Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Big Conference, Small Conference, or Stay Home? by Emily Conrad

I benefit from each writers' conference I attend. So, especially as the big conferences roll around, I feel pressure mount to register and book tickets, afraid I’ll miss out if I don’t go. But the truth is, staying home or attending a smaller conference can be just as valid as a choice to go to a regional or national gathering.

I don’t want to talk you into (or out of) any specific course of action. Instead, I’d like to highlight possibilities to relieve pressure and fear so you’re that much freer to choose the path God is calling you to, whatever it may be.

Let’s look at three benefits of conferences and their alternatives.


At a national conference, you can learn from experts—Firsthand! In person! Where you can raise your hand and ask for clarification! You’ll get cutting-edge information, and chances are, you’ll hear something you never considered before.

At a smaller conference, you can also learn from experts. Without as much going on to distract you, you may absorb more. (Or maybe I’m the only one who gets distracted by my friends and pitching opportunities…)

You can also learn at home. The same people who present at the big conferences often have authored craft books, blogs, and podcasts that you can read or listen to. In areas that change quickly, such as effective strategies for marketing and platform building, look for materials developed in the last year or so. When in doubt about what to study, ask for recommendations from a writer friend who does well in an area where you want to grow.

Networking with Other Writers

At a conference, whether big or small, you share dinner and experiences with other writers and lean on each other through the highs and lows of pitching and learning.

You'll likely meet up with a bigger percentage of your online writer friends at a large conference, but you might be surprised to run into some at a smaller venue, too. Either way, you will likely make meaningful new connections.

Writers also tend to be an active bunch on social media, and we can get to know each other there or by working together in online critique groups. Since online connection points involve words, and words are our thing, it’s possible to develop meaningful friendships with people you have yet to meet. I certainly have!


At a big conference, you can pitch your work to industry pros who aren’t as easy to access at other times. This happens through appointments, after conference sessions, or when you happen to run into your dream agent at lunch. Because the big conferences bring in so many agents and editors, there may be a few for you to pitch to. It’s very possible you’ll receive a request to send your work.

At a smaller conference, you may only have one pitch opportunity—or none. But that can allow you to focus on that one pitch and, once it’s over, to relax and enjoy the conference.

But meeting someone in person is no guarantee a partnership will result, and many agents (though fewer editors) are open to submissions from people they haven’t met. I’ve landed requests from agents for materials through the slush pile, so it’s possible. From home, you can develop rapport with agents by commenting on their blogs or other public social media posts. That way, when your name shows up in their inbox, they’ll recognize it.

So, What’s a Writer To Do?

Some things that come naturally at a conference take extra dedication at home. But family, work, or financial restraints may render conferences impractical for a time. Pros and cons tug both ways.

Another factor I’m learning to look for in my own heart is fear. Fear of the unknown or of rejection may vie to keep us home. Fear of missing out may encourage us to go where God hasn’t called us.

There’s a lot to consider that I could never hope to fit in a blog post.

That’s why, as with every decision, we need to seek God’s leading. There is no cookie cutter plan that fits all writers. Only He can lead us through the pros and cons for His glory in a way that suits our unique place along our own unique journey.

May we seek Him in all that we do, whether we stay or go.

What resources have helped you grow as a writer? Whether it's something you've done or studied from home or a benefit you gained from a conference (or maybe a little of both!), I'd love to hear about it!

Don't let fear make your decisions about which writers' conference to attend (if any). @emilyrconrad discusses 3 benefits of conferences and their stay-at-home alternatives on #seriouslywrite #writetip #writersconference

With every decision, including writers' conferences, we need to seek God’s leading. There is no cookie cutter plan that fits all writers. A #writetip from @emilyrconrad on #seriouslywrite

Writers can benefit tremendously from conferences, but if you can't make one this year, you still have options! @emilyrconrad on #seriouslywrite #writetip

Photo credits
People talking in large room photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

Two women talking at table photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash
Presentation with sticky notes photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Graphics created on Canva.com

Emily Conrad headshotEmily Conrad writes Christian romance and a blog to encourage women of faith. Her debut novel, Justice, released from Pelican Book Group in 2018. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two rescue dogs. She loves Jesus and enjoys road trips to the mountains, crafting stories, and drinking coffee. (It’s no coincidence Justice is set mostly in a coffee shop!) She offers free short stories on her website and loves to connect with readers on social media.



Jake thought he was meant to marry Brooklyn, but now she's pregnant, and he had nothing to do with it. Brooklyn can’t bring herself to name the father as she wrestles with questions about what her pregnancy means and how it will affect her relationship with Jake. If Harold Keen, the man who owns the bookstore across from Jake's coffee shop, has anything to do with it, the baby will ruin them both. Can Jake and Brooklyn overcome the obstacles thrown in their path, and finally find the truth in God's love and in each other?

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  1. What a wonderful message! I enjoy writers conferences and always learn something new. The friendships and contacts made are blessings.

    1. Thanks, Melissa! You're right that there is a lot to love about conferences! The friendships are one of the best parts for me. :)

  2. Sadly, I'm not going to a conference this year. But you've got some excellent advice here that I can use as I prepare for 2020.

    1. Sorry you won't be able to make it to one. Me, neither, actually! I'm grateful for how much is available to us to advance our craft and our connections online these days!

  3. Sometimes it's simply a matter of COST. And definitely a mix of fear or uncertainty that the investment will pay off. But I've also discovered the relationships made are worth every cent.

    1. That's true. Cost plays a huge factor and can sometimes make the decision for us. Or seemingly so. I've also heard of writers who thought the cost would keep them home, and then God provided. But thankfully, even if He doesn't do that in a particular year, we don't have to wait until next time to grow as writers or make new writing friends!

  4. I only attended one LARGE conference back when Golden Triangle Writers Guild held its last big one (2003 or 2004) Hurricane Rita cost them dearly and their conference became a thing of the past. I do attend smaller 1 day conferences and workshops though and enjoy them greatly.

    Great advice Emily
    Good luck and God's blessings


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