Randy: How often should an author attend conferences?
Nichole: In my opinion, as often as you’re able, financially, physically, and mentally. There was a time when I attended one every other month. That got expensive. Exhausting. But I learned a lot, and it was worth it. I hope to someday be invited to present so I don’t have to keep paying for all of them.
Randy: What is the biggest benefit to attending writer conferences?
Nichole: 1. Making personal connections. Those are priceless. Trust me. 2. Learning from actual people. It’s like the difference between taking a class in school or completing a packet. Two completely separate experiences in which information is retained differently.
Randy: What is the biggest drawback to attending writer conferences?
Nichole: Some people get overwhelmed by all the information, and it can be discouraging. I know a lot of authors who come away from a conference needing a break from writing for a few months. Being reminded of what a competitive field this is, of the serious dedication it takes to build a career as an author can be discouraging and disheartening. This is not unusual. Go ahead and take a break if you need. Just don’t let it last too long. And next time you attend a conference, try to give yourself a breather every once in a while. You never know who you’ll meet hanging out in the halls.
Randy: Do you have a favorite conference story that you can share with us?
Nichole: How about a few favorite moments. At the National Book Festival in
, I had the opportunity to meet Suzanne Collins and get my copy of Mocking Jay signed. At WorldCON, after a minor amount of stalking, my friends and I dragged George R.R. Martin to the Iron Throne and got our picture with him. At a small local conference in Washington DC , a motivational speaker taught us to ride the wave while looking up—always up. At a publisher party after a conference, I sat for two hours discussing writing and my work with a senior editor at a major publishing house. There are hundreds of these moments stored in my brain—all from conferences. Springville, UT
Randy: From my experiences, a lot of the conferences have extras that you can sign up to participate; like dinners, workshops, and agent pitch sessions. How important is it to participate in these added events?
Nichole: Again, it depends on your purpose and where you are in the process. Workshops can benefit everyone, no matter where they are, as long as they’re taught by someone who knows what they’re doing. So definitely, if you can, do those.
If your purpose is to publish nationally through a traditional publisher, then pitch sessions or dinners with agents/editors are a wonderful opportunity, even if you’re not yet ready to submit. If you’re planning to submit to smaller publishers or self publish (aka INDIE), then those things are still great networking, but maybe not as beneficial to the individual other than to make friends.
Randy: Is there any difference in how you react, or enjoy, a conference as a published author? Are they still exciting or is it more of an opportunity to hang out with your friends?
Nichole: I should include a disclaimer for this question. My books are through small publishers, and by no means national bestsellers (though I hope to someday be there), so my thoughts here might be very different from those of another author.
For me, every conference has become social. I’m not going to deny that. However, that is never the sole purpose for me to attend any conference. I have never, ever attended a conference at which I haven’t experienced an a-ha moment that somehow affected me or my writing for the better. There will always be something more to be learned from others, even were I the keynote speaker. So as far as I can think, the only real difference between now and when I was starting is that I have more confidence, know more people, and look for advanced rather than beginning writing sessions.
Randy: What is it like to be a published author at a writing conference?
Nichole: Satisfying. When someone hands you a book with your name on the cover and ask you to sign it, gratifying.
Randy: Does being a published author hinder your ability to learn more of the writing craft at one of these conferences?
Nichole: No, it doesn’t. Actually, once you’ve published a book, there’s a certain expectation that you will continue to produce, and that each work you produce is as good as or better than the last. There’s an enormous amount of pressure involved in that, and in my opinion it is always helpful to listen to tips and processes talked about by other authors.
Also, I enjoy helping others find their processes as well.
Randy: What are your priorities, or expectations, for a conference as a published author?
Nichole: Depends on the conference. Each one has a little different purpose for me. At a convention like WorldCON, networking is my main priority, while a conference like Storymakers will offer classes, pitch sessions, or keynotes that will take priority. I once attended an ANWA conference in
because I felt pulled to a couple classes they offered. (Yes, it was worth the plane tickets and hotel room.) I also once attended a conference in Southern Utah for a similar purpose, and some things I learned there became a turning point for me as a writer, as well as for the projects I was working on at the time. Arizona
As a published author, my focus has adjusted somewhat, but not as much as you might think. I still have a lot to learn, and I will always believe others have a lot to teach.