Writing can be a solitary endeavor. Don't go it alone.

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Let’s face it. Writing can be a solitary endeavor. Don’t go it alone. Why not attend a writing conference and meet your tribe? Writing conferences are great value for the money. You’ll find loads of workshops, access to agents and editors, swarms of writers of various levels, all packaged neatly into a three- or four-day event. Nice.

Benefits of attending a writers conference

Workshops & classes – Conferences are a great way to learn a lot about all aspects of writing in a short time frame. You can take classes on the craft of writing, everything from turning your idea into a finished novel, to plotting and character development. You will learn the business side of writing, how to develop a writing career as well as how to market your novel.

The opportunity to pitch to agents and editors – Many conferences offer the chance to talk to agents and editors about your work. Pitching is a fantastic growth experience. You get to see your work through a professional’s objective eye. And you get comfortable talking about your work – something you’ll need to do a lot of when you sell your books.

Update on industry trends – You’ll learn about industry trends from professional agents, editors and publishers who work in the book world day in and day out. Who knew zombie political thrillers was a new genre?

Networking with fellow writers – This is perhaps one of the most valuable things about attending a writing conference. Talking to other writers is motivating and uplifting. You’re with your tribe. Looking for a good editor? Ask a fellow writer for a recommendation. Trying to find a cover or an author website designer? Want some constructive feedback on your query letter? Need to practice your pitch? Do you need to learn how to use social media to advance your writing career? Are you interested in how to evaluate a writer’s contract, or the pros and cons of traditional publish versus self-publishing? If so a writer’s conference may have the answers. Look no further than those around you.

How to make the most of a conference

Here are some suggestions to ensure you have a productive experience.

Choose your classes ahead of time. Take a few minutes to plan and ensure you get to the workshops you want. Challenge yourself and take a session or two on a topic outside your comfort zone. Sample classes across a variety of topics from writing craft to editing to publishing and marketing. You’ll be glad you did.

If you are a beginning author, with just an idea or character in mind, a writers conference is also a great place to start. Many conferences offer classes for the author just getting started. Plus, experienced authors attending the conference are happy to share what they’ve learned with you.

Create your pitch. If you plan to pitch your work, have at least a rough draft ready before you hit the conference. You can and likely will tweak it once you’re there, but having a draft gives you a great head start. Not planning to pitch? Still be prepared to talk about your work in a succinct, compelling way with other authors. Attending authors will want to know about your work.

Get a professional headshot. At some point, hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, you will need a headshot. Don’t skimp on this and ask a friend to snap one in the backyard, or worse, snap a selfie. Do yourself a favor and spend the money for a quality photo done by a professional. They know how to capture you in the best light.

Have a business card. A business card is an easy leave behind for agents, editors and other writers. You can pick up a pack of 100 or 500 online or an office supply store at affordable rates.

Wear professional clothes. When you attend a conference, you will be making a lot of first impressions with professionals in your industry. Make sure it’s a good one. And remember, a writing conference is not a luau, a backyard BBQ or Comicon. Dress to impress. That doesn’t mean you have to wear a three-piece suit or the female equivalent, but you should wear business casual. For men, this is dress pants with a collared shirt and perhaps a sports coat, a tie is optional. For women, business casual can be a skirt and blouse, a dress you would wear to a work event (code: modesty recommended) or dress pants and top. You will likely want to bring a sweater, blazer or sport coat as the air conditioning in conference hotels is notoriously dicey.

The Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s annual conference is September 13 – 16, 2018 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Seattle Airport (18740 International Blvd., SeaTac, WA). Early-bird discount runs through June 30.