Feb 26, 2011

Writing Conferences

by Bonnie Harris

With the ANWA writing conference this weekend, I thought this would be an appropriate topic.

This past month I had a friend ask me what I planned on getting out of the ANWA writing conference. The question caught me off guard. Why does anyone go to writing conferences? I thought the answer was simple, but she said she was conferenced out and it got me thinking. Why do I go to writing conferences? The question isn't as easily answered as I thought.

My first inclination is to say, "I'm going to learn how to write and network." Both of those reasons are valid and true. However, I've been to enough conferences now that I've begun to see patterns. The same concepts are being taught and re-taught by different and sometimes the same people. Classes on plot, structure, character development, what the industry is looking for, query letters and so on. So why do we go to conferences if it's just the same things being rehashed every time?

I was talking to my sister-in-law about this and she said it's a lot like the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are continually being taught the same principles. It's true. How many general conferences have talked about being prepared or listening and recognizing the spirit? Just about all of the ones I remember. Her statement did flush out a memory though that ties all of this together.

When I was at the University of Utah, we often had apostles come and do firesides. It was a wonderful treat. This particular fireside was supposed to be on dating (the dreaded subject of any university full of single adults). Elder M. Russell Ballard was the speaker and he began his talk in a different way. He said the firesides might all seem like the same thing and that's because they are. We might wonder why the first presidency and apostles talk about the same principles over and over and over. "Let me tell you why . . ." he said. He went on to explain that there are so many things they would love to teach us and share with us, but they can't. (I could almost hear a collective gasp from the audience). They can't teach us new things until we are doing the "old" ones, hence why we seem to get the same things taught to us time and time again. We just aren't getting it and until we do, we won't be able to learn all the things the apostles would love to share with us.

This hit home for me, at the time, and I made it a goal to do better at the basics. I think of writing conferences now and how the same things are said again and again. Agent and publishing blogs express how many people don't follow the basics or would like people to do such and such. Well, look up the such and such and it is exactly what is being repeated at all of the conferences.

So back to the original question. Why are you attending writing conferences? I think my answer still includes learning to write and networking, but I'm going to expound on it and say I'm going to listen to the reiterations and figure out what I missed the first time. There must be a reason for everything being the same. I must not be getting something, so now my task is to figure out what that something is . . . and have some fun in the process. Happy Writing! :)


  1. Well said, Bonnie. I appreciate these words of wisdom. Now I need to act on them! hugs~

  2. Excellent post! I see what you mean about what Elder Ballard said.

    Despite having only been to two writing conferences myself, I also saw the same kinds of patterns you mentioned. I'm sure if you've been to many conferences, the topics might start to feel a little recycled. Even with the same topics of plot, characterization, querying, etc., I learned something new each time.

    Although we're being taught the same gospel principles over and over again, sometimes there's one lesson that hits me as especially timely during a challenging point in my life, or is a reminder of something I need to work on. I too would love to learn some new stuff, but it seems like, for now, I still need to work on the old stuff I should have mastered ages ago. ;)

  3. Excellent topic and commentary, Bonnie! It was so wonderful to see you this weekend.

  4. Great analogy, Bonnie. Hope the conference was fantastic!

  5. I heard those words from Elder Ballard myself. However, due to my undiagnosed ADHD all I could think of was hey what if collectively we are ready what about individuals I mean really how does that work do we get kept back due to others or others due to us...you can see how this drove me nuts.

  6. This was only my second conference. I agree with your analysis. I am only able to absorb at what ever beginging level I am at,next year I hope I will absorb more.


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