Five reasons you should attend a writer’s conference at least once in your life

Pride flag and writing

Last week I attended the Books Go Social writer’s conference in the Irish Writers’ Centre. Back in the day when I had less grey hair and went drinking mid-week (yes it was GREAT craic) I attended a few courses there and have a great affinity with the place.

It’s an old Georgian building with stone grey steps with black railings, huge high ceilings filled with plaster roses, and single pane window frames with white wooden shutters. It’s a worn, stripped back building and is very accessible; it has a warm feeling about it and I was delighted to be back, sitting among writers, scribbling notes and feeling very much at home.

I decided last minute to attend the conference, but it was clear that many people had put arrangements in place from long ago as most of the delegates were not Irish born. There were writers who had travelled from the UK, writers who spoke with strong American accents and one lady who had turned in from Australia that very day. (She left for a nap halfway through, but sure, that’s ok).

The conference ran over three days, with a welcome and networking evening on Friday, two seminars to choose from on the Saturday and one on the Sunday morning. I attended the Saturday only. Here are the top five reasons why you should definitely attend a writer’s conference at least once in your life.

 

  1. You may meet an erotica writer

 

Erotica writer
That depends. How much to you have in the bank and how’s your road frontage?

 

EL James has a lot to answer for. There were erotica writers everywhere. Or should I say: “Blond lithe writers settled in their seats, thick squat pens in their hands, writing furiously, blotting here and there, feeling the paper brush their skin. At times they touched the pens to their lips, taking its body into their mouths, sucking it gently, before releasing it to write some more.” Good, yes? I befriended Liz Hurst, an erotica writer who had travelled from Stratford-upon-Avon for the weekend and she was lovely. The erotica writers all seemed to know each other and whispered secretly to each other. I heard mentions of dirty publishing houses and ‘meet the author’ signings. If I ever become an erotica writer, I’ll definitely check them out. All I need to do is replace the word ‘penis’ with ‘member’ right? Easy. Now give me my ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

 

  1. There may be a Pride happening right outside

    Pride Dublin parade
    A subdued lot really

 

Luckily for us, Pride Dublin kicked off right outside our window. By kick off, I mean ten ton of megawatt speakers blasting Madonna, Kylie Minogue and all sorts of cheesy disco pop, right through our single pane glass windows and into our Georgian room where our lecturer was struggling to shout about prose and tension and suspense in fiction. It was quite funny, but nobody could begrudge our gay sisters and brothers outside who were just warming up for the party of all parties. Celebration was in the air and at lunch time, we did what only good writers can do and join in, so that we could say we were there and later write about it.

 

  1. You will learn interesting stuff
Shorthand in book
I read this ‘How to Write A Novel’ book on the way up on the bus. My shorthand notes from my student days say: “Think back to strip in work” and “Aoife’s friend to be are in toilets.” Yep, no clue.

 

Ok, so you need to have at least a slightest interest in writing as a hobby to find a conference like this interesting, but if you do, you will be in your element. I attended Jessica Page Morrell The Sizzle: Tension & Suspense in Fiction who used example after example to remind us of the fundamentals of writing and used film to highlight what she had just explained. Some quotes I liked were:

  • Happy readers don’t turn pages, nervous ones do
  • Give your characters secrets and things they dare not say
  • Give all the main characters an agenda
  • Make secondary characters recognisable through their traits and physicality
  • Story telling is based on a series of reversals of fortune or fates that twist their way into the climax

I went to Catherine Ryan Howard’s seminar in the afternoon about self-publishing and while beforehand, I felt that this is not a road I wanted to go down, after spending two hours with this self-publishing pro, I completely changed my mind. When my novel is ready to go, and if I don’t get a traditional publishing house on board, then I will self-publish. Simples.

 

  1. You will feel like a writer, even if you haven’t actually written anything
How to write a novel
The skies were blue. And so was the cover of my book

 

I consider myself a blogger, but not a writer. I don’t think I will feel like a writer till I hit publish on that e-book (thanks Catherine) or sign the very first novel with my name on it. When I arrived at the conference I realised conversations began with: “So how many books have your written,” rather than, “So em… where did you travel from today?” (My reliable conversation starter). By the end of the day, I was confident in my ‘I’m writing historical fiction’ statement and I felt like I was among peers rather than lofty individuals who have achieved what I can only dream off. There was a good camaraderie too, although I did steer away from writers who only wanted to speak about themselves and produced self-published books with 1980s Amsted font covers. Clearly, we had nothing in common.

 

  1. You will be inspired

 writer's block

I’ve been at a bit of a crossroads with the book of late. I read online that all writers reach a block around 30,000 words and taking this as a signpost to a cul-de-sac, I printed off the work I had done and read it over. Big mistake! I realised I’m a long way off from what could legally be called ‘a buke’ and I’ve pretty much had to go back to the start and rewrite what is there. Spending the day with writers, writing experts, and a whole network of interesting and polite people left me feeling inspired, buoyed up and ready to go again, with now a vision and a step-by-step guide to how I will actually get the work out there. Oh and by the way, in the words of Catherine Ryan Howard explaining about the importance of marketing; “Nobody cares that you wrote a book, they just don’t.” And she’s right. But it matters to me. It matters to me a whole lot.

 

You can follow BooksGoSocial on Twitter at @findnewbooks. For more courses available visit the Irish Writers’ centre.

7 Comments on Five reasons you should attend a writer’s conference at least once in your life

  1. Hiya!
    Cheers for that!
    I’m always wondering when will my time to write publish something!!
    Dunno …
    Just feel may be part of the journey sometime!
    Will enjoy following yr story,
    X christine

    • Thanks Christine. I bought a magazine called Writer’s Forum and it’s a great resource of a million different places to pitch work, most of it paid. Really worth a read if you’re interested in getting something published. Once you get one thing in print / online will make you want to do more!

  2. Enjoyed reading that and looking forward to going on the Saturday this year (and hope there isn’t a march on outside this year). Will be nice to meet lots of tweeps in person too. It’ll be interesting to meet lots of erotica writers!
    Going to my first ever novel writing workshop this Sat and looking forward to it.

  3. I went to the 2016 one yest (just the one day) – yes, the Gay Pride march was on again, watched it for a while at lunchtime but we were in the Gresham today so the noise didn’t affect things. There were a lot of UK and US accents there which was interesting, chatting to a few they had flown over for it. The top tips I got were:
    from Sheila Bugler – it can take a long time to work out how to show, not tell and keep working at it as one day, out of the blue, you’ll find your distinctive voice.
    From Debbie Young: build relationships with bookshops (esp if self pub and you want them to stock your books) – don’t go in unprepared without your blurb and discounts etc sorted and don’t go in on a busy day. (when tweeting about it, I got into conversation with a UK bookseller who suggested to me that I use freelance reps to distribute my book in the UK, something I never thought of, so she is to send me names of a couple)
    A guy called Conor (I didn’t catch his full name and it wasn’t listed in the programme) gave ten top tips, I particularly liked his tip on building cadence in prose.

    • Wow Lorna, sounds like you had a good day, and a sign that it’s expanded as it moved venue. It’s nice to just sit and talking writing for a day I think – especially if you are just up for the day and not committed to a weekend etc. Great inwards on the UK market – you would do so well there – hope it works out for you.

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