I spent this past weekend at the Las Vegas Writers Conference. It was my first conference as either a writer or an editor, and what a thrill to be there as an invited faculty member. I had my presentations about writing historical fiction (no great surprise here) and about e-zines (even less of a surprise there), and I had the opportunity to slip into a few of the other presentations and learn from other industry professionals. I had a number of writers pitch their historical novel ideas to me since Copperfield Press will be accepting submissions again this summer, and I loved hearing what they had to say.
I understand now why writers flock to conferences. Writing is such a solitary activity, and it’s nice to connect with others who love the same thing I do. One of the things that impressed me most was the writers’ willingness to ask questions. They were there to take away whatever information the industry professionals could offer. More than one writer told me they knew they still had a lot to learn and they loved going to conferences because it gave them a chance to learn from those in the know.
So what was the buzz at the conference? Self-publishing and the indie author revolution seemed to be the hot topics, at least among the writers I talked to. Some writers want to know all about indie publishing because they’re considering going that route. There were still many writers who would rather go the traditional route, and they were very interested in meeting and pitching to the agents and publishers who were there. That’s the main idea I took away from the conference: as writers today, we have a choice. We can choose to pursue traditional agents and publishers. We can choose to go the indie author route. It’s all good. How lucky we are to live at a time when we have options. One thing I said to the writers in my e-zine presentation is that we no longer have to wait for permission to do what is in our heart to do. We can take matters into our own hands, and to me that is liberating news.
Social media was also on people’s minds, and the social media presentations were well attended. I would have liked to have gone to that one myself. After a year of learning social media, there’s still so much I don’t know. There were about an equal number of presentations about the business of writing (how to write query letters, how to attract an agent’s or editor’s attention, how to create e-books) as there were presentations on the craft of writing (tips on writing better dialogue, crafting a story, writing historical fiction). In other words, the conference covered all of a writer’s concerns. As writers today, we need to know how to write to the very best of our abilities, and then we need to know what to do with that writing when it’s ready to be read by others.
I had a wonderful time at my first writers conference. I had a chance to reconnect with some old friends, and I made several new friends too. And while I went there as the teacher, I took away some valuable information. As writers, we should keep learning—about the business and about the craft of what we do. A creative calling like ours requires us to replenish ourselves with new ideas, new information, and connecting with like-minded souls is always a good thing.