The Value of Writing Conferences: Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater

JUN 09, 2024

We are in the era of internet writers. Those who have stories to tell, write them and then publish them. Some have training, many don’t. The era of vetting our writing before it gets published is over. Evidence of that is the sheer number of sites that invite writers to write. Some entice with the potential for making money, our 21st century freelance writers model, so to speak.

I came to writing as a second career. I followed the template and climbed the ladder by getting jobs at one magazine that set me up to apply for jobs at magazines with broader reader circulation. That’s how we did it back in the 1990s. As a newby, I didn’t know that traditional publishers were in crisis; the model that sustained this industry throughout the 20th century was becoming unsustainable. I would learn more about this after a major publisher published my book and the editors I worked with let me know that their once big marketing budgets weren’t big anymore.

For one week beginning 6/9/24 I will be teaching workshops and moderating panels at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. Founded in 1972, it has produced many fine authors. SBWC is where this writer found her voice. I call it my ‘literary home’ even though so much has changed since I attended my first SBWC in 1990.

Even if you believe yourself to be a fine writer, I encourage all to find groups where your works are vetted by writers and/or editors that know as much or more than you do. Continuing education is not yet out of favor for those invested in improving craft, whatever their craft may be.

I began offering my SBWC workshop, Hooking Readers, when I joined the SBWC faculty in 2003. At that time I also began moderating the  Author Platform Panel that officially ends our week together. Its focus is platform building, now an essential component once it became clear that the old model of publishing was no longer sustainable. Authors had to learn how to become our own P.R./marketing agents.

While the 21st century model of publishing keeps writers stationed at our writing spaces, depending on our colleagues to help  ‘launch’ books is ‘old school’ and still viable in this new school of publishing. Conferences, workshops, continuing education courses and seminars are valuable to writers invested in improving craft and building author platforms. Even if you have lots of followers on any one writing site, when it comes time for your followers to buy your products, i.e. books, they are more likely to pay attention if they’ve met you, even if your association is through Zoom.

And if you’ve been improving your storytelling with the help of members of your writing tribe, your followers are more likely to plunk down their hard earned money to read what you’ve written because your storytelling is more likely to hook them. Both 20th century and 21st century publishing share this goal: hooking readers.

That hasn’t changed.

SBWC Tee Shirt circa 1990, the year I attended my 1st SBWC
Marla Miller’s latest work of fiction debuts FALL, 2024, SweetSpot: Now and Then
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