Monday, April 1, 2013

Attending Writers' Conferences

 A couple of weeks ago, we spent four days in Vancouver, WA at EPICon, the annual conference for EPIC (Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition). As we have since 2006, we loved spending time with others who are as obsessed with books as we are. Then, in July, we will go to Las Vegas for the PSWA (Public Safety Writers Association) conference. Why do we keep going to conferences?
In 2005, after our first book, a memoir entitled 31 Months in Japan: the Building of a Theme Park, was published, we decided to attend the now-defunct Maui Writers Conference.  We had already planned a trip to Hawaii for the same time, and my favorite author at the time, Gail Tsukiyama, was one of the presenters. Larry said he’d rather surf. That is, until he found out one of his favorites, Terry Brooks, would be speaking. Oh, and he realized the cost of the conference was tax-deductible.

He agreed to go, but said he’d drop me off in the morning, go surfing, and pick me up in the afternoon, except for the time Terry was scheduled. I agreed.

Once we arrived, however, and he saw all the topics available, he decided maybe he’d go to one or two workshops. It was a good thing we had another few days on Oahu after the conference, because he never surfed on Maui.

We heard some awesome people speak, learned a lot, which we’re still using, met some wonderful folks, and had a blast! Oh, and we also met the guy who became the inspiration for our protagonist, Agap√® Jones, in our mysteries, Murder… They Wrote and Murder in Paradise  (finalist for the EPIC eBook Award).

We discovered spending time around others who understood when we complained that our characters wouldn't cooperate was empowering. If we say, “I just couldn’t sleep last night. My latest character kept talking all night,” they don’t think we’re crazy. In fact, they nod sagely. They’ve been there, too.

Later the same year we decided to go to EPICon in San Antonio when our book, 31 Months: The Building of a Theme Park, was named one of the two finalists in the nonfiction category.

This conference was a more intimate, but we actually preferred it in some ways to the big one. And we loved visiting San Antonio. We didn’t win the award, but we had a ball. And we’ve been attending EPICon each year since.

By now, quite a few of the members have become dear friends. I met one of my writing partners at the first conference. We’ve since written five anthologies together, including Directions of Love, which won the EPIC eBook Award for best romance anthology.

Why do we keep going, year after year? Because the workshops are relevant to the publishing industry and we never fail to gain information to make our writing better. Because we love reconnecting with dear friends every year and making new ones. Because writers are lots of fun!

We plan to attend EPICon again next year. In fact, our arms have already been twisted to present our workshop "The Perfect Pitch" again next year. (We've presented every year since 2007, including doing the luncheon keynote for one.)

Hope to see you at a conference next year!


  1. At my very first conference, I met an agent that I still hang out with at other conferences. She introduced me to J.A. Jance, who took me under her wing. At another small conference, Sue Grafton hung out with me to see if she could wrangle and invite to meet my narc unit. Where else do opportunities like this crop up?

    I was first on the podium before I even had a book out. But, I had a rep for winning short story contests. So, I spoke before the Bouchercon crowd at Vegas.

    These events can catapult your career. Now, as an industry person, I go to take pitch sessions and often speak on panels about marketing. I get paid to speak sometimes.

    None of this would have happened if I stayed home just writing.

    1. Sunny, we've also made some of our best connections (Like Marilyn Meredith and Billie Johnson) at conferences. They are so valuable!

  2. I love conferences, big and small. Epic is one of my favorites, as is PSWA--and LCC. I've mad a lot of friends at these conferences, readers and writers.

    1. We met you at EPICon in 2006! So grateful!

  3. Hope to make Left Coast Crime 2014. A great conference geared specifically for writers is the California Crime Writers Conference in June in Pasadena. Two days chock full of solid information about writing, forensics, police work and the business of publishing. Sponsored by Sisters in Crime/LA and MWA.

    1. Thanks for the information. Larry is researching it now.

  4. I am a big fan and supporter of writing conferences too. I attended my first one in the 1980s when I first started writing and was hooked! There was a time when I lived in LA that I went to a conference almost every month! Couldn't get enough of them...the panels on craft, the biz, marketing, the future of the biz...fabulous!

    Being in the biz as a publisher has not dimmed my enthusiasm for writer confs...I go to all I can, even some where there is 'hell to pay' afterward in catching up work, finances. Often I am asked to be on a panel or give a talk, or just take pitches. I just got back from Puerta Vallarta and their lovely, friendly conference. A few years ago I was on the faculty at the Cape Cod Writer's conference which was terrific. I made friends there I still have contact with, was well compensated and fulfilled a life long dream of seeing Cape Cod.

    And now when I look that the list of OTP authors, I see the names of those I first met at a conference, Lorna (our host here) Marilyn M., Sunny, forthcoming author Chris Swinney, Morgan St. James, Marti Colvin, Stephen Brayton, the list goes on and on!

    Conferences are a lot of work and not all make big $$ for the organizing outfit, but I think they are a valuable and invaluable part of our writing and publishing experience. Long may they live...and thrive!!

    Billie Johnson
    Oak Tree Press