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I’ve decided that there are few things in life that make a person feel more like a ‘real’ writer than attending a writers conference. Okay—I know that’s an overstatement. Getting paid for writing, or getting published, or even just writing on a regular basis for pleasure—those things are high on the list for writer credentials.  But let’s suppose that you, like me, have never been paid or published (do blogs count?) and lately you’ve been overwhelmed by your “day job,” your commute, your dog-walking and dishwasher-emptying duties, etc., such that you just haven’t been able to work on your writing projects.  You, like me, might start doubting your writer-self. Well, I suggest going to a writers conference!  It might supply the fresh perspective needed to rearrange priorities a bit to get back into the writing groove, and to don the badge of ‘writer’ once more.

Conference swag…well, conference bag!

I was actually on the fence this year about whether or not to attend the Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA) annual conference.  I went last year for the first time- and was thoroughly dazzled by the variety, number, depth and breadth of seminars and speakers offered on the craft and business of writing.  Also, the PNWA does a particularly excellent job at providing opportunities to meet one-on-one with agents and editors to ‘pitch’ a book—that all-important personal contact that just might be enough to lift your manuscript out of the slush pile.

Last year, I thought the conference was extremely worthwhile—at the time, I felt like a ‘newbie’ in the writing world.  I’d only just begun to dip my toe into the waters of creative-fiction-novel-type writing, and I knew practically nothing about agents and editors and publishers (oh my!).  I eagerly went to all the ‘how-to’ and ‘do this, not that’ and ‘never, ever give up’ seminars that I could squeeze into 3.5-ish days.  On the other end of the spectrum, I thought the conference provided amazing opportunities for those industrious writers who actually had a finished manuscript ready to send out, because of all the access to agents and editors.

But this year, since I wasn’t totally on the “new writer” end of the spectrum (for example, I think I know—more or less— the differences between traditional, self, ‘e’, and indie publishing), nor was I on the “ready with my manuscript” end of things, I wondered if my time and money would be well spent at this conference. I can certainly relate to Susan Szafir’s well-reasoned thoughts on the pros and cons of conference-going.

But since I was feeling so out of the writing loop—I decided to bite the bullet (or pull out the credit card) and go.  And I’m so glad I did. Maybe it was the featured speakers, or the array of seminars, or the social connections, or just the energy and interest and hope (!) that was palpable everywhere I went.  Or, maybe it was just being surrounded by all those writers—especially the impressive collection of local authors who turned out in droves to share their knowledge and experience on various panels. All I know is that when I first walked into the conference I felt a bit adrift—and when I left I had renewed confidence that it’s possible to achieve this goal of mine: to write a book!

When I looked up the meaning of the catchphrase “fake it ‘til you make it” on Wikipedia, it said: “to imitate confidence so that as the confidence produces success, it will generate real confidence.”  I signed up, wondering if I was really a writer—I walked around the conference acting like a writer—and somehow left there thinking I’d better hurry up and get some “collateral marketing materials” (aka business cards) identifying myself as a writer so I’ll be more prepared to network properly at my next writers conference!  Oh, and I finally sat back down in front of the computer and started writing. I think that was worth the price of admission.

For more information about the PNWA- click here. Also, the current PNWA president, Pam Binder, is the subject of a terrific article in Forbes about making the transition from working at your ‘day job’ to being a published author.