The 2015 Writer’s Digest Conference may have been a few weeks ago, but I still keep thinking about it. That’s how incredible it was. Three days of learning about the craft and business of writing, and being surrounded not only by literary agents, editors, and published authors, but hundreds of other writers who share your passion – I can’t think of anything better. Except writing, of course.
Now, I admit that WDC isn’t my first literary conference, and I had an idea of what to expect when I signed up. However, there was something truly magical about this event that I haven’t experienced with others. Here are my five reasons why WDC 2015 was awesome – and why I’m already planning to go back for next year’s edition.
1) Personalizing Your “Track” Through the Conference
This year, Writer’s Digest Conference offered five “tracks” with distinct concentrations:
- Getting Published, from the various routes of publishing your books (traditional, self-publishing, partner publishing) to e-books and submitting articles for online / print publication
- Platform & Promotion, covering all aspects of an author platform (social media, blogging) as well as promotion / marketing
- Craft, with individual classes on character development, story outlines, setting, revisions, and much more
- The Business of Being an Author, including agent and editor Q&As, author career plans, and writing communities
- Genre Studies, with each session focusing on a specific genre such as fantasy / science fiction, historical fiction, YA / middle grade, and memoir
With each track represented during each time slot (for a total of five sessions an hour), it was easy for writers to pick a specific track to follow, or try classes from each one. I was one of the “dabblers,” and I’m grateful I took that route. It allowed me to learn more about book marketing, author platforms, and other business aspects without feeling overwhelmed. And, it gave me permission to geek out over my unique interests. I mean, a world-building session by fantasy author N.K. Jemisin? I couldn’t miss that!
2) Applying What I Learned to My Own Career
I keep calling Writer’s Digest Conference a “learning experience” for a good reason: It truly is a learning experience. Many of the sessions inspired the gears to start turning in my head regarding social media, blogging, marketing strategies, and the questions I should ask if and when I’m offered a book deal. Even if you’re still in the drafting or revising stages, it never hurts to discover as much as you can about the publishing industry. Some of those tips and tricks may come in handy down the road.
3) Discovering New Authors to Read and Admire
You can’t go to a literary conference and not buy books, especially if certain presenters floor you. My purchases from Writer’s Digest Conference not only reflect the sessions I enjoyed most, but are also by authors whose works I haven’t read before. Even better, most of WDC 2015’s authors were available for book signings throughout the weekend. That fueled my enthusiasm even more, and made me feel like I carried a treasure trove in my suitcase when I went home.
4) Networking with and Pitching Your Story to Industry Professionals
The word “networking” normally induces chills and cringes for writers. However, it’s a crucial part of literary conferences, and it’s less intimidating that you might think. At Writer’s Digest Conference, attendees could chat with presenters between sessions, during book signings, and at Saturday night’s networking reception. The most coveted networking event, however, was the sold-out Pitch Slam. Here, writers had one hour to pitch their novel to agents and editors who might be interested in reading – and publishing – their work. I didn’t pitch this year, but I spoke to several other attendees who did. Each was encouraged by the feedback they received, and several were elated about hearing the best possible answer (“Yes! Send it to me!”).
Equally as amazing were the moments that might not seem like networking but still open doors of opportunity. One writer spoke with author Jonathan Maberry, who gave the conference’s opening keynote address. Maberry asked the writer to pitch her story to him on the fly. His response? “Here’s my card. Send me your contact information. I know some people who would be interested in your story.” It’s a fantastic example of never knowing what good might come out of unexpected surprises.
5) Meeting Friends New and Old
My decision to attend Writer’s Digest Conference was sealed when Gabriella Pereira, Creative Instigator here at DIY MFA, announced she would be a presenter. Our web editor Bess Cozby and fellow columnist Leanne Sowul were there as well, and it was so rewarding to meet them in person and get to know them better. They weren’t the only attendees I met. I befriended a “line buddy” while waiting to register, exchanged contact cards, and made impromptu plans for meals. For an introvert like myself, it was the closest I’d ever been to being a social butterfly.
Then again, the idea of meeting fellow writers thrills me. Literary events are the perfect places to do just that. Even if you start with a simple “Hello,” it can lead to questions about each other’s projects, personal writing journeys, and then other topics unrelated to our craft. Thanks to WDC, I have new blogging friends and Twitter pals – writers I can now cheer on and maybe see again next year.
I could go on with other reasons why I loved Writer’s Digest Conference 2015. But my point is, if you didn’t go this year, don’t put off signing up for next year’s. It could be one of the best investments you’ll ever make in your writing career. Keep an eye out at the conference’s website for information about 2016’s edition. And who knows? Maybe I’ll see you there!
Did you also attend Writer’s Digest Conference? What did you enjoy most about your experience? Leave a comment below, or tweet us at @DIYMFA and @SaraL_Writer using the hashtags #5onFri and #WDC15.