Tools · Writing

Conferences & Workshops

Hello, writers! Happy Sunday! Before I start today’s post, I want to get a couple of things off my chest:

1-I AM READING “HOUSE OF LEAVES” AND O MY GAD THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD. Have any of you read it? Can we discuss it? I’m only 115 pages into it but every page is blowing my fucking mind with its mastery. Dude. Like…dude.

2-I don’t know if any of you have been following the Twitter shit-storm about a book called “The Continent” by Keira Drake. It has made for some interesting discussions on racism in publishing, white people writing PoC characters, cultural appropriation, and etc. I can see where both sides are coming from (what the author’s intentions were–I truly do not believe she MEANT to be racist–as well as why some of the aspects of the book are problematic), but of course, being Twitter, there have also been death threats made on both sides and the like. Oi. Anyway, this topic has gotten under my skin, because I am a white writer who writes PoC characters. Like…a lot of them. Like…the MAJORITY of my characters are not white. And right now it’s feeling like that’s not okay? Some of the side-streets in this conversation about “The Continent” have been “hey white writers: let PoC write their characters, you can stick to writing white people,” and while I know that it’s coming from a place of frustration when white writers get it wrong or rely on stereotypes or are just trying to ride what they see as a “diversity trend,” for someone like me who is really, really trying to get it right, trying to write strong PoC women into my fantasy books because I truly get angry when I read a book/watch a show or movie without any PoC or PoC who are flat background characters, that hurts. I’m questioning myself a lot right now, because while I am not guilty of the type of problems “The Continent” has, I have no way of knowing whether I am being unintentionally racist, simply because I am white and privileged and therefore inherently ignorant in a lot of ways. I’m trying, but is that enough? Should I stick to writing white main characters, as was suggested by some of these Tweets? I don’t want to do that. It’s not who I am…but what if I unintentionally hurt someone? *is sweating with white anxiety*

Sorry for fretting into the void a bit, but this has been on my mind all weekend, and I needed to get it out.

ANYWAY. MOVING ON. (YOU’RE WELCOME)

CONFERENCES! WORKSHOPS!

I am a huge fan of writer’s conferences and workshops. I’ve been to several (back when I was on the YA train), and they were helpful in so many ways. Whether you’re a new writer looking for writing advise, an experienced writer looking for publishing information or to make connections, or even a published writer looking for feedback on a new project, there’s a conference or workshop for you. (Let’s all ignore the fact that I sound like one of those awful local used car dealership commercials right now–KIAS, ULTIMAS, WE’VE GOT A CAR FOR YOUUUUUU)

I’m going to break down the difference between the two:

In my experience, a writer’s CONFERENCE is more of a lecture or seminar style experience. The conferences I attended way back when were put on SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). They took place in a super nice hotel (the one I went to was in Los Angeles), and were set up so that there was a keynote speaker every morning in the main ballroom, after which the writers shuffled off to a myriad of smaller rooms to hear different people in the industry talk about different subjects. There were authors talking about their process, agents or editors talking about the business side, etc. You picked what you wanted from a pretty vast schedule. The focus was on listening and learning, although you could also submit your manuscript for review if you wanted to.

The writer’s WORKSHOP I attended was the Big Sur Writing Workshop put on by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. It also took place in a hotel (in Monterery, CA…I’m from CA, can you tell?). Being a workshop, this one was focused on the writers themselves. We brought several copies of the first chapter of our book and were assigned to sessions that included about 5 or 6 other writers, with a workshop leader in the industry (writers, agents, or editors). Every writer read their chapter aloud (or as much of it as they could get in before their allotted time ran out), and then the group discussed it. I loved the conferences I attended, but I FUCKING LOOOOOVED this workshop. It was amazing to get feedback from other writers, super valuable to hear what our industry professional had to say about my work…and it was also great to see how complete strangers reacted to my writing style or plot. The only reason I stopped going was because it’s for children’s books only (picture books through YA), and once I made the choice to commit fully to the adult market, I no longer “belonged.” (I found an adult one, though, at San Diego State University…it’s a mix of conference and workshop, and I think I’m going to go in 2018!)

Both types of events are valuable for different reasons, and I would recommend both experiences. Obviously if you are a brand new writer and not quite comfortable showing your work to anyone yet, a conference would be best. If you’re focused on the path to publication, have a completed manuscript, and want to get feedback, I would suggest a workshop. But a seasoned writer will get a TON out of a conference, and a workshop might just be the nurturing experience a shy writer needs to feel confident enough about his or her work to send it to an agent.

The thing I actually love most about these kinds of events is connecting with other writers. Writing is a solitary, often lonely business, and the internet can only provide so much solace. Sometimes it’s nice to get out of the house and meet other writers face to face. It’s so amazing to hear what other people are working on, read their WIPs, and have cocktails while you talk about your process. The Big Sur Writer’s Workshop advertises itself as a place to score a book deal or agent, but I honestly found that the connection I made with other writers was far more important to me. And actually…………one of the writers I met at that conference loved the business so much that she eventually started interning for an agent….and then she BECAME an agent…and because she had always been my biggest supporter, I queried her, and now she is MY agent! Connections are important, my friends, and conferences and workshops are a fantastic place to make those connections.

You can find conferences or workshops in your area online. Ask your writer friends if they’ve been. If not, why not go together? WRITER BONDING WEEKEND!

That’s it for today. An easy one, I know! Next week I’ll be off: I’m getting a fresh tattoo on Saturday (the first I’ve had in over a year…o gods how I miss the feel of needles in my skin), and since it’s on a spot that naturally rests against my desk as I type, I’m going to avoid the keyboard the next day. I don’t want to get blood and plasma on it (sorry, I know, but it’s true, they seep at first). BUT the week AFTER, I’ll be back—blood, plasma, and all—and we’re going to talk about being happy for all of the new writer-friends you made at your conference/workshop when they’re all getting published and you aren’t! (trust me, it happened to me, it hurts, and it’s important).

UNTIL THEN! Have a great week!

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