructor.  From your research, you select and plan to attend a particular conference.

Writing is a solitary task and maybe you’ve decided to get out of your office and talk with other writers and common interests. You decide to attend a particular conference with those goals.  Still other people come to a conference much more on a whim. They learn about a conference one week and arrive the next with no expectations and also no preparation.

Each of us have limited amounts of time and finances (yes, these conferences cost). Who is teaching? What editors are attending? Also make sure you check for last minute changes in the staff. Then you can manage your own expectations and potential disappointment. Things are constantly shifting in the publishing world. Some times an editor will sign up for a particular conference then have to cancel that conference. My encouragement is to choose your conference wisely.

2 Comment:

At 6:55 AM, Blogger Gina Holmes Left a note...

Great advice, Terry. It's tough to say no to a conference I've regularly attended, but doesn't suit my needs this year. But, cost and vacation time is an issue. I know I didn't realize years ago, how different conferences can be. Luckily for me, I chose a great one that suited my needs perfectly at that time.

At 10:17 PM, Blogger Janice Left a note...

To piggyback off of Gina's comments...I didn't learn how important conferences were until I started attending them. I'm not sure what I'll be able to attend this year, but I plan to order recordings from some of those I can't attend. Even though a recording doesn't provide the networking opportunities, I've found the learning experience from them to be invaluable.


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