Tammy, Will, and I traveled to Blue Ridge, Georgia, this weekend for the 2011 Blue Ridge Writers' Conference, and it was a blast. As a speaker who's been to many events, this one quickly became a favorite. I enjoyed both the content and the context of the conference.
The meat of the content was delivered on Saturday beginning with a keynote address by literary agent Sally McMillan. She shared her take on changes happening in the book publishing industry right now and hit on most of the key points from the past 10 years to developments as recently as a week ago.
While Hope Clark led a well-received session titled "Where the Money is: Funding Streams for Writers," I attended Scott Owens session titled "The Greatest Writing Prompt Ever." Owens shared his tips for Perpetual Writing Prompts (PWPs), and I won't give away all his tips, but I really liked his idea to create a Family Tree and Association Tree for mining ideas for poems and stories.
Then, McMillan led a session on "The Care and Feeding of a Literary Agent," while I presented my own tips on how to "Target the Best Markets for Your Work." Going up against a literary agent, I expected to have a small crowd, but I nearly ran out of handouts. I covered ways to find markets and how to contact those that you find. Plus, I always try to reserve a little time at the end for writers to ask questions specific to their projects.
After lunch, Owens led a session titled "Exploring the World of Online Journals," while I attended Hope Clark's "Grants - the Free Money Everyone Wants." This topic is Clark's specialty, and if you haven't yet, I would suggest subscribing to her newsletter at FundsForWriters.com. Personally, I learned more about grants than I expected, which is saying a lot about the quality of her information.
Local novelist Jennifer Jabaley presented her session titled "Real People - Know Your Novel's Characters" as I made my final presentation "Establish a Social Media Platform to Launch Your Career." I provided tips on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but of course, I gave a little more too--and answered attendee questions.
This is where the Blue Ridge Writers' Conference really stands out for me. I mean, you expect to receive great information from presenters when you attend a conference, right? What really makes a difference for me is how well the conference manages the important "other stuff."
For instance, this conference had a book fair/reception on Friday evening with food, drinks, live music and readings (both poetry and fiction) by the speakers. It really encouraged interaction between the speakers and the attendees, which is one of the big benefits of a conference.
Also encouraging interaction and a relaxed atmosphere were 15-minute breaks between sessions and a lunch break that lasted 90 minutes. Since Blue Ridge is such a walkable town and the weather cooperated, it made for a very enjoyable break that opened up many side conversations.
If you have a chance next year, I encourage you to make it out to this conference.
If you're an organizer searching for speakers for your event, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As a Senior Content Editor in the Writer's Digest Writing Community, I'm able to speak on myriad topics related to the business and craft sides of writing. And if I'm not the best person to handle a topic, I probably know someone who is.
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