At local meetings and on national listservs, writers often ask for advice about which conferences to attend. Having attended many, I can only say that the best conference depends as much on what the writer seeks as what the conference offers.
This spring, with promoting Show Me the Murder my top priority, I chose three annual conferences serving different audiences:
- Missouri Writers’ Guild conference for writers with varied interests,
- Malice Domestic 25 national convention for mystery fans,
- Marshall (MO) Writers’ Guild workshop for their members.
Here, in Part 1, is what the state conference offered.
This estimable annual three-day conference (http://www.missouriwritersguild.org) features solid how-to presentations on topics appealing to beginners and professionals but focusing on writers hovering between those levels. Attendees are serious writers eager to establish careers.
From my conversations and observations, more than half have finished at least one unpublished manuscript (usually a novel) but don’t know much about the route to publication. The self-publishing and social media sessions here (like everywhere else apparently) drew a big crowd.
Many come to the conference hoping to hook an agent or a publisher. Quite a few skipped the how-to seminars to concentrate on pitching to the half dozen East and West Coach agents and regional publishers in scheduled five-minute sessions and in informal conversations. One of the advantages of a relatively small (around 200) conference is that you can sit next to an agent at a meal or corner her (usually not him) in the bar or hall. The toilets are off limits.
Agents who fly from either coast to the heartland usually agree to look at anything that might possibly interest them. And almost every year at least one writer signs with an agent or sells a manuscript to a publisher. Even those who don’t sell get valuable feedback.
This friendly conference also gives writers a chance to socialize, exchange information, and feel part of a community. Writing may be a solitary activity, but networking never hurts.
As for carrying out my special agenda, I handed out bookmarks and a fast pitch for my new mystery series to dozens of writers/readers from around the state.