Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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July 13, 2018

4 Ways to Benefit from a Conference You’re Not Attending

It’s nothing personal against Coloradans, but I’ve started to sigh heavily when I hear this one word: Denver. For those of you with many friends in the Romance Writers of America, you know what I’m talking about. Next week, thousands of writers will descend on Denver, Colorado for the RWA annual conference — the one I was planning to go to, until I discovered the date conflicted with a previous family engagement.

Alas, the answer to “Will you be in Denver, Julie?” is a decided “No.” Followed by that sigh.

Not This Year...

And it’s not just RWA. Other summer conferences include ThrillerFest, Killer Nashville, Writers’ Digest, Writers Police Academy, and more. It’s summer conference season, and if you’re not going to any of them, you can start to feel left out. Like everyone else is attending the Cool Kids Party while you’re stuck at home staring at blank screens and wishing your book would write itself.

Or maybe I just informed some of you that it’s summer conference season, and now you’re feeling crappy about it when you hadn’t before. Sorry about that. If it helps, I give you permission to get some Ben & Jerry’s therapy.

But is there something—besides a pint of ice cream—you can you do about this Left Out feeling? How can you also benefit from all those other writers going to conferences you won’t be attending?

1. Stay connected on social media.

You might be surprised how much advice gets shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other forums. There's a lot of insight to be gained by simply reading what attendees share. Most conferences have a hashtag you can follow to stay in the loop. Figure out which ones you’re interested in, then track the hashtags and see what’s being said.

Feel free to ask follow-up questions if a presenter's insight is shared and you want to know more. Yes, it won’t be the same as being in the workshop, but you can get some golden nuggets of wisdom just by tuning into those social media channels connected to the conference.

2. Ask friends to share what they learned.

Most people love sharing what they’re learning, so find friends who are attending those conferences and ask them what they gained. When they return, you can go at this several ways — from taking a friend to lunch and letting them spill what they learned, to asking someone for notes from a specific workshop you’re interested in, to simply opening up a conversation with a group about the conference.

Your local writing group could also have a debriefing from those who attended a conference, so they can spread the wisdom they gleaned. If your group isn’t amenable to that option, host a gathering yourself. You can feed a decent-sized group for a reasonable amount and ask your guests to fill you in on what you missed.

3. Order the recordings.

Some conferences, including RWA National, offer recordings of workshops. Since the recordings are completed by professionals, the audio quality tends to be good, and you can hear for yourself exactly what was covered.

You miss out on the camaraderie and opportunity to ask your own questions, etc., but you might get more content than if you attended in person, since workshops often overlap.

4. Take your own writing retreat.

Another option is to skip out on trying to connect with the conference and go the other direction: Retreat. With “everyone else” at the conference, this might be the perfect time for you to log more time with your work in progress. Just avoid the social media where conference attendees are sharing the fabulous time they’re having and do what they’re likely not doing — write a bunch of words.

Tuning out that buzz, you might find yourself taking great strides toward finishing your project. Let them have their conference. You don’t care because you’re on your own personal writing retreat, and you’ll have lots to show for it!

Whatever option you choose, I still sanction Ben & Jerry’s — or my favorite, Blue Bell ice cream — as a good companion for your journey.

Are you going to a summer writing conference? If so, how can you share with others what you’ve learned? If not, how can you benefit from others going?


Julie Glover writes mysteries and young adult fiction. Her YA contemporary novel, SHARING HUNTER, finaled in the 2015 RWA® Golden Heart®. When not writing, she collects boots, practices rampant sarcasm, and advocates for good grammar and the addition of the interrobang as a much-needed punctuation mark.

Julie is represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency. You can visit her website here and also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


24 comments on “4 Ways to Benefit from a Conference You’re Not Attending”

  1. Because I live 2 hours from Denver, yes, I'm going to RWA. It's been a long time since I've done a summer conference. I hope to be sharing what I've learned on my blog when I get back. But that's about it. Can't fit too many conferences into the budget these days. I'll be happy to answer questions should anyone want to ask.

    1. Thanks, Terry! I'm sure that will help others. I loved when the conference was in San Antonio, because not only is it easier to attend when the con is close enough to drive to...you also can take advantage of that RWA book haul and not have to worry about shipping! Enjoy. 🙂

  2. Wish you were going to be in Denver. However great tips for ways to benefit without being there. Especially getting the conference recordings.

  3. speaking to you from University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival which isn't so much a conference as an intense academic classroom experience. Had to give up Thrillerfest to come here - difficult choice. And yes, the siren call of summer conferences which seem to all be scheduled at the same time is hard to resist. Wish more were in the dead of winter when I need the break. Preferably in Hawaii.

    1. Yes, WHY do they all happen in the same time frame?? If it makes you feel better, the California Dreamin' conference in Southern California is April 5-7, 2019. It's in sunny Orange County (and yes, we all will be there)!

    2. Yes, more than once I've had to choose one conference/writing intensive over another, because you just can't do them all! But that sounds like a fabulous experience, Maggie.

      @Laura - Yes, ma'am. That's the plan! Cal Dreamin', here I come!

  4. I won't be attending any conferences, but I always enjoy hearing from others about their experiences. Have a great time, everyone. Be sure to blog about. I'll be sure to read your post!

    1. Indeed, it can invaluable for writing friends to share what they've learned. I've gained so much just from conversations with other writers sharing good advice they've gotten elsewhere. All the best, Maggie!

    1. Yes, that is easy to feel! I keep seeing friends on Facebook talking about their preparations, and I sigh much too often. But there are alternatives! 🙂

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