What to Bring to a Writer’s Conference

I’ve attended a few writers’ conferences over the years, and recently just got back from the first in-person one I’ve attended in over three years. It was great to be surrounded by so many writers! If you’ve never been to a writers’ conference, I encourage you to find one near you and attend. So what can you expect from a day or a weekend with other writers? Here are some quick tips that can help make your experience comfortable and fun.

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3 Twitter Tips for Authors

Twitter is a great platform for writers. I’ve been on Twitter for almost five years now, and I love using it for sharing, conversing, and learning. In case you didn’t know, I’m a bit of a social media lover in general – and I work in social media as part of my day job. Social media may be still a relatively new industry, but it’s a powerful one; and it’s not going anywhere. Twitter is one of the powerhouse players in this realm of social media. 

At the end of this month, I’m going to be teaching a seminar on how writers can use Twitter. If you’re near the central Virginia area the last weekend in January, you should totally check out the Agile Writer Conference. There will be plenty to learn besides just social media – everything from drafting characters to self-publishing on Amazon and even tips for NaNoWriMo.

Anyway, I’m going to share with you a little taste of what I’ll be talking about at my seminar. Even if you can’t make it to the Agile Writers Conference, I hope these tips can help you to feel more confident on Twitter. So let’s dive in:

Use a Picture of You as your Avatar

If you’re running a company or a business, it makes sense to use the logo as the avatar (also known as profile picture). But if you’re a writer trying to build your brand and reach new readers, then it’s best to use a picture of yourself. Please don’t use the cover of your book as your avatar. People want to connect with people, not objects. People want to follow you as a writer, not just your latest book. Continue reading

Christmas Gift Ideas

I wrote a post last year about gift ideas for the writer in your life (or for yourself, if you’re a writer). To add to that list of pens, books, and writing apps, I’m promoting two other writerly gift ideas.

Agile Writer Conference

Agile Writers is a Richmond, VA-area writers group of which I’m a member. The group runs numerous courses, like a comprehensive program for writing a full first-draft novel in six months, to specialty classes covering different aspects of writing, editing, and publishing. Next month, Agile Writers is putting on their first ever writers conference. I am of course attending, and I’m also speaking – I’ll be teaching a class about how to use Twitter to build your author platform and connect with your readers.

A conference ticket makes a great gift – for your writer loved one, or for yourself! And because I’m a speaker at this conference, if you register using the code GRACE17, you get a $10 discount. Cool, huh? Conferences are a great place to not only learn about every stage of writing and book production, but to network with other writers and people in the publishing world. So click on over to the Agile Writers site and get your ticket with the discount code of GRACE17 before Christmas! Continue reading

The Value of Attending a Writers’ Conference

Last year I attended the James River Writers Conference for the first time, and I was excited about going again this year. I won’t make this a long conference review, but I do want to share my thoughts about why it’s important to attend something like a writing conference:

  • You realize you’re not alone. Even if you’re part of a local writing group or an online forum, writing is still a solitary venture. It’s easy to feel like you’re the only one who loves writing like you do, or struggles with fears and doubts.Getting around several hundred other writers can help you realize that you’re not actually weird or crazy – you’re just part of a great group of people! Continue reading

On Writers Conferences and Book Fairs

Recently I went to North Carolina for a book fair. I had a wonderful time, met some great people, and came back with books, business cards, and a wealth of information.

I decided not to make this post a conference review, but rather just share some things that I’ve learned about writers’ conferences, workshops, and book fairs.

Note: I’ve never participated in a conference or event from the vendor’s side (yet) – so far I’ve only been an attendee. But since a bookish event should be, ideally, designed for the attendees, I can comment on the things that are appealing and done well, and the things that could use some work.

Bring business cards. Whether you’re an author selling books, an agent, a publisher, or just an amateur writer checking it all out for the first time, business cards are a must. You’re going to meet some people you want to stay in touch with, or an author or agent you want to follow up with later. And scribbling names and emails on random pieces of paper is just awkward. If for some reason you don’t bring business cards, at least have bookmarks to advertise your book, or flyers for your company, or something. At one event I stopped at an author’s table and she told me she hadn’t bothered to bring business cards. She had no bookmarks or anything else, either. I didn’t buy a book right then, and do you think I remembered her name long enough to go home and look her up on Amazon or GoodReads? Nope.

Don’t be embarrassed to set up a table even if you have only one book. There are plenty of prolific authors who have to bring just a selection of their stuff to an event, because they have too many titles to fit on a table. But don’t be intimidated by them if you have only one book out so far. I’ve bought just as many books from authors with full series laid out on the table as I have bought from writers selling just one title. Be friendly, have a professional-looking book (and bookmarks or business cards), and have fun.

Be on social media. And have a decent-looking website. Really, this point should be a post all to itself, but I’ll save that for later. The point is that if you’re a writer, an agent, a publisher, an editor, or an illustrator, you need to be represented online. I understand that not everyone is a social media nerd like me, or has the know-how to create a fancy website. But basic blog templates are free, as are Facebook and Twitter. At one book event, I spent some time speaking with a representative from a small publisher. He had a good sampling of books on the table, and he had business cards. However, when I went to the website I found it visually very hard to read because of the design; also, there were several broken links, and no social media links at all. I’m sure it’s a great publisher, but I will not be submitting my manuscript to a company that is still using a website design from 1998 and isn’t on Facebook. It’s not that I’m a social media snob – it’s just that I expect professionals in the writing industry to at least try to keep up with the current trends of said industry.

Another note: With all of these points, good and bad, I am not referring specifically to the event I just attended in NC. These are observations gained from my (admittedly limited) experience of attending bookish and writerly events in general. I also didn’t name any names because a) I want to be polite and protect people’s identity, and b) I’m not that great with names so I’d probably get it wrong if I linked a name to a specific point.

Anyway. Have you attended a writers’ conference or book event of any sort? Do you have any comments or observations to add to this list? Please share!

My First Writers’ Conference

This past weekend I attended the James River Writers Conference. It was a weekend-long event, but I was able to attend only on Sunday. Even so, this one day was enough for me to learn, get encouraged, and whet my appetite for other writers’ conferences in the future.

The event that I think I learned the most from was the First Pages workshop. During First Pages, selected works were read aloud – but only the first page. The panel of agents and editors then gave their feedback on what worked and what didn’t. I took a lot of notes. I want to be able to hook my readers right from the first page!

I think I enjoyed the Plotters versus Pantser panel the most. Four authors shared their writing techniques, and whether they tend to plot out a story in detail beforehand, or just write from the seat of their pants. The answers were actually mixed from all four authors. It seems like even the best pantser needs to have an outline and story structure going in, and the most die-hard plotter needs to leave room for creativity and organic storytelling. This was refreshing to me, since I call myself a plotter but often find that my outlines are woefully incomplete.

All in all, I had a great time at the conference. Even though I attend other smaller James River Writers events throughout the year, it was encouraging to see so many writers from so many different places all together. Published or still amateurs, fantasy writers and essayists – at the heart, we are all writers, and were there for the common purpose of improving our craft.

I will definitely go back next year, and I also look forward to attending some other writers’ conferences in other places very soon!

An artist illustrated the First Pages workshop. Fascinating idea, and so talented!

An artist illustrated the First Pages workshop. Fascinating idea, and so talented!