1. This one is probably the most obvious: they are great places to network. Most good conference allows authors to mingle with agents and editors. Let’s face it, most of the time an agent or editor is just a name on a form; someone we have never met but hope to wow in our one page query letter. Attending conferences was the only way I really started to see editors and agents interact. I could see their personalities as well as view the business from their perspective. That, in turn, helped me understand what I was getting myself into…well, at least a little.
2. It rejuvenates depleted energies. I have heard it time and time again. Writing is a solitary, lonely profession. It seems like a simple concept, and yet it is one that I sometimes forget. I was just asking myself the other day why I felt so depressed and gloomy. Then I remembered. Oh, yeah, I’ve interacted more with characters than humans recently. It’s good not only to get out, but also to interact with other writers. As a teenager, I was insecure about myself. I was weird…probably still am. But, when I got into a room full of writers, I realized everyone else was “weird,” too. We could laugh about it together. But, more importantly, we can be reminded why we love the profession. I think that is still true. My readers are fun to interact with, but writers are just different. We speak the same, bordering-schizophrenic language and that’s exciting.
3. There is always something to learn. After a while, the cannon does repeat itself. There are only so many words that can be said on character development or plot structure. Even the conversation about types of publishing and how to sell oneself tends to move in a circular fashion after a while. I remember telling a good friend that I had “outgrown” a particular conference. I tried a few more and then finally came back to the original conference. So, if you feel in a rut, try something new. Each program will have a different theme (one was writing sucks, we suffer and then die, but, hey, I did take away valuable tips on writing style). Keep changing, but don’t stop going. There is always something to learn. The moment there isn’t, it’s time to leave and try something else.
So, there’s my list. There are plenty more reasons, but these are the top. So, I hope you find a great conference in your area. My favorite so far is the Tony Hillerman writer's conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico. What about you? What ones did you love since I will need one next year.