I have been looking forward to this conference since SCWW completely won me over last year. I’ve attended more writers conferences over the last ten years than I can count, and while I enjoy most, it’s rare for a conference to stand out in as many ways as did SCWW.
Four things matter to this agent in selecting a conference:
Organization: Last year we my partner Matt Frederick (who also lectured at SCWW) and I had a last minute pet health emergency. We ended up driving fifteen hours, through the night, with an ill and unhappy cat, in order to arrive on time. If the conference hadn’t been so well organized, it would have been so much more difficult on us, and on everyone we met. So, I hope you’ll take notice of the considerable effort it takes to make a good conference run so smoothly.
Location: I know there must be talented writers in North Dakota in February, but I’ll never meet them. If you are new to SCWW, I hope you take the time to enjoy the beachfront hotel. The sound of the waves should remind you to relax; you’re here to learn, and meet others going through the same process.
Vibe: I’ve been to conferences and gatherings that have just been “off”. At some conferences, some attendees have bordered on hostile (furious that we agents couldn’t see their genius right off); terrified (bursting into tears as they try to pitch); arrogant (so clearly not interested in what we have to say); demanding (expecting more time than we have to give); and desperate (pleading doesn’t get one an agent or book deal; hard work and good writing does). Last year at SCWW, I saw none of these things. On the whole, SCWW seemed to have a lot of heart. The writers in attendance were supportive of each other, friendly, respectful, excited to be there, eager and open to learn, to become a better writer, to take a next step on the path to getting published.
Value: Although I know how expensive conferences can be to pull together (they’re like a fancy wedding that goes on for three days straight, with multiple brides and grooms that have to be flown in from all across the country, and hundreds of guests), I always have an opinion on the value of the conference overall. Is there enough mingle or networking time for the attendees? (It’s important that writers can mix it up with each other, as well as with the agents, lecturing authors, and editors) Is there a wide range of sessions in fiction, non fiction, memoir, etc? Are the realities of the ever-changing marketplace covered, as well as craft and the muse? Are the instructors helpful, experienced, and knowledgeable? Are there enough volunteers or staff members to ensure the easiest possible time for attendees? Would I recommend the conference to a writer friend? In SCWW’s case, I was so pleased last year, that I recommended the conference to a number of writer friends, agents and editors, and then hoped I’d be invited back as well.
So, in a few weeks, you’ll see me there with high hopes and expectations, and happy to meet as many of you as possible. If you’ve already registered, I applaud your choice. If you’re on the fence, I hope you’ll give it a chance. I’ll do my part to try to live up to last year’s quality time.