Deciding to attend a writer’s conference for the first time is like deciding to visit a foreign country. You Google, do your research, and learn a new language (words like “pitch,” “logline,” “platform” and “query”). By the time you get to the conference you’re competent that your knowledge of genres and age groups is enough to keep the locals from ostracizing you.
But it really is impossible to prepare for everything.
Luckily, most of the surprises at a writer’s conference are happy surprises! Here are 5 things that might surprise you about a writer’s conference.
1) People’s eyes don’t glaze over when you start to talk about your book.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been deep in a conversation with someone when all of the sudden they ask, “So what’s new with you?” You take a split second to rack your brain for an answer they will understand, but all you want to say is, “Today I decided to kill my main character’s love interest and I’m so excited!” So you do. You invite them into your writing world. But it doesn’t take long for most non-writers to glaze over, because they aren’t in the trenches. They don’t know that you’ve been seeing your characters walking down the streets in the real world and that you’re still on the fence about whether or not that means you’ve lost your mind.
If you need a break from that reaction, consider a writer’s conference. Hundreds of people gather at conferences to listen and support each other in the insanity that is a writing life.
2) You do not need caffeine the way you thought you would.
There’s a certain amount of energy that flows through the air at writer’s conferences and seeps in through your skin. Everywhere you look people are talking about writing, teaching about writing, or scribbling in their notebooks about writing. When your alarm goes off in the morning, it’s hard not to spring out of bed because there is information to be gained only a few steps away!
3) Competing for seats in a popular workshop can be a fight to the death.
As writers, we like to pretend we are introverted, calm, and reserved. But stereotypes crumble when a seat in the workshop you’ve had your eye on for months is on the line. You’ll be surprised how fast you have to move to get into every workshop on your list! But it can be done. You may just need to duck out of the previous workshop a few seconds early.
4) You thought you’d never be a crazed fan? Think again!
Think again. Real, live writers, publishers and agents buzz around writer’s conferences. You can actually meet them if you want to, and they actually talk back. It’s almost like they care about you, because they do. Even successful writers love the company of other writers. Agents and publishers need writers to make a living. We all need each other in this profession, so the trick is just to make sure you can choke out a greeting through all the awe when you meet them!
5) Denial of the outside world.
Probably the most surprising is the tendency to completely underestimate the to-do lists that come with life outside a writer’s conference. Within the walls of the conference, you start to believe that you’ll have the stamina and time you need to write for every second of the rest of your life. The trick is sustaining at least a little bit of that fairytale after you leave. It’s not a bad mentality. It keeps us motivated to achieve our writing goals. We just need to learn as much as we can at the writer’s conference, and dedicate ourselves to setting time aside to write, no matter how distracting our other responsibilities try to be!
Kayla MacNeille is a YA fiction and fantasy writer out of Hershey, Pennsylvania. She is fueled by teaching, staying active, being adventurous in the kitchen, and working on her current fantasy novel–especially when writing is coupled with a nice cup of hot chocolate and some snow. Follow her on Twitter , Instagram , and on her blog.