In Others' WordsIn Others' Words

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Survey Says: What You're Thinking About Writers Conferences (Part 1)

ACFW 2010: Wokshops, sure! But loads of fun too!

I decided to take a little survey earlier in August. Thirty-two people responded to my seven question survey about writers conferences. Thank you, one and all!

The respondents represent all corners of the USA--and even Bermuda! (Waving at you, Cathy!) Home states include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.

The first question asked on the survey was: Why do you attend writers conferences? Possible answers included:

  • To learn more about the writing craft and to improve my writing
  • To pitch my book idea(s) and/or article(s) to editors/agents
  • To network with other writers
  • Other
(Don't you just love the "Other" answer on surveys? I do!)

All 32 participants answered the question. Their top reason for going to writers conferences: To learn more about the writing craft and to improve my writing. (71.9% or 23 respondents)

Coming in at as a ve-ery close secondary reason for going to writers conferences: To network with other writers. (68.8% or 22 respondents) 

Note: Before somebody tells me my math is whacky, you were allowed to mark all the answers that applied. 

My take: I always sign up for a writers conference with every intention of attending workshops and continuing sessions. I almost drool over some of the sessions offered. Consider the upcoming ACFW conference:

The funny thing is, I rarely make it to those sessions. Why? I'm usually caught up networking with other writers. I'm brainstorming elevator pitches. Praying with friends before they head off for their 15 minute appointments. Having coffee (well, tea for me) with friends that were merely smiling faces in avatars on my computer screen. One way I deal with missing workshops: I invest in the conference recordings so I can listen to them back home.

Three respondents said the reasons listed for attending writers conferences--learning, pitching, networking--were equally important. I think that's one of the challenges of a conference: competing values. You can't do it all because, contrary to popular belief, you do have to sleep sometime. 

In Your Words: Why do you attend writers conferences? Do you have a favorite not-to-be-missed conference? Or is there a conference you're hoping to get to soon? Any fun memories of writers conferences past?

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At 7:28 AM, Blogger Melissa Tagg said...

Fun stuff! I'm so excited for ACFW - that's the one big conference I've been to in the past. (Except, way back when I was first considering hopping on the novelist train, I did attend the Colorado Christian Writer's Conference, too.) I definitely think ACFW is not-to-be-missed. Memories? How about wandering around starstruck last year, marveling at being surrounded by so many people who understand the drive to tell stories...ahh, such fun!

At 7:39 AM, Blogger JoAnn Durgin said...

Hi there! One of the funniest things I heard pre-conference last year was a fellow ACFW member who said everyone walks around trying not to stare at the chests of everyone else because of the nametags - in elevators, at meals, in class sessions, etc. Funny, but so true! We want to meet and greet each other, especially if we've had cyber contact with them before. The ACFW last year (my first) was the highlight of my year, and one of the best experiences of my life. It was surreal that I met the rep from CBD and then went to lunch and sat between Mary Connealy and Julie Lessman. Talked with Miralee Ferrell and Sandie Bricker. It really puts names, faces and personalities together. And you also find out who really likes jelly beans (big wink). Looking forward to seeing you soon! Blessings.

At 8:49 AM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

Melissa and JoAnn,
I understand the whole "starstruck" feeling. It's like, "Ohmygosh, there's ____________ (fill in the blank with the name of your favorite author)!" And you think that thousands of times.
And everyone's talking story and character and dialogue and plot and Black Moment . . . It's days of endorphin highs!! (And, yeah, a sugar rush too because some folks supply other folks with their favorite sugar addiction!)

At 9:08 AM, Blogger Stacy S. Jensen said...

At my first larger conference, I found myself in the bathroom floor working on my pitch so I didn't disturb a sleeping hubby in the hotel room. I tweeted about the absurdity of it and hours later met fellow Tweeters, who listened to my pitch and gave me encouragement.

At 10:42 AM, Blogger Edie Melson said...

After my first large conference I was so overwhelmed and discouraged I didn't write for almost 6 months. (Don't worry - it wasn't ACFW!)

But I gathered my courage and attended a different one the next year with a more realistic picture of what went on. I think attendees now are much better prepared than those of us who began 10-15 years ago.

My not to be missed list of conferences - ACFW, and the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (and it's not because I'm co-director) It was the conference that launched my career and I've attended every year since. It feels like coming home.

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Evangeline Denmark said...

You were allowed to mark all answers that applied?!! Now you tell me. I agonized over that question. Seriously, and I tried to mark Other and then write in "All of the Above," but for some reason I couldn't click in the blank box to type. Perhaps I should have given you this feedback sooner. Sorry. I actually intended to, but it slipped my mind. Imagine that.

At 12:37 PM, Blogger Erica Vetsch said...

Last year was the first year that I missed most of the classes at the ACFW Conference. I was either at appointments, interviews, the book signing...something interfered with almost all of my class times. This year, I hope to attend more classes, but I've learned (finally) not to go with a particular agenda. Just go with the flow and enjoy the experience. :)

At 1:35 PM, Blogger Beth K. Vogt said...

First, my apologies to you, Evangeline, that the survey caused you even a moments frustration. I will make reparation at our next OTB meeting.
And, yes, Edie, sometimes conferences can be frustrating. Overwhelming. I've seen people in tears after a disappointing 15 minute appointment. Or with the "deer in the headlights" look because there are so many people, so many choices of workshops . . .
But, hey, we are among friends. Maybe friends we haven't met yet . .
Stacy, I've done the last minute scramble to get a pitch sheet ready too (just not in the bathroom!)


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