This year’s Willamette Writers Conference was a little over week ago. My brain is still fizzing.
My history with cons and confs is not lengthy. I went to Westercon last year and enjoyed it mightily, including the many writing track sessions that I sat in on. However Westercon is still a fan convention rather than a conference. And, in fact, most of my con-going has been to fan conventions, whether it was Wordstock a few years ago (which I somehow forgot to mention in my Westercon post) or UKCAC way back in the 90s.
And this is why I was keen to go to the Willamette Writers Conference. It has fan elements because writers tend to be fans of other writers, but it’s a conference about the business of writing rather than a celebration of the results. This will not be the last writing conference I go to, but going to a conference which is in my home town was too bic an opportunity to overlook.
There are also pitch slots available.
One of the huge differences between a con and a conf is that agents don’t usually go to cons to do business. Conferences, on the other hand, can attract agents who are looking for authors to represent, and this conference in particular offers an opportunity to pitch your story to agents in ten minute slots. Since one of my three goals for the year was to seek representation, these pitch slots were obviously a big draw for me.
There are also many tracks of craft sessions over the three days. I tried to go to a variety of sessions covering both things I think I need to know and things I don’t know that I need to know yet. So, I went to sessions about editing and genre, but I also went to sessions about nonfiction queries and writing love stories. The speaker quality was generally high, in some cases rising to the level of deeply inspiring. I am thinking that I will actually have to do the audiobook of Livia, now*.
The best bit of this conf was the community, though. Being around other writers, being in an atmosphere of acceptance for the odd pursuit, and meeting other writers who are making a living off it, was wonderful: it was validating and transformative. I will be going to some of the Willamette Writers sessions in Portland over the next year too.
Going to a conference like this is not a cheap option, but it was an enormously valuable weekend for me, and I am very glad I was able to attend.
I will return.
[*] producing the Livia audiobook is probably the goal that will replace publishing A New Dawn on my list of things for the year.