Writing is isolating. You know that and I know that. That’s why it’s important to get out in the world once in a while, hob nob with other writerly folks, get a little inspiration, make some friends, than disappear back into the writer cave. Those writer connections will help save you when you need to talk out a complicated plot, rejoice over a book deal, or vent about another rejection. And we’re lucky to be writing in the digital age, we can do this without ever leaving our caves and putting on real pants. So today, I’m going to talk about two of my favorite places to meet other writers – online writing contests (pantsless) and in-person writing conferences (pants required).
This is the less scary of the two, yet still a great way to meet other writers. There are all sorts of contests. Colleen wrote about big writing contests where this is one winner, but I prefer the smaller blog and Twitter based ones. The goal of these contests is to get a request from an agent who likes your pitch and/or pages. While the potential agent response is lovely, it’s the supportive environment around the contests where other writers can see each other’s submissions and cheer each other on that I think is valuable. I’ve met a lot of writer friends through these events and learned so much from each of them.
My favorite online event is more involved than most – Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars (of which I’m a mentor). Unlike others that take place over a day or maybe a week, Pitch Wars started with submissions in August and will end with a Pitch Showcase in early November where agents can make requests. What I love most about Pitch Wars is the emphasis on revision. Yes, the hope is each writer will get a request from an agent at the end, but most of it is about working one on one with an experienced mentor who has been there and can help rookie writers take their manuscript to the next level. I highly recommend checking it out. While only a handful of writers get picked, the commerdarie that pops up amongst all the writers is exciting and inspiring. It’s a great community.
And no pants required.
While I know it can be scary to actually meet people in person, real life writer conferences are an ideal place. One, they are filled with people just like you – who aren’t exactly great at talking to strangers but really like books – so you’ll have a lot to talk about! Two, there is often booze, which can help with the first point – just be smart, you don’t want to be the one who barfs on an agent’s shoes. Three, it’s an ideal place to meet up with all those amazing writers you met via the online contests – I know I did.
There a zillions of conferences to choose from, some small and local and others giant. I’d recommend something smaller for a first timer, unless you’re meeting up with friends.
My favorite conference is the Midwest Writers Workshop in Muncie, IN. It takes place during the last week in July every summer, and gives attendees a chance to pick the brains of some top-notch talent during break-out sessions, panel discussions, or over tacos and churros on Friday night (at least that’s what they served the last two years). Last year I followed around the editor of a regional magazine, getting tips on how to submit article ideas which I hope to translate into some freelance work. At a larger conference, I may have never seen this editor again, let alone been able to keep asking follow up questions. Attendees are an eclectic group of young, twenty-somethings to elderly women following a life-long dream. There are people just beginning their writing journey, and those with decades of experience they can’t wait to share. Every year, I leave inspired and awed by this amazing community, and wish it lasted another week.
So, dear reader, choose your pants comfort zone, then go forth and make writer friends.