Mar 7, 2008

Learning from My Conference Mistake

By Rebecca Talley

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend the ANWA conference. I'm hoping to change that next year. Though I didn't attend, I'm confident it was well worth every second because I've heard Tristi's presentation on Voice and it's amazing. I still think about her presentation and the quotes she used. She's an inspirational teacher.

And Kerry Blair is fabulous. I love her books and her sense of humor. I respect and admire her greatly. I'm sure her presentation was wonderful. I don't know the other presenters, but I'm sure they all gave excellent talks.

I attended a SCBWI conference some years back. I wasn't familiar with the presenters, a big mistake, and attended a presentation touted as, "YA Plotting Techniques." Silly me, I expected to learn something about plotting from a nationally published author. I sat in the class while she explained, in detail, her life story. Her novel, in verse, was based on her daughter's drug addiction. She then shared some passages from her book. Appalled can't even come close to how I felt as she read the most explicit, intimate scenes in her novel. The words and the images were so crass and so degrading I didn't even know what to do. I was dumbfounded. I wanted to jump up and run from the room, but didn't want to be rude. After the class was over, I felt as though I needed to visit with my bishop to repent of what I'd heard. Yes, it was that bad. Needless to say, I determined that if that's what was being published in the national market, it wasn't the market for my work. And what about the "plotting" part of the class? Never happened. She didn't teach us a thing about her method. The class was a disappointment all the way around.

I did learn a valuable lesson, though. Never attend a conference/class without first researching the presenters to make sure what they write is in line with my own values. I should have researched this presenter. If I had, I would never have made the mistake of attending her class. While I'm sure there's a market for her work, it isn't what I choose to read or write and that should've guided me in my choice for her class.

Conferences can be invaluable opportunities for learning, networking, and reuniting with friends, just beware of unfamiliar conferences/presenters so you don't make the same mistake as I did.


  1. Yes, you missed a wonderful conference. I'd even be willing to vouch for all the presenters at an ÅNWA conference, but fully realize that wouldn't apply to all writing conferences anywhere. Thanks for the warning.

    And would walking out on an objectionable presentation be any more rude than that of the rude presenter? Still, rude is always rude, so perhaps it's a catch-twenty-two. If you were in my situation, you could have simply turned off your hearing aids, left them in as earplugs, and internally sung hymns.

  2. So true, true, true, true, true. Sorry you had such a dismal experience but look what you learned to pass on to us. Unfortunately, lousy presenters aren't limited to writing workshops. How glad I am to hear the feedback about the ANWA conference and the good spirit that was there. It's a world of difference.

  3. Yep. I had the same "learning" experience attending ASU writer's conference. Never again. I will research things out so that my time and money are better spent in the future.


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