What Makes a Good Writers' Conference Great?

I’ve had the pleasure of attending a few writers’ conferences, eight to be exact, and they all had the same necessary ingredient that makes a conference successful: opportunity.
Here are a few examples:

– The chance to meet and mingle with other authors, readers, agents, publishers and inspiring people in the biz. For instance, at the Malice Domestic Conference in Maryland, I met wonderful “friends” I’d only known via social media, as well as lovely, award winning bloggers. I also met wonderful actors, big-time authors, and my very own publisher.

– The opportunity to discover important material to carry around long after the Conference is over. For instance, I was an audience member for “Murder at the Improv” featuring these exceptional authors: Hank Phillippi Ryan, Sheila Connolly, Barbara Ross and the indefatigable Parnell Hall. It was a brilliant, talented panel who played off each other well in explaining the elements needed for a good mystery. In fact, it was so nicely done, that I borrowed the idea and used it at a recent Sisters in Crime Central Coast conference. It was a hit!

– Seeing your book in the hands of dear readers. There’s nothing quite like it! I’d just left the Malice bookstore when I happened upon a reader and her friend who were holding my latest novel. Such an exciting moment for me! Of course, I had to stop, and we had a lovely chat. Turns out they live in So Cal and were interested because I write a So Cal Mystery series. I couldn’t have asked for more than that.

– There’s usually a breakfast, lunch, dinner and/or banquet to meet published and unpublished writers. Sisters in Crime hosted some of these at Malice and they were fun. Being a member of such a phenomenally helpful group provides a strong bond that turns strangers into instant friends.

Conferences can be action-packed (not unlike some novels), and the time may come to retreat and regenerate. That’s what hotel rooms, cars, and exercise are for. Walks are particularly wonderful. Who doesn’t like to take in new sights and sounds? Is there a downside to attending? The cost perhaps, but most conferences offer scholarships to attend as well as volunteer opportunities. My writing life started because I volunteered at the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference and won a scholarship to the San Francisco Writers’ Conference. Wonderful opportunities can make conference attending a must.

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Lida, I was there also and so happy to met you. You are such a classy lady.