Writing Conferences: The Lazy Approach

Laziness
Naps are good. Naps are better than, well, just about anything. No, this is not my dog. No, I don’t have a dog. Please don’t mention dogs to my kids. Or to Deb Louise who is in cahoots with my daughter in trying to get me to agree to a dog. Dogs are so much work, and as I may have mentioned, I’m lazy.

This week our topic is laziness. Oh, the odes I could write about laziness! Laziness is making my kids go get me a glass of water because I’m thirsty and they’re young and I’m not. Laziness is pretending not to see that the recycling has piled so high in the can that it’s spilling over the sides. Laziness is writing my Deb Ball posts at the last minute because getting off the couch and walking over to the computer is so hard.

The things I haven’t done because of laziness.

What’s that? The topic this week isn’t laziness but writing conferences? Well, I have nothing to say on that topic. Why? Because I’ve never been to a writing conference. Am I opposed to writing conferences? No, not at all!

I’m merely lazy.

Seriously, I have never given much thought to conferences simply because it seemed like so much work to find them, research them, send in the paperwork, dig up the money to go, reserve a hotel, find child care….

Man, I’m tired just thinking about it all.

My friends who have attended conferences rave about them. They take wonderful classes, they attend pitch sessions, they network, network, network. It sounds like a glorious literary escape.

Yet I’ve done just fine never going to one. Wonderful classes? I’ve been incredibly fortunate to live in cities with amazing writing centers. When I was in Seattle, I regularly took classes at Hugo House on a variety of topics that interested me. Now in Boston, I have Grub Street (which has a conference of its own, the Muse and the Marketplace, which is coming up in May, and no, I’ve never gone), where I’ve taken classes on historical fiction, flash fiction, book marketing, and more. And you know what I do when I’m in those classes? I network. True story: Deb Louise and I initially met at a Grub Street class called Guerrilla Book Marketing. No conference needed.

Pitch sessions? Never done one. I’m sure they can be quite valuable for authors, though so is crafting a fantastic query letter. If you have a great manuscript and a strong query letter, you’re already ahead of the game. (Agent Janet Reid has loads to say about what she thinks of pitch sessions and, let me warn you, she’s not a fan.)

Writers conferences, I imagine, are terrific if you have the time, the money, and the (if needed) child care. I think spending a few days with roomfuls of writers would be absolutely dreamy. If I get a chance to attend a writer’s conference in the future, I totally will. But if I don’t? I’ll be okay. And if for whatever reason you are unable to attend them, don’t beat yourself up about it; not every writer does things the same way, and you’ll be okay too. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take classes, network with writers, and learn to query or pitch; it just means there are ways to do that besides attending a conference.

Now, could one of you get up and get me a glass of water? It’s such a long way from here to the sink. And I could really use a nap.

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Jennifer S. Brown is the author of MODERN GIRLS (NAL/Penguin). The novel, set in 1935 in the Lower East Side of New York, is about a Russian-born Jewish mother and her American-born unmarried daughter. Each discovers that she is expecting, although the pregnancies are unplanned and unwanted, in this story about women’s roles, standards, and choices, set against the backdrop of the impending war. Learn more at www.jennifersbrown.com.

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This article has 3 Comments

  1. I am resonating! I am Dreadful at networking! Hate it. Want to hide behind curtains. In the bathroom. Anywhere I can be invisible! So glad to hear that all worked out without attending a single day of a single conference. Perhaps there is hope for the likes of us.

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