Two weekends ago, I attended the Emerald Coast Writers, Inc. conference in Destin, Florida. Not only was it held at a terrific resort on the sugar-white beach (5 pools, a spa, exercise room and oodles of goodies) but it was a small conference of just under a hundred people. I had a terrific time. And that got me to thinking of the many benefits of small conferences that I thought I would share.
1. Networking. A NYT bestselling author did the keynote. But he (Jeramiah Healy) also did several workshops on craft and the business. He hung out with all conference attendees, so even brand new writers had access to him and his considerable bank of knowledge.
2. Networking. Two excellent agents attended. Elaine Spencer from Deidre Knight Agency and Natanya Wheeler from Lowenstein-Yost Agency. As well as a panel and appointments, they hung out with all conference attendees so even brand new writers had access to them and their considerable banks of knowledge. If you’re shopping, check these agents out on the web. Both are very personable, earthy and friendly, and sharp.
3. Networking. Two excellent editors attended: Kerry Estevez (Medallion Press Editor) and Nina Kooij (Pelican Press Editor-in-Chief) and both did a panel and hung out with all conference attendees so even brand new authors had access to them and their considerable banks of knowledge. Medallion and Pelican are both Independent Presses. Medallion is building quite a reputation. It is home to a horror author who is not S. King or P. Straub who is on the list–not with her NY publisher, but with Medallion. This company also took on Dolores Wilson (Big Hair and Flying Cows) who as a brand new author won Publisher’s Weekly Pinnacle Award. (Hilarious book, btw.) Pelican has 500 titles on its backlist and is the largest Independent Press operating. So strong companies, strong editors, and very author-friendly.
4. Networking. A host of multi-published authors and educators did workshops. When I wasn’t one of them, I sat in other workshops. The quality and variety was significant, and because the classes were small, more writers got to ask more questions that pertained to their specific situations and circumstances.
5. Networking. Among the workshops were two–not one, but two–by noted Life Coach Darlene Dean. Both were inspiring and illuminating. Darlene is also a writer and it shows in ways I can’t begin to describe. Every author wrote not one but two stories during a one-hour class–and read them aloud–and they were GOOD.
As you can see, a lot of networking opportunities existed. Far more than a writer typically encounters at large conferences.
6. Education. The educational opportunities were amazing. Coordinator, Joyce Holland, made sure there was something for everyone–from poetry to crime fiction to young adult and nonfiction to the mechanics of writing–and just to be sure no one left with unanswered questions, there were two “Ask Me Anything” sessions. One with Jerry and me, and another.
7. Fun. There were evening gab sessions where everyone gathered and just talked writing and the business in a large group. Friendly, relaxed, informative and just plain fun.
8. Some spent some time on the beach. Gorgeous and the weather was amazing.
So while the three days were busy and schedules were full, because of the atmosphere and attitudes creating such a positive atmosphere, people went home relaxed and not worn out. That alone is worth giving a small conference a serious look!
I’ll be going to this one again. The hotel was extremely reasonable, the conference fee minimal (how they manage to offer so much for this price is beyond me) and the rejuvenation on its own makes it a bargain. I was very pleasantly surprised–and I met two people who will be friends for a long time.
Now I’ve been to many conferences. And I’m saying that it’s next to impossible to gain this level of interaction and information and attention to your specific needs at large ones. I can’t speak for all small conferences, but I can and will speak for this one. Emerald Coast Writers, Inc., and Joyce Holland, the conference coordinator, gave attendees real value. The kind that comes in many ways, including those which can’t be measured.
Beam me up for 2008!