Friday, September 16, 2011

Aussie Writer on the Journey: What I've learned from writing conferences

by Narelle Atkins

I’m like a kid in a candy store when I arrive at writing conferences. The conference buzz and excitement has been building for weeks, and I’m looking forward to seeing my online writing friends in person. A long weekend focused on all things writing related is like heaven for writers, especially for those who are geographically isolated from other writers. The internet has helped writers connect from all over the world, but it can’t beat the personal contact with the publishing world that a writer experiences at conference.

I met my dear friend Mary Hawkins for the first time at the 2007 Romance Writers of Australia conference in Sydney, where she taught a great class on inspirational romance. Romance Writers of Australia run a fabulous annual conference in August that I recommend to Aussie romance writers. Although the conference is geared toward the general romance market, the quality of teaching is excellent and the conference attracts international editors, agents and keynote speakers. I was blessed to attend Debra Dixon’s wonderful ‘GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict’ workshop in Sydney last year.

In 2008 I travelled to San Francisco for the Romance Writers of America annual conference. Wow. It’s hard to explain the sheer awe I experienced in San Francisco. 1200 people attend the RWA conference, including New York editors and agents. There are hundreds of workshops to choose from, and most of the recordings are available for purchase after the conference. I attended a brilliant workshop by the late Blake Snyder, known for his ‘Save the Cat’ screenwriting books. I loved wandering through the crowds at the ‘Readers for Life’ Literacy Autographing, and purchasing personally signed copies of books from my favourite authors. Two of my Aussie friends were finalists in the Golden Heart contest, and seeing their photos come up on the big screens at the Awards Ceremony was beyond exciting. The Aussie contingent in the audience was very vocal and patriotic!

A definite highlight in San Francisco was attending the Faith, Hope and Love Inspirational Chapter of RWA’s One-Day conference. It was so exciting to finally meet my American writing friends in person and have the opportunity to talk with editors and agents in the Christian publishing world.

Conferences provide attendees with networking opportunities, and the opportunity to pitch their manuscript to editors and agents. A large number of US Christian publishers will only accept agented queries, or queries from writers they’ve requested manuscripts from at conferences.

I’d love to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference. If only international airfares to the US weren’t so expensive! Each year I purchase the ACFW conference recordings and enjoy learning more about the craft and business of writing. I’d also love to attend an Australian equivalent to the ACFW conference, catering for both Christian fiction and non-fiction writers. I like dreaming big!

I encourage all the writers reading our blog to attend writing conferences and reap the benefits from mingling with like minded people and industry professionals. Have you been blessed by attending writing conferences? I’d love to hear your thoughts.




Narelle Atkins writes contemporary inspirational romance. She resides in Canberra, Australia with her husband and children. She can also be found at the International Christian Fiction Writers blog. To learn more about Narelle, please visit her website.

46 comments:

  1. Yippee - I am first in line for once (just happened to stay up longer :) Thanks for that encouragement, Narelle. I would also love to attend an Australian equivalent to the ACFW conference, especially if it could cater for non-fiction writers and be held in Sydney. I wonder if some of our influential writers could be inspired to do something about it? I know our Omega friends have plenty going, but not everyone lives close to Brisbane.
    Actually, I love all conferences - both for the knowledge and the networking. Have been to plenty in the past, but NEVER to a writers convention. Maybe next year. Meanwhile, I really appreciate this blog and other connections through the Internet. My thanks to all you fabulous writers for your great posts.

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  2. Great post Narelle :)
    Conferences are such an encouragement. I attended my first ACFW conference in Indianapolis last year. Like you, I don't think I can adequately express my awe at being there. Someone wisely described the conference experience as 'filling a tea cup with a fire hose.' It takes months to properly process the deluge of information and experiences. I think I still am... and the next ACFW conference is on next weekend! I'll miss catching up with my buddies this year, but like you, will buy the workshop and lecture cds. Worth every cent!!

    Oh and I am so keen for my first Aussie Christian Writers Conference.... sometime in God's future for me :)

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  3. I love writers conferences too. I haven't been to the ACFW conference yet, but also have listened to the CDs.
    Personally, I am looking forward to the Word Writers Fair in Brisbane in November this year. It will be fantastic to catch up with a number of our Aussie authors, discover new books being launched, and learn from experienced writers in their various workshops. Can't wait!!!

