Conversations & Connections for Writers
It seems there’s always a conference going on somewhere, offering a brush-up on skills and an opportunity to network and make new connections. Having just returned from our own conference, the Publishing Business Conference & Expo, I know how important these conferences can be to professional growth, so I want to give a shout out to a conference taking place tomorrow in our hometown of Philadelphia.
Conversations & Connections is a one-day event at University of the Arts in downtown Philadelphia. For the ticket price of $65 ($55 for students), attendees get a full day of craft sessions and panels on the ins and outs of publishing, a keynote address by J. Robert Lennon, a one-year subscription to a literary magazine, and a book from a featured author. The conference also features "speed dating" with editors of magazines and presses who will read a sample of the writer's work and provide immediate feedback. At the end of the day there's a free happy hour where attendees can network with local writers such as Paul Lisicky, Katherine Hill, Joshua Isard, Elliot Holt, Tara Murtha, and others. You’ll find more details here:
http://WritersConnectConference.com Registration closes tonight but walk-ins are accepted.
We asked conference organizer Tom McAllister a few questions about the conference.
What's the hardest part of running a writer's conference?
The hardest part for me is trying to anticipate your audience's interests and offering a wide enough range of topics to have everyone leaving satisfied. We always have poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, but within those categories, there is still such a range. We don't want things to be too familiar, because some people in our crowd are very experienced and aren't interested in more fundamental stuff, but we also don't want to scale everything up too much: we're not running grad classes. We spend more time on coming up with session ideas than almost anything else.
One thing we're proud of is that in each genre, we have at least one hands-on "craft session," which is a more intensive, focused look at one aspect of writing and is often aimed at the more experienced writers. These are balanced out by more introductory topics and panel discussions. And, this year, we've responded to audience demand by running our first ever YA panel, with Hillary Frank, Corey Ann Haydu, and Evan Roskos.
What makes this conference different?
It's actually fun. This may sound like a trivial answer, but I don't think it is. Being a writer is hard, and sometimes weird, and if you don't know a lot of writers, the people in your life often make you feel weird for being a writer, so C & C gives people an opportunity to connect with other writers in the area.
A lot of writing conferences tend to be a drag, for a variety of reasons. People leave feeling tired and maybe even discouraged. We really emphasize to everyone involved that we want people to leave the day energized and excited to write again. Consistently, we hear from attendees that they went home right after the conference ready to get back to work on their manuscripts. One reason for this, I think, is that it's a very casual atmosphere and everyone gets to meet the writers, editors, and publishers in attendance.
Every year, someone will say to us something like, "it was nice to see that editors are real people." Sometimes at these types of conferences, all the panelists are up on the dais and it's literally a pedestal and they preach to the audience and then take off right away, and the audience members leave feeling like they're not part of the club.
What sorts of things do attendees of past conferences tell you they liked about the conference?
I guess I stepped on this answer a little bit already, but consistently, the things we hear are that people felt comfortable and challenged at the same time, they were energized by the day's events, they loved the emphasis on practical (rather than pedagogical or theoretical) advice, and they felt like it was a great value.