Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ides of February

’Tis the season, sort of. The shortest month of the year that always seems the longest is halfway done. Seeds ordered in the frigid January darkness have arrived and planting dates are marked on the calendar. What little snow we’ve had is melting into the three-inch tall green shoots around the pond. Pitchers and catchers report in four days (yay!). And I just registered for my first writer’s conference of the year. I know, I’m behind on scheduling, but I’ve never been good at planning too far ahead. If I try, life steps in to remind me how foolish are my best-laid plans.

As anyone who has ever attended one of these events knows, the wealth of possibilities offered to writers of all experience levels is truly astonishing. The sheer number of options, many of them genre-specific, others more broad – or fan – based. Enticing locations all across the country – the prestigious AWP Annual Conference & Bookfair is in Chicago this year, I could stay with my son and save the hotel bill (honest, he said I could!), but it’s in two weeks. I waited too long for that one. Love is Murder is another Chicago event I’ll get to someday. And overseas: Geneva, San Miguel, Surrey…out of my price range, but so intriguing. With a limited budget, I need to stick closer to home for now.

My first outing this year, as it has been for the past two years, will be the Mad Anthony Writers Conference in Hamilton, Ohio. Not particularly exotic, but sponsoring local non-profit group does a terrific job of packing a great deal of information into two days, starting with a Friday session called Murder & Mayhem. What more could a mystery writer ask for? I registered just under the wire to qualify for the early-bird discount and look forward to their expanded three-day schedule in early April. Mad Anthony’s become a tradition for a trio of us from my weekly writers group, gals’ road trip and all, that I know will be a great time.

The always-spectacular Antioch Writers' Workshop in July right here in my new home town of Yellow Springs is on my calendar as well. It’s a week-long event that never fails to overwhelm with the amount of information offered on everything from the finer points of fiction, to poetry, to snagging that elusive book contract.

Conferences and workshops are about so much more than the formal sessions. I often get as much benefit (dare I say more?) from meeting fellow writers and basking in the non-stop craft conversations that fill hallways, dining rooms and sometimes even a local bar. The spirited interaction is a great reminder that, even in the solitary work of writing, we are not alone.

Do you conference? When and where? I need to start planning ahead…


  1. I've done a few smaller conferences in the past, but this year I've registered for the DFW Conference in Dallas, complete with agent pitches. GULP. Just another part of my plan to make it uncomfortable in my comfort zone! :)

  2. Dallas is a bit far for me, but bravo to you for stretching! I've done three (four?) agent pitches at workshops now, each a little easier than the last, but never without palpitations. I have another scheduled at Mad Anthony. Here's hoping our anxieties pay off!

  3. I'm so jealous. I really want to go to a writer's conference and the ones you've just mentioned sound fantastic. Someday....

  4. Even if you can only manage a one-day event, it's worth it. AWW is pricey because it's a full week (although they offer a la carte options now that help reduce that), but I'm fortunate to have been a workfellow and exchange labor for the tuition. It's such a great experience. And Mad Anthony donates a portion of fees to area literacy campaigns, so it's a bit easier to justify the cost.

  5. The last 3 years I've been fortunate enough to visit conference a year - so I've done the Bloody Words conference when it was in Toronto (it moves around), I've done the Mount Hermon Writer's Conference near San Jose, California, and just last month the Writer's Digest Conference in New York. I also attend the Write! Canada conference every year in Guelph, Ontario which is very close to home. Each conference is different in what they offer, but I've found take-home value from every time. It's time and money well spent for sure.

  6. I'm biting the bullet and doing both Mad Anthony and Antioch this year, as well as Bouchercon which will be in Cleveland and not a long drive or flight to get to. I can tolerate hotels, but am finding myself more stressed with flying and having to carry luggage, or make it fit in one bag, and ironing, and taking too much, but not what I need. Please. Let me take my van and toss everything I own back there. But, I was interested in Lisa's comment about going to the WD conf in NYC. I was so intrigued by that. Given that many of you have attended more than one conference, do you find that you get more out of them as they get more familiar to you, or that you get braver to tackle the bigger ones? I'm all for getting uncomfortable, but want to avoid stupid if I can. Any tips for a newbie going to her first such conferences?

  7. Just be open to the whole experience, Diane. We'll be there to guide you through Mad Anthony, and I'll be working AWW, so I can help there, too. Don't try to do everything - your head may explode! - but make sure to network with the other attendees. I always get at least as much from that part of the gathering as from the actual sessions.


Your thoughts?