Christian Writers’ Conferences
by Deb Brammer
In nearly forty years of writing for publication, writers’ conferences have been one of my most helpful resources. You may have been considering a writers’ conference and wondered if it would help you. Here are some things I have gained by attending Christian writers’ conferences.
I have learned practical tips at writers’ conferences that I wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere. In 1984 Lee Roddy taught a workshop which explained basic plot elements of a story. I still use some of his points as a checklist for my own fiction today. Maybe there’s a book out there that explains all that in the concise way he did, but I didn’t know about it then. Even today I don’t know of one good source of that information apart from his workshop. I learn a lot of information at conferences that make me a better writer.
Inspirational speakers also motivate me to keep writing and to write for the right reasons. I can’t forget a motivational speech that Carole Gift Page gave. “When I write I feel God’s pleasure,” she told us. Though that was in 1994 I can still remember thinking, though it was not a sermon, that it was so moving she should have given an invitation.
I have done most of my writing in isolation, far from other Christian writers. A conference gives me the opportunity to meet other Christian writers and compare notes. It allows me to meet editors and ask specific questions. I have also had manuscripts professionally critiqued so I could learn how to change my writing. These are things I could never have gotten from books.
A Feel for Publication
Conferences have given me a feel for the publishing industry. They help me understand publishing issues and trends in publishing. I could get much of the conference information from books, but I come away with more than facts. I can only describe it as a feel for the process of publication. I know of no other way for me to get this than attending writers’ conferences.
Today information is everywhere. A wealth of books have been written on practically every aspect of writing. Then you have the internet, CD’s, writing coaches and critiquers, magazines, and more conferences. The problem is finding them. Writers’ conferences link me to the resources. They help me find what I need.
Writers’ conferences force me to act like a professional. I meet other authors as well as agents and editors. I can practice the pitch for my book on others and learn to talk about my writing in a professional way. I learn what professional writing looks like and how to change my writing to fit the industry standard. All of this helps me take my writing to a professional level.
Choosing a Writers’ Conference
Not all writers’ conferences are created equal. I have attended two American Christian Writers’ Conferences in 1984 and 2007 in Seattle and Minneapolis, the Write-to-Publish Conference in 1990 and 1994 in Chicago, the Writing for the Soul Conference in 2004 in Colorado Springs, and the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in 2017 near Dallas. I found all of them to be very helpful, but only two are still running.
Both the Write-to-Publish Conference and the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference last four days. They offer a choice of courses on a variety of levels.
This conference deals with all kinds of writing for Christian publication, fiction and non-fiction, books and articles. It takes place in the Chicago area in June. It gives you a choice of six continuing classes and a choice of about six electives each year. It runs for four full days. You can attend for the full conference or choose only certain days. The full conference costs around $415 without housing and meals. In the past you could also order CD’s of the various sessions for about $8 each.
Find out more here.
American Christian Fiction Writers Conference
ACFW is strictly about fiction and mainly books. It includes traditionally published and indie authors as well. I attended the ACFW conference in Texas in 2017. It’s a three-day conference with the extra options of an early session on Thursday morning and a late session on Sunday morning. You can choose a four-part continuing education course on one of five levels and four workshops out of twenty offered. Panel discussions and other activities are also included. You can order MP3 downloads of sessions from previous years or pen drives of whole conferences even if you’re not a member. Throughout the year ACFW members can also access many helpful resources such as online courses, working in a critique group, getting information from the loop, and joining specific Facebook groups. I’ve been a member for several years and greatly appreciate the contact I have with other authors.
Find out more here.
More Things to Think About
We could wish these conferences were less expensive. When you compare the amount of money you actually make with freelance writing and the high cost of conferences, you may dismiss them immediately. I can’t tell you what to do. I can only say that I have found conferences to be very helpful. They are no substitute for actual writing. But a combination of persistent writing to the best of your ability with expertise from conferences may move your writing ahead in a very effective way. If you feel that the Lord is leading you to pursue writing in a serious way, an occasional conference may help you to improve your writing and serve Him better. And the conferences may actually give you information or contacts that will help you earn more money writing.
These conferences are generally targeted at Christian writing across a broad range of denominations. Doctrine is not the key issue. Writing is. Though I might wish for a conference to target fundamental independent Baptists like me, if I ever found one I fear it would be very small. It would not be able to offer the level of help of these larger conferences.
In spite of that, I have found these conferences to have a healthy Christian atmosphere. Though I might differ doctrinally from some of the speakers, those differences are generally set aside and never mentioned. The point of the conferences is to help writers write and most conferences try to stick to that.