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  4. Hi Narelle, My first conference was the Word Writers Fair in Brisbane in 2010 and I must say it was an excellent experience. It was a little strange because I was already a presenter being a published author! Conferences open a whole new world to a budding writer, contacts, insights, encouragement and inspiration. Make sure you go to at least one a year.

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  5. Hi Margaret, I hope you can attend a writers conference soon :) And yes, I'd love to attend a Christian writing conference in Sydney. The Romance Writers of Australia conference moves between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane/Gold Coast, and in 2013 it will be held in Perth for the first time.

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  6. Hi Dorothy, one day you'll have to post on your ACFW conference experiences :) I love the expression: 'filling a tea cup with a fire hose.' And it does take time to process the big conferences, and I find I'm very productive afterward because I'm feeling so encouraged and inspired to write :)

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  7. Hi Amanda, I agree the ACFW conference recordings are a great investment, and include lots of info relating to the US Christian fiction market. I'm hoping to do a day trip to Brisbane for the Word Writers Fair :)

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  8. Hi Paul, I haven't been to a writing conference this year (the first time I haven't been to a conference since 2007) and I have withdrawal symptoms :)

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  9. It sounds like you had an amazing time, Narelle.

    I would love to have a CWDownunder conference one day. The first would have to be held in either Sydney or Melbourne. Our members would present talks, there'd be plenty of laughter, great food and wonderful times.

    Chapters in each state would also be fantastic, I know Dotti has already put her hand up to lead the Melbourne one. Anyone else want to be in charge in other states?

    Perhaps one day, I'll travel to the States and attend one of those conferences. If there anything like the business one I recently went to in Sydney, all I can say is...WOW!!

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  10. Oh, so very true, Narelle. There's just something so special about meeting like-minded souls! I think we writers are the only ones who really understand what we are all about. I attended an amazing Writing For the Soul Conf. in Colorado Springs in 2007 and after soaking up all those wonderful sessions, I believe my writing went to another level. I can never get to the Omega Conf. because at that time each year, I'm in Thailand. So, yes, let's keep on praying about a Christian Writers Down Under conference.

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  11. Yes, there is something wonderful about Writer's conferences and festivals!
    Last year I went to the Word Writers Fair and found the CALEB dinner the most encouraging part. Just sitting there in a room full of writers/publishers/interested persons all looking to lift each other up and build Australian Christians writing. If I was heading up to Brissie this year I'd attend the dinner even though I haven't got a book shortlisted this time! Another valuable event for me has been the NSW Writer's Children's and YA festival. I'm sure other states have similar event too.

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  12. Hi Lee, it's great to hear you are Dotti are making plans to expand our group :) Are you looking to set up a chapter in the ACT, or does ACT fall within NSW? A conference in Sydney or Melbourne sounds wonderful :)

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  13. Hi Rita, I agree that our writing goes up a level after conference because we learn so many new things :)

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  14. Hi Penny, I would love to attend the CALEB dinner. It's so fun to cheer on your writing friends and share in their excitement :)

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  15. I actually managed to attend the recent Emerging Writers' Festival in Melbourne for free, having won a competition that covered the expenses. It certainly gave me a lot to think about.

    Just last weekend I went to the Write Around the Murray festival, and even got some great one-to-one advice from a publisher. You can't buy that.

    I'll confess that I don't find conferences to be universally uplifting because it's a tough game we're playing.

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  16. Hi Narelle,
    I would dearly LOVE to visit America and attend those huge conferences over there. My original plan was always to do it with my family, and now I think it'll have to be way in the future on my own, when I have an empty nest.
    BUT, I'm looking forward to meeting other writers at the Word Writers Fairs in the next couple of months in Adelaide and November. I'll be do a workshop on defeating the black dog at the first and a 4-hour masterclass on fiction writing at the second.
    Lee, a CWDownunder conference would be a wonderful idea.
    Blessings to all,
    Paula

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  17. I enjoyed the Brisbane Word Writers' Fair last November too and am presenting another workshop again this year in November. I also attended the Faithwriters' Conference here in Sydney last year and another one 'The Faithful Writer' a few years ago linked in with Uni of NSW. Also, I've attended various festivals and seminars at NSW Writers' Centre, which have been helpful. I think such conferences etc can be encouraging, but I remember early on in my writing journey they were often quite discouraging too, and I came away feeling it was all too hard. So I think we have to be careful to be as helpful and encouraging to others as possible but also real about the challenges.

