by Anne Converse Willkomm, Director of the Graduate Publishing Programs
I think back to my first literary conference. It was in Winston Salem, North Carolina – the Annual Conference for the North Carolina Writers’ Network. I went with a couple of writer friends, and honestly, went more to see them than to take advantage of all the conference had to offer.
I quickly adjusted my faulty thinking as I sat in my master class with Ron Rash. For any of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting this acclaimed novelist, he’s fabulous. He taught me about voice, specifically the Southern voice. The keynote speaker that year was Jill McCorkle. She read “Cuss Time” from a collection of short stories and I laughed until I felt as if I had done a hundred crunches. I met the new Executive Director, Ed Southern, and pleaded with him to keep the week-long Writer’s Retreat (it had been condensed to 3 days and moved to Charlotte). I met a host of fellow writers, a group of fabulous small presses, but more than that, I was, for 48 hours, immersed in something I am completely and utterly passionate about – writing, books, authors, and publishing.
As writers and publishers we can’t attend every conference, but some of the biggies are a must, such as BEA (Book Expo America), AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs), SCBWI (Society of Book Writers and Illustrators), ALA (American Library Association) to name a few. If your budget allows, attend other conferences as well. The benefits are enormous. You never know whom you will meet and what kinds of positive impact that relationship might have on your career.
When I attended the Winter SCBWI conference in New York last February, I had the lovely pleasure of meeting and chatting with author/actress Julie Andrews and her daughter/author Emma Walton Hamilton after they spoke about their new title, The Very Fairy Princess Follows Her Heart. They were both lovely women, so willing to talk about their craft and encourage other writers to follow their hearts.
So look at the conferences in your region and sign up. Where will you be this weekend? I will be at Push to Publish sponsored by Philadelphia Stories, held on the campus of Rosemont College. I will meet new writers, re-connect with others, moderate a panel on trends in the publishing industry, and I will enjoy every minute of it!