The best thing about writing conferences from my point of view are the networking opportunities and inspiration they provide. Although I always take notes during courses and workshops, in the long run they don’t often do anything to change my writing process or technique. This is because I don’t usually review the notes, retype them, or immediately begin to apply what I’ve ‘learned.’ But the people I interact with – why, they become friends, e-mail buddies, co-labourers, encouragers – and in the long run, that’s just as (or more) valuable than any writing improvements I might gain.
At my second Write! Canada conference, I met Lisa. She lives fairly close to me and her nephew and my son were actually in the same kindergarten class. Lisa and I have been getting together for regular breakfast dates for 13 years now. Our friendship is close to both our hearts.
At the same event, I met two other aspiring authors. We didn’t interact much at the time, but years later, we’ve become part of the same writers’ critique group. For the last four years we’ve been investing in each others’ work, encouraging each other along the way, bettering our skill. In addition, I’ve contributed to C’s monthly e-newsletter a couple of times and copy-edited one of H’s novels.
An editor at one conference told me my work was in the ‘top 10%’ of what crossed her desk every day. Elsewhere a writer-in-residence affirmed ‘you are a writer.’ A college-level writing instructor said, ‘you have something to say.’ All of these encouraged me to keep pressing on.
For me the best part of a writing conference or workshop are the relationships that can develop. Where would we be without mentors, role-models, motivators and friends?