Thursday, August 20, 2009

Can you tell I love this conference?

As beginning authors, the Slushbusters sometimes bemoan the fact that we can't afford to go to the big writing conferences in New York and Los Angeles. That doesn't mean we live in a literature vacuum. I've mentioned before that we are lucky to live in an area with a lot of writers. Of course, we don't have as much going on as New York, but we hold our own. One gleaming example is the James River Writers Conference.

JRW is a small conference by industry standards. That doesn't mean it isn't good. In fact, I think its small size makes it better. Here's why:
  • With about 250 attendees, the speakers (agents, editors and authors) aren't overwhelmed. They actually have time to talk to everyone. There's time built into the schedule for socializing and networking. Lunch is served on the premises, and snacks are available in the hallway throughout the day, encouraging participants to hang around and chat.
  • Speakers come from a wide range of writing genres and backgrounds. Of course fiction and nonfiction authors and editors come, but poetry, magazines, television and movies are also represented.
  • There's a balance of topics ranging from craft to marketing to treating your writing as a business.
  • Every attendee is given an opportunity for a five minute pitch session as part of the conference. Sessions are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • The folks who put on this conference are committed. They've been doing it for years, and they really care about making it a great experience for everyone who comes. If you need to tell them something, good or bad, they are right there, available and approachable and willing to hear your feedback.
  • I've heard some of the speakers, authors and editors alike, comment that this is one of the best conferences they've been to.
Now, the only drawback for the Slushbusters is that this isn't a children's writing conference. It doesn't matter. I've been the past two years, and the stuff I've learned applies to all kinds of writing. I'm looking forward to this year's sessions on dialog and humor. And Karen Lotz of Candlewick is coming, so I feel like children's publishing will be well represented.

Obviously, some of the Slushbusters will be going again this October. If you're planning to go, let us know. We'd love to meet you in person!


Sarah said...

I'm going! It's my first time, and I'm so excited.

Tess said...

Have fun! I honestly think the smaller, local conferences are better than the big ones. When there are 1,000 plus attendees, it's hard to get any talk-time w/ agents/editors. But, at the smaller ones, your odds jump quite a bit :)

Michelle said...

Exactly, Tess! I think the agent and editors are more relaxed and approachable because there isn't the pressure of a thousand people wanting to talk to them.