From Author Kathi Macias: Although 2012 will be my first time attending/teaching at the Maranatha conference, I’m a seasoned vet when it comes to writers’ conferences in general. I recently returned from keynoting and teaching at a Christian writers’ conference in Southern California, and as conferences go, it was relatively small but enthusiastic and positive.
Because I speak at several writers’ conferences throughout the year and each seems to have its own unique “personality,” I’ve thought a lot about how those individual conference personalities draw and minister to attendees. Conferences vary according to size, venue, length, and focus, but each has something to offer–IF the attendee has done a little homework first in order to know what to expect.
The conference I attended most recently was strong on the basics of writing and publishing, particularly for new writers. As a result, though it was only a Friday night/all-day Saturday conference, those who came looking for clear direction on how to get started in the writing/publishing industry probably came away feeling satisfied. If conferees were looking for something more substantial—a chance to connect with several agents and/or acquisitions editors from publishing houses—may have felt they made a wrong choice in attending.
Writers’ conferences are, for the most part, one of the most effective ways for an up-and-coming writer to spend his/her money. The larger conferences offer one of the few ways a previously unpublished writer can meet agents and publishers face to face and have their manuscripts get at least a cursory consideration. They are also a great way to expand writing relationships and networks. Local critique groups are most effective in establishing ongoing, regular communication with others of like mind, but conferences connect writers with professionals in the industry—a key to getting established in the publishing world.
Many Christian writers’ conferences are focused on just that–writing, at all levels, including marketing (which, yes, goes hand in hand with successful writing, particularly with books). To a smaller degree, some conferences stress an evangelical or social issues theme–i.e., the persecuted Church or human trafficking. Some offer free time for writers to break away from workshops and sessions so they can spend time alone with God and/or with other conferees, while some keep attendees racing at break-neck speed from one event to another, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to soak up as much knowledge and information as possible. In addition, some conferences offer critiques of your existing manuscripts, while others don’t, so this should be a major deciding factor if you have a manuscript for which you are seeking personal, professional feedback.