Old Moon

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Trouble with Writers' Conferences...

There are certainly times when it's hard to keep up. The last week was one of them. What I haven't figured out is how to balance my writerly concerns with what's of real consequence in so many other venues! Thank heaven for the promise that seems to glow from the White House. May it shine across all the dark places!

Yet, if any one of us expects to help out anywhere, maybe we have to be giving time and energy to whatever our abilities may be if we hope to develop them. So I try not to get discouraged by the advertisements for upcoming writers' conferences and the guidelines for those who hope to attend. Naturally you can't find one for free, and if you could and it was too far to go in a day or lasted longer than one day, you'd have to pay for food and lodging. Plus the conference fee. And then there's the insistent (and understandable) reminder that every seeker for an agent or editor or advice from an author should have a newly-purchased copy of their objective's book visible before making an approach. While I understand that nothing is available for nothing, that it costs money to persuade the experts to expose themselves to the hoards of wannabes, to provide venues and facilities, there seems to me to be something just slightly off kilter here.

Even the wonderful sponsors of these affairs might be able to offer some kind of discounts or "reduced rates," or other assistance to the people who are sweating it out every day just to get the validation even a tiny recompense might provide them if only they could sell something they've produced. I guess what gets to me is that so much of the time, it's necessary to stroke the egos and extol the reputations of the people who are supposed (by advertisement) to be there to help, seemingly with so little thought of the people who have come to receive that help.

One of the most stimulating, inspiring, exciting events of my life was a writers' conference I attended almost exactly 20 years ago. My husband figured I could have the car for the requisite 3-day weekend, and we'd manage the room and board somehow. Thank goodness there were "scholarships" offered in each classification. Being granted one on the basis of a story I submitted made it possible for me to go.

If I could, I'd go to a conference every year just for the incredible high of being among others with similar aspirations and to get the experts' help. Ironically, my scholarship story was critiqued (for perhaps ten minutes) by a then prestigious author, whose only comment I recall was that it was too sentimental. When I sold that story a few months later, I began the slow process of coming to the realization that you simply can't tell what will sell or to whom. What you can do, and it seems to be the only thing you can do unless you have plenty of disposable income, is to find somebody who will read it--your poem, your story or stories, your novel, your memoir. If only people could read it, there would almost certainly be somebody out there who would be glad they did.

Which brings me back to this: the blog, the network, the word-of-mouth and the sympathetic ear. My great regret is that I didn't figure this out 30 years ago, or try it 20 years sooner.

1 comment:

Glenda C. Beall said...

We all have some regrets such as you have Joan. If i could go back in time, I'd be doing many things differently. I might even have written a book.
Be proud of yourself. Many of us wish we had done what you have done. And what you will do eventually, I'm sure.
While every day I feel that time is of the essence, I continue to believe I'll reach my goals.
Best to you, my friend.