Whether you’re an accomplished writer or new to the writing world, if you’re considering attending a writing conference, it’s probably because you want to learn. You review the schedule, and see a variety of interesting topics to be presented by interesting speakers. You see places where you can sign up to pitch a project or consult with agents, editors and publishers. All very good stuff and excellent reasons to attend a conference. But, wait – there’s more!

Here are five surprising benefits to attending a writer’s conference that you won’t see on the schedule:

  1. A critique group in the making. Receiving thoughtful feedback on our writing can be invaluable when it comes to improving our writing skills and honing our craft. Participating in a small critique or writing group is a great way to get feedback from trusted sources as well as hone your own editing skills by providing feedback for other group members. The first conference I attended, I met several women who I chatted with while sharing a table for several of the presentations. In the course of our casual conversations, we discovered that we had a common desire to be in a group dedicated to improving our writing skills and projects while helping other group members do the same. We didn’t all write in the same genre and we had diverse backgrounds – which resulted in broader perspective and insight as we worked toward well-crafted stories and books.
  2. Helpful hobnobbing. Finding yourself seated next to an author, agent, editor or other industry professional could result in more than a pleasant conversation. Several years back I chose an open seat at a conference dinner table in spite of the fact that I didn’t know anyone at the table. It turned out the stranger to my left was an agent. We hit it off and during the course of our conversation she asked about my background. I didn’t have a project to pitch at that time, but during our conversation I told her about an idea I had for a project. By the end of dessert, we developed the concept to the point where we met the next day to talk about a book proposal. She worked with me (read: educated me) on crafting a good proposal over the next several months. While her agency decided not to offer representation for that project, what I learned from that agent with regard to learning how to put together a book proposal was invaluable. With a little further development, that same project was the one that landed me the agent I have now.
  3. Attendee-only opportunities. Often, attending a conference will gain you access to consideration of your writing project that non-attendees won’t have. Not only do you have an opportunity to actually meet with agents, editors and publishers who are at the conference looking for new talent, some will tell conference attendees their email communications will get higher priority if they note their attendance in the subject line. At a conference I attended last year, a greeting card publisher told the attendees in her class that the publisher was no longer taking work from freelancers, but if we put that we met her at the conference our submissions would be considered.
  4. A confidence boost. Fear of rejection can keep many of us from submitting work to agents and publishers that we would love to see published. By the end of a conference, you really understand that the distinct possibility of rejection is not to be feared, it’s to be learned from. Hearing from numerous speakers and other attendees who persevered in spite of, and sometimes because of, rejection can result in just the confidence boost you need to dare to get your writing out there!
  5. Motivation to write. If you’re at a writing conference, chances are good you want to write. But how strong is your motivation to sit down and actually write? The energy of being around so many other people who are excited about this process is absolutely contagious. Like a pep rally before a sports game, a writing conference leaves you invigorated and charged up, ready to head out in the real world and write the good write!
Shel Harrington is a Family Law Attorney and frequent speaker on building strong marriages and related topics. She writes about improving relationships at ShelHarrington.com as well as Shel Harrington, the Relationships Advocate.  In her alternative writing world, Shel’s humor blog about aging, Fat-Bottom-Fifties Get Fierce, has an accompanying Facebook page with over 350,000 followers.