The first time I went to a writers conference I had no idea what to expect. I brought a story I had recently changed the tense of for a private critique session and I was nervous. The first few hours I was introduced to more people, more concepts and more information than I thought existed. By dinner my head ached and I sat next to a man who told me this tragic story about his family, only after I left did I realized he was probably talking about his book.
The woman who critiqued my story instantly recognized that the tenses had been changed and kindly told me to keep working. I felt great, although I determined never to change tenses again. It wasn't until later when I saw the same woman asking another conference attendee to send her more did I realize what she didn't say. My story was not good enough and by association neither was I.
As the end of the conference drew near, I was depressed. I had decided to scrap that story and try something different. But I didn't know what. The focus of the conference was on how God needed all kinds of writers; everyone had a place God had specifically designed for them to fill. I went outside and listened to the birds while the wind combed my hair. I thought about all the story ideas I had and I began to notice a pattern. Some stories like the one I had brought were for adults, but the stories I felt more excitement for were the ideas I had for the middle school/teen genres. That conference was an eye-opener for me, partly because I had found my niche and partly because I grew to appreciate the other writers who can do what I can't. I will never be a poet, believe me I've tried. I may never be able to write for the little ones or craft a decent mystery, but I can write from my passion and grow where God has placed me.
What was your first writers conference experience? What did you learn? What surprised you? If you haven't gone to one yet what is your opinion about writers conferences? I'd love to know. Let's talk shop.