Having just returned from the Colorado Christian Writers’ Conference in Estes Park, I would like to reiterate once more just how important conferences are.

I mean, would you expect to sit behind the wheel of a car for the first time without someone having taught you at least the rudiments of driving? Would you expect to pass your driver’s test without studying and practicing? Do you think you could just imitate your dad’s driving and pass?

Writing is much the same as learning to drive. Sure, you can ride around in a car for days (read many books) and hope to learn how to drive. You can study the driver’s test for hours (read books on writing), hoping to understand the fundamentals. You might even watch old videos of The Streets of San Francisco (watch movies and study plot and character arc) to learn how to drive up and down steep hills at high speeds. But you still won’t really know how to drive. Or write well.

Going to a conference combines all the basic elements of writing — learning, having a teachable heart, being able to express your projects to others, brainstorming, taking criticism and rejection, and if it is a Christian conference, spending time with like-minded people. Not to mention, any rejections you get at a conference will probably be the nicest rejections you’re likely to get.

Choosing the right conference is key to enjoying the experience. Take a good look at the continuing education tracks being offered, and choose one according to your skill level and type of writing. The continuing education classes are the backbone of your conference. If you mess up on selecting a workshop that isn’t appropriate for you, no worry — it’s just one hour out of forty. But choosing the class you will be in every day is much more important.

Determine if you are looking for a conference where you get to meet one-on-one with agents or editors to tell them about your project (pitch your work) to see if they are interested enough to have you send the project to them. If this is not your goal right now, don’t worry about setting up appointments, or choose a conference that doesn’t offer appointments.

Going to conferences is every bit as important as joining a local writers’ group or being part of a critique group. Each of these will give you an opportunity to learn, and you will also be able to help someone else.

Hey, going to a conference is kind of like going to church — you shouldn’t go to church only to receive ministry, but also to give ministry to others.

Conferences are like that. You can make lifelong friends, find out what the industry is doing, and spend time hanging around people who love to write as much as you love to write.

If you cannot attend a particular conference, check out their website — most conferences offer CD’s or tapes of each class, which you can purchase for a fraction of the cost of attending.

The start of the conference season is upon us. If you plan to travel, find a conference or a workshop in the area. If you plan to stay in your home area, do a search on the internet for conferences — http://www.shawguides.com is a good place to look, as is the Christian Writers Market Guide.

Go to a conference, come back filled up with good information, excited about your project. Share your passion to write with someone else, and watch their eyes light up.

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