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  18. Wow, some excellent comments here - as well as your thought provoking post, Narelle. This "Oldies" first ever conference with other writers was way back in the 1980's at the Wesley Centre in Sydney and sponsored by the Billy Graham Association. It simply blew me away and made me value so very, very much face to face fellowship with other writers. Yes, that RWAmerica conference back in 1999 in Chicago was awesome, especially meeting other Christian writers there. I've also been so very privileged to go to the Assoc Christian Writers in London as well as the ACFW in Denver in 2009. While these have been absolutely marvellous opportunities to learn and meet so many wonderful writers, there is nothing quite like our own Aussie versions. The problem until now has been they have been almost non-existent. My first conference in Brisbane was the Alpha2Omega one a few years ago and followed by the Word Writer's Fair last year. Enjoyed them immensely!I am absolutely thrilled there are a few dedicated writers in Qld now who are capable and prepared to work so hard for us. Of course the internet now gives us great opportunities to network, keep informed of the publishing industry trends, but for me nothing can ever replace face to face fellowship and make new friends with folk I've only "met" online. I am looking forward so much to the Word Writers Fair again where I am again presenting a workshop. And as time, age, finances permitting and as the Lord provides, I look forward to conferences in other Aussie cities too! And one last comment about the possibility of coming away feeling a writing career is too hard. I think it is far better to know ALL the facts before diving into such a competitive but soul satisfying career. For some it may seem too hard but it also will depend on what "price" we are prepared to pay to achieve our heart's desires.

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  19. This is a great conversation. I really love writers conferences. I started running The Word Writers ones because there weren't many in Australia. And it has done well with working in with Omega Writers for the CALEB dinner. Looking forward to seeing writers there in a few months. Brisbane is a lovely place to visit!

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  20. I was inspired by your joy and love for writing, Narelle, and would love to go to more conferences. The only one I've been to so far is the Adelaide Word Writers Fair, which was a great day. We writers (or would-be writers like me) benefit so much from the experiences of those who have gone ahead.

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  21. I have been reading alot about the ACFW conference which I believe i just over a week away. I have been reading about it on the Seekers blog and a few others. Im not a writer but its so cool hearing the info. I know at the RWA this year they had a booksigning and it was huge. the LI ladies had trading cards they gave out.

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  22. I’ll be attending my first writers conference in November – The Word Writers Fair in Brisbane. I’m not just excited to be launching my novel – as I live in Central Queensland it’s also a great opportunity to meet other Aussie writers. I hadn’t even heard of some of these events, so thank you Narelle.

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  23. Wow what wonderful experiences you've had. My hubby works crazy hours and we don't get much help - so I think I'll have to wait for the kiddies to grow up before I could travel to conferences. I have enjoyed the Word Writers Fair in Bris the last 2 years - and I'm going again this year.
    I happened upon (Bill Johnson) Bethel Church's Writing conf this year and listened in live online. There were some wonderful sessions on hearing from God and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through your writing.
    I've also joined in with WriteOnCon online for the last 2 years. I got some excellent feedback from an agent this year.
    Great to read everyone's comments here too.

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  24. Hi Peter, congrats on winning a prize to attend a writing festival! The personal interaction with industry professionals is invaluable :)

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  25. Hi Paula, we were thinking about heading to Disneyland next year for RWA conference. Taking the family along has advantages and disadvantages, and in many ways it is easier to travel with writing friends. It would be fun if a group of us were able to attend an ACFW conference :)

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  26. Hi Jo-Anne, it's looking like I'll be able to go to Brisbane in November :) Can't wait to meet you all! I have published author friends who write in non-romance secular genres, and they've mentioned that romance writing conferences tend be friendlier and more inclusive of new writers. We're not quite sure why? But I agree that conferences can be very daunting for first timers. ACFW runs a pre-conference program for first time conference attendees.

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  27. Hi Mary, thanks for your detailed comments :) There are a number of Aussie conferences and events catering for writers targeting the secular fiction and non-fiction market, and this is one reason why I'm looking forward to attending the Word Writers Fair for the first time. And I agree it's important for writers to gain knowledge about the business of writing up-front.

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  28. Hi Rochelle, thanks for all the work you and your team are putting in to organise the Word Writers Fairs :) I chaired the FHL One-Day Conference in San Francisco, and I know how much time and effort goes into organising these events.

