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I enrolled in the Whidbey Island Writers Conference with romantic notions. I’d ferry to the windswept Pacific Northwest isle where I’d spend three dedicated days writing. Like-minded lovers of all things literary and I would join forces to constructively critique each other’s work during intimate fireside chats within the homes of hardy locals. It would be my three days in Eden.

I’d set myself up for a fall.

Whidbey turned out to be a solid writers conference, but it was not the right conference for me at this point in my career.

As my days and attendance at various presentations progressed, a rather unwelcome train of thought persistently materialized, “I know this already. I shouldn’t be here. I should be writing.”

I must explain that not so long ago I spent two consecutive years attending weekly writing classes and workshops. These classes addressed, in depth, both the craft of writing and the business of getting published. Leading up to the conference my singular goal was to write. As it turned out, the Whidbey Island Writers Conference didn’t include much writing time. What it did provide was valuable information on the craft of writing and the business of getting published. Given my prior education, 99% was review.

Lesson learned? When deciding whether or not to attend a writer’s conference, don’t be wooed by location or romantic notion. Instead, ask yourself the following:

  1. What do I hope to accomplish by attending this conference?
  2. Is this the best possible venue to achieve my goal?

The Whidbey Island Conference would have been an extremely positive experience if my goal had been to learn about narrative point of view, to network with other regional writers, or to practice pitching a book. In any of those cases it would’ve been an excellent fit, which is why I’d recommend the Whidbey Island Writer’s Conference to loads of writers – with the caveat, know your goal before you enroll.

It’s not you Whidbey Writers Conference. It’s me. I neglected to answer these questions prior to signing on. As a result, I misappropriated precious resources and kicked myself for days. Hopefully I won’t repeat the error, nor will readers of this post.

Then again, perhaps reader you’re thinking, “Who invests in a conference without a well-defined purpose, without doing her homework to ensure it’s a good match? I know this already.” If so, then stop reading tout de suite and do what I should’ve done. Go write.