A couple of weeks ago I attended the San Francisco Writers Conference—for the second time. It took place at the Hyatt Regency this year, which was a great venue. I first attended this conference about five years ago when I was writing my memoir, Confessions of a Middle-Aged Runaway. Back then it was held at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, which was also a nice venue, but a bit more limited in size and close dining options.
Because attending conferences can be pricey, I’ve been asked if I think it’s worth it. Although I’ve only attended a few conferences so far, I do think it’s worth it, and here’s three reasons why.
- Information. Writing conferences can be incredible learning experiences. Usually there are multiple learning tracks where you can improve your knowledge and skills in writing, marketing, and publication. Sometimes master classes are offered for additional fees where you may get insider knowledge and do a deeper dive into the subjects you want to learn more about. This year at the San Francisco Writers Conference the master class subjects included the craft of writing fiction, memoir, and children’s picture books; the legal aspects of writing; creating book proposals; author platforms; social media; and podcasting. Writers need to continually learn to stay relevant and improve at the craft, and conferences are a great opportunity to do that.
- Access. Conferences allow you to meet, interact with, and get advice from agents, editors, authors, publicists, and other writing professionals. Some conferences offer free, brief consultations with some of these professionals, as well as “speed dating” with agents. Speed dating gives you a few minutes to pitch your story idea to agents and get their feedback as to whether it’s something they’re interested in, or not. Networking with other authors provides a supportive community for what can sometimes be a lonely profession, and even lead to lasting friendships.
- Inspiration. It can be inspiring to spend a few days immersed in a world you love—one of writing and books. If we didn’t love it so much, we would find another way to make a living—or maybe a little extra spending money rather than a living—because writing isn’t an easy profession. Still, even doing something we love sometimes requires a little inspirational kick in the pants to get us across the finish line on our project. Attending the San Francisco Writers Conference years ago inspired me to finally finish and publish my memoir. Publishing my book opened up a whole new world for me. I’ll always be grateful for the experience.
The cost varies greatly among conferences, but if you have a writing business, you may be able to deduct the costs of attending on your taxes. Check with your tax professional on that one (I am not a tax professional).
What you get out of writers’ conferences depends entirely on you. If you’re willing to put yourself out there and meet other people (something difficult for introvert writers to do), it may just propel you upward to the next level in your writing career.
What did I get out of the conference this year? I learned so much, and will continue to learn. I can watch the videos for all of the sessions I wasn’t able to attend—for free—a new perk this year. I socialized with current friends and met some really nice people that I’ve been in contact with since this conference. Yay for new friends and business contacts! I pitched the idea for my psychological thriller in progress at the speed dating with agents. A few of them want me to contact them when it’s finished—which isn’t a guarantee they’ll want the manuscript, but it’s a positive step in the right direction.
One thing I will say is that I was exhausted after the conference. All of that learning, socializing, and networking can be very tiring, but definitely worth it.