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  29. Hi Debbie, thanks for your encouraging words, and I hope you'll be able to attend another writing event very soon :)

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  30. Hi Jenny, I really enjoyed mingling with readers at the RWA literacy signing :) It would be great if we had an Aussie Christian Writing conference that included a book signing for readers. I know there is an Aussie Romance Readers convention that is similar to the big Romantic Times Readers Convention in the US.

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  31. Hi Rose, congrats on the upcoming launch of your novel! How very exciting that the launch co-ordinates with the Word Writers Fair :)

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  32. Hi Michelle, I totally understand the difficulties in juggling family commitments and conferences. I'm glad you've found some helpful online conferences, and had the opportunity to connect with an agent :) Last month I participated in the online Romance Writers of Australia 'Claytons Conference' for those who couldn't attend the real conference. I had a ball, although I missed too many sessions due to work and family commitments. It was great to hang out in the chat room during the Award ceremony and celebrate as we learned the winner's names via Twitter :)

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  33. Great post, Narelle. I've been attending the Romance Writers of Australia Conference on and off for the past sixteen years. It's time well spent. Meeting friends old and new, networking, talking to editors, and learning about everything writing from the workshops. This year I took part in the Clayton's Conference online because I'm in Central Queensland at the present time. There are so many ways for writers to connect and attending conferences is a really good place to start. I'd recommend all writers attend at least one conference a year. Meeting with like minded people at a conference injects you with new enthusiasm to continue. This year mark your diary for the Adelaide Writers Fair or the Brisbane Writers Fair for fellowship so that you know you aren't alone in your writing adventure.

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  34. Hi Laura, I agree that conferences are great for helping us to gain new energy and enthusiasm for our writing :)

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  35. Thank you to everyone for jumping in and joining the conversation.

    I'd love to have been able to attend The Word Writers conference, but the time and travel is prohibitive to be done too frequently.

    It's possible that this conference would never have happened if Rochelle didn't rescue Omega Writers from languishing and, not only that, but she started Word Writers with little assistance. Rochelle is an amazing woman.

    So...Kudo's to Rochelle in recognition of your hard work in helping Australian writers!

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  36. Cant wait to go up to Brisbane to the word writers fair!Thanks Rochelle for organizing it!
    It was encouraging reading everyones posts today :)

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  37. Are there any christian fiction writers conferences in NSW?
    Jennifer Ann

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  38. Great post, Narelle. I was so blessed to meet you in person in San Francisco, and I'm really hoping we can see each other in Anaheim next summer.

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  39. Lynn, thanks for stopping by and I'm looking forward to going to Brisbsne :)

    Jennifer, Mel mentioned in a post on our FB group that Faithwriters hold a conference in Sydney. Not sure of the details, but there's probably info somewhere on a website or blog :)

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  40. Hi Suzie, I would love to see you again in Anaheim :) Will have to wait and see what next year brings... I'm not giving up hope yet!

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  41. I think you'd really like the
    Faithwriter's conference in NSW, Narelle. It should be on next October in Sydney - usually at Penrith, near Blue Mountain. So far it's only been held by-annually, I think because the organiser is often in the States at the US Faithwriter's conference. They're a good group to be touch with - not hard to find if you google Faithwriters. I'm looking forward to seeing you all in person in Brisbane this year.

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  42. Hi Carol, thanks for the info on Faithwriters :) I had a look at the their website and it looks really interesting.

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  43. Sadly Deb has said she won't be coming Downunder for a Faithwriters conference this year, hopefully 2012.

    I'd love to hear more about the Aussie Christian Writing conferences.

    I attended my first conference in Perth this year when Rochelle popped over for a weekend :)

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  44. A lot of conferences going on there. It would be fun to throw off the normal responsibilities of life and go OS to one of the conferences you've mentioned. Perhaps I can put that on a wish list. Getting the time and money to go to Brisbane Word Writers and Alpha to Omega has been as far as the wish list has extended so far, but that was a valuable experience. We have a Word Writer's Day here in ADelaide in October, for those Southern states people. Oct 7th. Perhaps will see you at one place or the other.

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  45. Thank you, everyone, for this great conversation. Very informative and inspiring for someone like me who is new to all of this :)

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  46. Hi Narelle, I'll look out for info on the Faithwriters conference next year :)

    Hi Meredith, I hope you'll have the opportunity to attend an overseas conference :)

    I'm looking forward to meeting many of you in Brisbane. Thanks for the great conversation - I've enjoyed reading all your comments :)

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