I’ve never been to a writing conference. I have a strong aversion to most hotels, conference rooms, food-service by Sysco™, and one person on stage talking to a big group of people sitting in chairs.
This, of course, may or may not even be how conferences are, but it’s still how they reside in my imagination, perhaps a byproduct of OD’ing on Bar Mitzvahs as a kid.
Either way, and all this being said, I’d totally go to a writing conference if invited to participate, or especially if I had some kind of reportorial mission to help me feel like I wasn’t just straight-up schmoozing, something I’ve never been able to do ‘effectively.’
In the meantime, with all the conference-related tweetage I’ve seen from colleagues lately, I thought I’d ask Trish Miller of Travel Writers Exchange to help line out a few quick things about writing conferences and how they pertain to travel writers.
[DM] How important is it for travel writers to attend conferences?
[TM] I definitely think that travel writers of all levels can benefit from writers conferences, but there are only a few that are really geared for “travel” writers. The key factor is ‘what is the mix of educational content’ – which ideally should include both the print and online media – some writers conferences are only just starting to include information on digital media and aren’t very strong yet. Primarily because they are put on by old dinosaurs of the travel writing world.
What can you actually accomplish at a writing conference?
The educational tracks will typically vary, but generally include a combination of panel discussions on both traditional and new (digital) media, and lecture style sessions featuring editors of print pubs and some large online pubs giving advice on how to get published.
One thing they don’t do is cover the very basics – they pretty much assume that if you’re there, you’re already a travel writer and just looking to find new markets, meet editors and publishers, network, and maybe pick up some new tips and tricks
What is the most relevant conference for aspiring travel writers to attend?
Book Passage Travel Writers Conference is one of the oldest and still probably the best to attend, but their Digital Media track was not as in-depth as I’d hoped it would be. I realize that it’s a new area for them, as they’ve been heavily into teaching for print pubs and book authoring, and some travel photography, until this year. So maybe next year they will expand this track.
They did have a great lineup of very high-level award-winning editors, publishers, photographers, and literary agents on their faculty who went above and beyond with spending one-on-one time with attendees – very valuable.
I’ve been to a couple of other travel writers conferences, but they are all smaller than BP in terms of attendees, faculty, and sessions. There is one here in Scottsdale AZ this week that I’ve attended in the past, but am skipping this year. Too small, too expensive, not worth the investment of time or money.
I do recommend any writers conference – not just travel writers conferences – if someone is just starting out, especially if they can find a small local conference and avoid travel expenses, as they’ll get a lot out of it, but more experienced writers would be better served to attend something that actually teaches them how to transition to digital media and learn how to effectively use social networking. That is still somewhat lacking in writer’s conferences, but well covered in other conferences like BlogWorld Expo (which I’m going to this week) and PubCon.
What do you think about writing conferences? What positive (or negative) experiences have you had? Am I totally ‘off’ with my ‘food service by sysco’ preconception? Please share with us in the comments below.