Monday 11 August 2014

Writing Conferences: The Benefits for Writers

by Narelle Atkins

I love attending writing conferences and seeing my online writing friends in person. A long weekend focused on all things writing related is like a taste of heaven for writers, especially for those of us who are geographically isolated from other writers. The internet has helped to connect writers from all over the world. However, it doesn't compare to the personal contact with the publishing world that a writer can experience at a conference.

ACW group at 2013 CALEB Conference, Left to Right: Catherine Hudson, Rose Dee, Kerry-Lee Harney, Narelle Atkins, Jo-Anne Berthelsen, Anne Hamilton, Jenny O’Hagan, Iola Goulton, Ray Hawkins, Mary Hawkins, Dorothy Adamek
Why should you consider investing money in attending writing conferences and events? 

It’s an investment in your writing career, an expense that is potentially tax deductible against your current or future writing income. 

But, it’s also an expense that can have a big impact on your household budget, especially if you travel overseas to the one of the large USA conferences eg. American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Romance Writers of America (RWA). Mary Hawkins recently wrote a helpful post on this topic on the ICFW blog.

What are your goals? 

There are a wide range of conferences and events available, depending on your genre and area of interest. Before you sign up, you should have an idea of what you hope to achieve by attending the conference. 

Which conference or event offers opportunities to help you achieve your goals? 

This can be a difficult question to answer. There are a dozen conferences and events held around the world each year that I’d like to attend. I look at my priorities and select the conferences that best suit my needs. Before I was published, I had a budget of one writing conference or event per year. 

Do your research 

Read the program and compare the cost of the conference with similar events. Who are the keynote speakers? Is the conference organised by a writing organisation? Sponsored by publishers? Do they provide member discounts or early bird discounts? 

Ask your writer friends who have previously attended for their thoughts. Google the conference to see if people have blogged on their experiences from last year’s conference. Can you attend with a writer friend and split the cost of the hotel room accommodation to make it more affordable? Can you combine the conference with a family holiday? 

Workshops and professional development 

Does the conference offer workshops that will challenge you and teach you important skills? Are the workshops specific to your genre and areas of interest? 

Networking opportunities 

Will you have opportunities to connect with other writers and industry professionals in your chosen area of writing? 

Editor and agent appointments 

Will there be editors and agents in attendance in your target genre? Or, experts who provide indie publishing services to writers in your genre? 


Your cost-benefit analysis should also factor in time. By attending a conference, you’ll have less time to write and do other things. Is the timing of the conference a good match for your schedule? Can you take leave from work? Can you line up a babysitter for your children?


Is the conference in your home town or city? Close to an airport and public transport? Can you afford the travel and/or accommodation expenses? Is the venue accessible for a day trip if you haven’t got the time and/or money to attend the entire conference?

In Summary 

There are numerous factors to consider that will help you determine if a specific conference will benefit you and provide value for money. 

Next Monday I’m going to provide an overview of Australian and New Zealand writing conferences and events that have been recommended by members of the ACW Facebook Group. 

Writing conferences and events are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Your individual goals and circumstances will determine which conferences and writers events are the best fit for you.

NARELLE ATKINS writes contemporary inspirational romance and lives in Canberra, Australia. She sold her debut novel, set in Australia, to Harlequin's Love Inspired Heartsong Presents line in a 6-book contract. Her debut book, Falling for the Farmer, was a February 2014 release, followed by The Nurse's Perfect Match in May 2014, The Doctor's Return in August 2014, Her Tycoon Hero in November 2014, and Winning Over the Heiress in February 2015.

Narelle blogs regularly with International Christian fiction Writers and Inspy Romance. 

She is also a co-founder of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA). 

Twitter: @NarelleAtkins


  1. I love attending conferences too, Narelle. They're worthwhile for so many reasons as you've pointed out. I have to say I enjoy the camaraderie as much as the information gleaned from workshops! Great post :)

    1. Thanks, Andrea :) I agree, the comaraderie is an important and fun aspect of conferences.

  2. Thanks Narelle for this informed post. There are different benefits to be gained from conferences as you point out. Every takes different things from each one, just as we discussed yesterday.

    They are an investment in time, money and in your heart but they certainly pay off in many ways. I'm looking forward to next week's post.

    1. Hi Ian, It was great to meet you in person yesterday :) The pay off from conferences differs for everyone, and can sometimes be an unexpected blessing.

  3. I'm heading off to a writing conference this weekend. With this one, I'm mostly looking forward to the teaching, and with spending time with my travel companions. I'm also going to the Australian Christian Writers Conference, which I really enjoy because it provides an opportunity to meet in person many of the people who contribute to this blog.

    1. Hi Iola, Enjoy your conferences :) You'll all need to take an ACW group photo at the October conference.

  4. Conferences are the much needed break from the writing chair to refresh, reconnect and reinvent our writing selves. So great to have met up with you Narelle and Ian at this year in Sydney, and Iola and Andrea last year in Qld. Lots of fun and learning to look forward to each time. :)

    1. Hi Dotti, It was lovely to spend time with you at two conferences over the last 3 weeks :) The break from writing, and the opportunity to learn and improve our craft, are big bonuses from attending conferences.

  5. I too have always found them worthwhile. Someone - workshop speaker or fellow attendee - always tells me something I hadn't thought of, or used, before.

    1. I agree, and I'm yet to attend a conference where I haven't learned something worthwhile. But, I've always been strategic in regards to choosing which conferences to attend. For example, ACFW conferences in the DFW area of Texas are a very attractive option because Qantas flies direct from Australia to Dallas.

  6. Thanks Narelle. I think going to the Word Conference a couple of years ago transformed by experience as writer by connecting up with so many lovely, encouraging writers. The other benefits that you mention are fantastic too.

    1. HI Jeanette, I agree, and I've made many dear friends over the years at writing conferences.


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